“Diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for the deep psychological need they fill.” – DeBeers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer
Arriving at a jewelry store to shop for an engagement ring, you are handed a bubbling glass of champagne. After being escorted to the plush chairs seated around the glass jewelry cases, you are dazzled by the sparkling diamonds set in gold and platinum. You are romanced by the glamorous production unfolding before you, and you are force-fed the idea that there is nothing else in this world more beautiful or valuable than the baubles on display.
Why are these jewelry store standards of gold, diamonds, platinum, and gemstones the only materials that are valuable? Why are other materials ignored? Wrought iron, steel, coal, and concrete are the building blocks of our society. The dirty, blue-collar undertones of these materials weave tales of demise over the course of history. Coal mines are dangerous places to work, inciting visions of mine explosions and diseases like black lung. Steel mills invoke warehouses full of dangerous sparks and cauldrons of white-hot molten metal that will decimate anything in its path. Yet these materials are ignored while the jewelry industry wants you to believe the only things of value are protected by their glass cases.
I challenge the idea of value by bringing these blue-collar materials into the jewelry realm. By highlighting them against materials considered to be more valuable, I reveal their beauty that is not usually seen. White silver is juxtaposed against black steel to create a contrast of color and texture, and to place steel in its rightful spot in a position of value. The beauty of the stringy wrought iron with its texture of splintered wood shines over the sleek yellow gold it is paired with. Silver is cut to create a jagged dramatic edge with a plasma cutter and is paired with polished steel to swap the ways the materials are addressed. Brightly colored gold is used as the glue to hold rhythmic pieces of steel together. Through the juxtapositions and the nontraditional treatment of materials, I create a dialogue that rivals the beauty and value seen in any jewelry store.
While you might not ever see polished steel or stringy wrought iron in the fancy jewelry store cases, my work highlights the beauty that does exist in these blue-collar materials. I create a desire for materials not otherwise considered in the jewelry industry, and I show the viewer that value indeed lies with the wearer.
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