Not too precious?

Genevieve Howard Bangle

Genevieve Howard Bangle


March 18 2016

I may have previously mentioned my interest in art jewellery, several times over.  As adornment it makes a fundamental statement about who we are or perhaps how we want to be perceived, as a social signifier, it is purchased and worn at the most important times in our lives while as culturally significant objects, jewellery occupies an important part of our craft heritage.


Märta Mattsson ‘Beetlejuice’ brooch, 2010; beetle, resin, silver, cubic zirconias.
70 x 40mm


But jewellery is also a remarkably expressive art form and moreover one that is arguably, the most intimate. So while we buy and collect art that is expressive, powerful, beautiful, intense, humorous or even poignant, why do we not buy jewellery for the same reasons? Not Too Precious, currently at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, explores inspirational work by 25 international jewellers who select their materials for their expressive potential rather than intrinsic value.


Felieke van der Lee ‘Pregnant Grizzli Bearmaid’ brooch, 2013; crocheted and knitted textiles (alpaca, polyester, viscose, felt, cotton), plastic animals, gold jasper.


They question the notion of jewellery being identified as ‘precious’ simply because the materials used have been traditionally categorised as such. Radical artist-jewellers of the late 1960s and 70s vigorously rejected that idea and today, while a multitude of materials are now considered acceptable, many still revert to the safety of so called ‘precious’ materials when buying jewellery. So let’s join with these radical artist-jewellers and consider for a moment the actual definition of the word precious (of great value, greatly loved and treasured). When you do, you’ll find the greatest jewellery, it may be powerful, beautiful or fun but ultimately it is truly expressive. Not too Precious is at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny until 30 March 2016.


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Frances McDonald