All That Glitters Episode Three: Alternative Materials

This week saw the remaining six jewellers step out of their comfort zones with materials not usually associated with traditional jewellery, from zip ties and beetles wings, glass to leather and a whole other world of items. A series of bib necklaces and larger than life cocktail rings were created.

Rebecca Skeels
Lecturer, BA (Hons) Jewellery and Objects

Hammering jewellery

A bib necklace is a necklace with more at the front than the back, and covers a large part of the chest. Cocktail rings are usually worn on special occasions and commonly include large coloured stones.

Although the names ‘bib necklace’ and ‘cocktail ring’ have come from the past, the materials they are now made with can be anything from traditional precious metals and large coloured gems or can include and combine found objects, repurposed jewellery, natural materials or new and innovative manmade materials. Wearing jewellery to show wealth and hierarchy has passed and jewellers and designers are selecting materials in relation to the needs, desires and requirements of the wearers, the viewers and themselves.

Jewellery now communicates, creates interactions, celebrates, tells narratives, creates debate, evokes emotional responses and draws out the beauty and elegance of the world around us. It can be worn every day, for particular occasions, as art pieces, as a statement and as decoration of the body or of other worn items.

The designers and makers carefully select materials in relation to the aims of their piece, carefully crafting and constructing items to fit the purpose. They make decisions at every stage of the designing and making process to ensure they achieve the best possible outcome.

Bib necklaces created by the All That Glitters contestants

Top row (L-R): Work by Dan, Hugo and Lee. Bottom row (L-R): Work by Nicola, Sonny and Tamara.
Images courtesy of BBC and Twenty Twenty Productions

Throughout All That Glitters, we see the contestants use different approaches to construct similar items, finding ways that work best for them and the effects they are trying to achieve. There is a huge array of processes and techniques that they can choose from to make their work, as well as using traditional processes and tools, makers explore options and ideas, developing new and old processes continuously. Many processes will lend themselves very nicely to other materials too, this allows the makers to push the boundaries and create new and exciting outcomes such as Tamara’s Tijuana nut ring.

Those that learn these skills have many opportunities open to them, from working as a designer and/or maker in a small company, or running their own practice designing, making and selling the work they create through exhibitions, retail outlets and direct to their customers.

Cocktail rings created by the All That Glitters contestants

Top row (L-R): Work by Dan, Hugo and Lee. Bottom row (L-R): Work by Nicola, Sonny and Tamara.
Images courtesy of BBC and Twenty Twenty Productions

Why is it important to show this side of jewellery in what a lot of people would expect to be a very traditional jewellery making show? It’s simple, competition. As judge Shaun Leane said last week, a great jeweller can get themselves out of any situation and the judges wanted to see what they could do with something they weren’t used to. That and the fact that contemporary jewellery has a huge place in our industry from small artisans to large production houses, contemporary jewellery has its place in each continent of the world. Pushing the boundaries and showcasing their skills this week’s jewellers proved they have what it takes to move on to next week’s episode, taking us forward to a more standard jewellery background where we see precious metals and gemstones again.

If you’re interested to learn more and get your hands on some unusual materials, our Jewellery and Objects course could be perfect for you! This is the ideal course to explore materials, techniques and process while developing an understanding and knowledge of running a practice, design process and thinking, and building a unique collection of work with the support and encouragement from the staff team. Our graduates have gone on to work in theatre, fashion, for high street brands and as directors of their own creative practice.

Find out more about All That Glitters