Nowadays you can walk into a shopping mall and buy bulk manufactured jewellery to decorate your ears, nose, arms, toes, belly, ankles and wrists. There’s a new trend every season and choice remains unlimited. In fact, costume jewellery is so cheap that if you lose an earring or bangle it’s no biggie – you can just buy a replacement. And yet, while jewellery can be purely decorative in function, it bears deeper significance than a quick purchase at a retail store.
Humans have worn jewellery for centuries. Precious stones, beads and sought after metals have symbolised status, provided protection, signified affiliation to a particular group or held personal significance. Traditionally, many cultures have kept and displayed their wealth through jewellery and at some point, used them as currency.
“I think amongst traditional healers, jewellery still maintains its importance and ritual purpose. Amongst those who want to appear rich, status is still displayed through expensive jewellery and cars. Then there is a huge demographic that does not attach any value to jewellery, maybe this has much to do with the disposition and detachment we have had with our precious metals”, says Philisa Zibi of Ma’art Jewellery.
As Philisa points out, there’s a widening disjuncture between cultural significance and decorative purpose. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with wearing jewellery without being symbolically attached to it, nor does it mean that a piece can’t be simultaneously symbolic and decorative.
When asked what she makes of the local jewellery design industry, Anna Raimondo of SMITH Jewellery said that, “there has been a definite rise of independent jewellery designers over the last couple of years in South Africa. I see this as a sign that the public are keen to have something that’s different to what can be bought en mass in the shops. It’s very encouraging for designers and artists in general.”
We collaborated with PICHULIK, Ma’art Jewellery and SMITH, on this striking summer lookbook to celebrate local design and reflect upon the significant role jewellery plays in expressing our customs, traditions and personal style.
Models: Tidimalo Sehlako & Kaone Monamodi at Boss Models JHB / Make Up: Sasha Simon / Wardrobe: My Secret Cupboard / Photography: Nikki Zakkas / Jewellery: Pichulik, SMITH Jewellery, Ma’art Jewellery.