With their magical gleam, shimmering luster and mysterious genesis, pearls have played an important role in jewelry and art ever since classical antiquity. The intentional cultivation of the shimmering mother-of-pearl sheath, with which the oyster protects itself interior from irritation by foreign bodies, began in the 1920s and made pearls accessible to more people. But as so often occurs when a material is processed in large quantities, cultivated pearls unfortunately lost much of their originality and aura.
Contemporary jewelry artists, on the other hand, have recently begun rediscovering the stylistic potential of this special material. Eva Maisch presents choice examples of this in her current exhibit “Aufgetaucht – Perlglanz in Hülle und Fülle” (Emerged – Pearly Luster in Luscious Abundance”). Here pearls “come to the surface” as the sublime centerpiece of a classic gold ring or an unostentatious ornament, or are are embedded fancifully or organically in surprising jewelry objects with artistic ambitions. For example, Ambroise Degenève from Paris uses techniques such as sandcasting and electroforming. He cuts, carves and opens pearls. Sheathed in metal, his creations call to mind archaic found objects.
Danni Schwaag from Bremen relies exclusively on mother-of-pearl for her artworks. Her obsession with the nacreous material began while she was a student in Idar-Oberstein. Searching for a non-classical pearl necklace, she discovered the opulent shell of the pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima) in a little gemstone shop. This jewelry artist cut oval rings from the lustrous shell, which she then combined to create a necklace. “I’ve been working through the material ever since,” she says about her new interpretations of an ancient theme.
Melanie Georgacopoulos grew up in Athens. After apprenticing as a goldsmith, this daughter of a Greek mother and a French father attended various international academies. Mother-of-pearl, sometimes combined with spherical pearls, appears in geometric clarity in her creations. Satirical allusions to classical forms of jewelry and sophisticated visual effects repeatedly occur in her objects.
Sam Tho Duong came as a Vietnamese “boatperson” to Pforzheim, where he learned the goldsmith’s craft, completed his specialized studies and soon earn international renown as a jewelry artist. Tiny “rice” pearls cluster so closely beside one another in his eye-catching pieces so that the individual pearls vanish into the overall structure. His inspirations come from twigs and fruits, which wear “beautiful crystals on the bark and the skin” in frosty weather.
Jiro Kamata, a Japanese expat who lives in Munich, was inspired by the poetic name “mother-of-pearl” to create a series of brooches entitled “Mother.” Each mother-of-pearl brooch rests atop a Plexiglas pedestal coated with silver paint. Each silvery base is engraved with the mirror image of a word that people in a YouTube video associate with the word “mother.” The spectrum ranges from “frustrating” through “love” to “role model.” The reversed inscription is legibly reflected in the shiny black back of each brooch.
Jewelry by other designers participating in this show is likewise convincing thanks to its originality and quality. This is true for elegant earrings and necklaces by Claudia Geiger from Pforzheim, for sculptural pieces by Nikolay Sardamov from Sofia and for works by the Briton Jacqueline Ryan, which lives in Italy. Barbara Jewellery, the label of Lehmann and Schmedding from Düsseldorf, is represented with distinctive rings and pendants. The exhibit also presents modularly constructed works by Alexandra Bahlmann and legendary designs by Angela Hübel. Fine sketches, drawn directly on nacreous shells by the artist Doris Conrads are on display, as are works by Eva Maisch, who complements her work as a gallery owner by making jewelry, some of which she is presenting in her pearl exhibit.
- Eva Maisch Schmuck