What is contemporary jewellery?

Contemporary jewellery is more than a fashion accessory; it is conceptual, material based, makes social commentaries and connects to the past. It allows the wearer, and even the viewer, an extremely new experience of jewellery.

Carissa Kowalski Dougherty, ed. 2008, Jewelry Design, daab


Contemporary jewellery gives impressions of uniqueness and craftsmanship, but also can be high-street. Alternative materials are quite prominent in the movement and the expression behind the practice makes it undoubtedly artistic as well. Contemporary jewellery sits between the arts and mainstream jewellery- it is a vessel for ideas to become tactile and not just something that is manufactured for commercial wear. This position can cause identity crises for the movement, as it’s perceptions of individuality mean that it is quite hard to define a specific style.

Lignel, B, 2006, What Does Contemporary Jewellery mean? http://www.klimt02.net/forum/index.php?item_id=7624


In groups we tried to place jewellers into four contemporary jewellery categories- fashion, commercial, art and craft. We were having trouble, so we decided to define the categories. Even after doing this we found that it is really quite hard to place contemporary jewellery designers/makers into specific categories, as they tend to spill over into several of them or even others that are not on this map. It seems that contemporary jewellery has many definitions, none of them necessarily right or wrong, as the debate appeared to come down to matter of opinion.


This “diversity stands in the way of a cohesive front” (Lignel, 2006). Contemporary jewellery is described in quite a few different ways and therefore doesn’t have a certain image, which unfortunately can come across as foreign to the general public and therefore may not yet be appreciated to its full extent.


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