Article from the New York Times May 30, 2004
Jewelry Without the Jewels
By MARIANNE ROHRLICH
Published: May 30, 2004
DIAMONDS may be a girl's best friend, but some women are leaving behind gold chains and precious gems and draping themselves in far humbler materials: rubber bands, industrial springs and paper tags.
While it might cost a fortune to make a statement with gemstones and gold or silver, a necklace of rainbow-colored rubber bands in the $125 range can attract just as much admiration. Certainly stores are paying attention. Artistic jewelry of unexpected materials is increasingly available in shops like the Museum of Modern Art's store, and also on some street vendors' tables.
"Women are more confident now," said Toni Greenbaum, the author of a book about art jewelry, "Messengers of Modernism: American Studio Jewelry 1940-1960" (Flammarion, 1996). "Wearing unusual jewelry invites a dialogue" with those one meets, she said. "Big, bold jewelry is attention-getting."
Suzanne Ramljak, the editor of Metalsmith magazine, a quarterly about jewelry and the metal arts, said the climate surrounding fashion and accessories has changed. Jewelry used to be bought for the inherent value of its materials, "and it always had a message associated with it — `I'm married, or my boyfriend loves me,' " she said. But as the price of gold went down, it became accessible to more people and lost some of its status. And recently, there has been a rising design consciousness among jewelry customers, one that converges with fashion. "Everyone wants to be design-savvy," Ms. Ramljak explained.
Even the American designer Joel Rosenthal, whose one-of-a-kind French-made pieces under the JAR name are as collectible and precious as any made, sees the value in everyday materials. "Not everything has to sparkle," he said. Mr. Rosenthal's jewelry is usually encrusted in precious gems, but he also works with aluminum, pewter and wood. "An artist transforms his imagination into something real," he said. "You can make reality out of anything — rubies, rubber or paint. It's the artist's imagination that makes it beauty."
Ursula Ilse-Neuman, the curator of the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, agreed, saying, "Ideas are always more precious than gold and silver."
But aren't diamonds forever? "You don't keep your clothes forever," said Inger Cleasson Wastberg, a Swede who has adopted the New York all-black uniform. With her simple clothes she wears a bracelet of transparent flexible plastic held together with a 14-karat gold magnet or a cuff woven of cotton and silver threads.
"Why should your jewelry have to last forever?" she said. "For those of us who wear black all the time it's a lot of fun to add something interesting and personal. And it gives you joy to see that someone has transformed something ordinary into something fabulous."