The Contemporary Period is a broad term with an elusive definition. It refers to jewellery made during a 45 year period from the 1980s to the present day. It refers to big stylistic and ideological shifts stimulating the jewellers during this time: from Studio and Auteur jewellery to Costume, Fashion and Fine jewellery. Contemporary jewellery is best summarised not by precise physical attributes but as a modern attitude to the practice of making and designing jewellery.
History of Jewellery: (1980s- ) Contemporary Period
The advancement of technology is a major factor in the look of Contemporary jewellery. Generally Contemporary jewellery has a clean, crisp finish thanks to the capabilities of modern tools. Settings have become almost invisible in some pieces, so that gems seem to float upon the skin. The cutting of gemstones is particularly noticeable in a piece of Contemporary jewellery. The cut of a diamond is a key feature that can help date a piece of jewellery.
Contemporary jewellery is often more experimental and plays with the traditional boundary between Art and ornamentation. Contemporary jewellery can be sculptural and uses a mix of precious materials with plastics, wood or industrial metals. Steel and aluminium are metals used in Contemporary jewellery as they are lighter than gold or platinum.
Synthetic gemstones or pearls are often used to great creative affect in Contemporary jewellery. Imagination let loose dominates Contemporary jewellery. Victoire di Castellane is a notable figure creating big, bold and colourful jewellery for Dior. Her Fine jewellery for the Parisian fashion house playfully flaunt the traditional boundaries of Haute jewellery. Her work has a vivid, childlike quality in exaggerated proportions, from enormous brooches to hair pieces that make a dramatic statement.
Women have increasingly become the buyers of their own jewellery in the Contemporary period, choosing powerful yet simple designs to wear during the day into the evening, from the office to their homes.
Long established jewellery houses, from Cartier, Boucheron, Chaumet, to Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef and Arpels, make their own Contemporary jewellery, often adapting and modernising designs from their heritage archives.
Andrew Grima and J.A.R have each pioneered their own unique paths, revolutionising jewellery in the Contemporary period. Both focus on organic motifs and utilise the creative possibilities of modern techniques and materials. J.A.R. frequently uses aluminium to create large statement leaf and flower petal earrings that are light as a feather.
The Contemporary period is notable for its influx of women designers, from Victoire Castellani for Dior, to Paloma Picasso and Elsa Peretti with Tiffany & Co. During the 1980-90s to the present, women have dominated the contemporary jewellery scene. Unlike previous centuries, J.A.R and Theo Fennel are in the minority as only two male designers who have risen to fame. A new generation of independent, female designers have established themselves designing for women, from Kiki McDonough, Elizabeth Gage, and Casandra Goad, to Solange Azagury-Patridge, Lorraine Schwartz and Jessica McCormack.