The Contemporary Jewelry Exchange

22 March 2015
Justyna Stasiewicz

The Contemporary Jewelry Exchange is a project initiated by Olga Raben in 2014. It resulted in a web exhibition and publication in a form of a book – which is one of the most up – to – date and interesting reviews of contemporary jewelry, which I have encountered up to now. 370 artists from all over the world took part in the exchange, using a variety of, often extreme, techniques and materials in their work

The Contemporary Jewelry Exchange, abbreviation TCJE, is the action, which at the beginning raised many doubts in the organizer. On the website of the event, we can read:

When I first came up with the idea to The Jewelry Exchange and started “thinking out loud”, the people that were listening all said “why would anyone wanna do that” and so for a bit I just sat on the idea, letting that stop me, other people’s perceptions of what is possible and what is not. But with time passing, I found myself revisiting the idea over and over again and finally late one night I found myself sitting in bed with my laptop, like I so often do and I decided to just give it a go, to see what would happen and that’s when I made the call out on fb, right then and there. I thought 20 people would sign up and if I was really lucky, maybe 50, one week later, hundreds had applied and I had chosen 370 people…

The artists who declared to take part in the exchange, were divided into groups and paired on the basis of the submitted portfolio. Then, each of them was asked to create a unique object, designed specifically for the assigned person, according to the guidelines established between them. Jewelry that the artists made was supposed to be sent at their own expense. The jewelry had to be properly documented (their own item before sending and the received piece presented on your body) and photo materials were to be sent to Olga Raben.

You can get familiar with the effect of TCJE 2014 HERE

This year, the second round of the exchange started – this time the entry fee is $ 10 and a participation fee is $ 30 or $ 70 depending on whether we want to receive the book which will be created on the basis of the action in print or pdf.

The criteria for participating were also more specific. You have to live up to one of the following categories:

  • Be a bench trained goldsmith or silversmith, or its equivalent. Meaning at least 4 years technical training in the field.
  • Have a bachelor, master or diploma in applied arts.
  • Be a student in one of the two previous mentioned categories and be a minimum of two years into your education.
  • Be an established artist in The Jewelry field. Meaning that you already make contemporary jewelry and you probably have several exhibitions and solo shows behind you.

Apart from that, the very idea of the project remains unchanged – to design and make unique jewelry for another artist.

Why is TCJE such an incredibly interesting action?

Firstly, because of the huge diversity of the artists taking part in it – you’ll find here young and old. Those who are just starting their adventure with jewelry and those who already have a reputation in the world of Contemporary Jewelry

Secondly, because of the opportunity to meet someone with similar interests. Someone, who in the real world, with high probability, we would not have a chance to meet. The artist, who often has a very different view of the world, brought up in a different culture, living thousands of miles from our city.

Another argument in favor may be the desire to test you skills. Designing an object according to the likings of the person to whom it is dedicated, is difficult in itself. Add to that the language barrier and differences due to the age or culture – and we are faced with a real challenge.

The last element which makes the The Contemporary Jewelry Exchange such a special action, is the lack of “omniscient guardian”, rejecting the work according to their own whims. Requirements that must be met in order to participate in the project are clear and give an opportunity to show a sincere, broad picture of what is actually happening in the workshops of people making jewelry in the world. It is valuable in the case of such a discretionary matter as art. Especially that when faced with ubiquitous communication noise, every day we are bombarded with hundreds of stimuli and information and it is hard for a young artist to get through, no matter what level he or she represents.

To sum up – I think that there is more to the action initiated by Olga Raben than just sending pretty items. It’s kind of a sign of modern times, in which a group of people use the Internet as a tool for networking, world-wide exhibition space and space for artistic exchange of ideas, experiences. At the same time, TCJE proves that people are still able to put the desire to share emotions, creative expression of the real, above a material gain – money.

You can follow the annual exchange of contemporary jewelry HERE

The photos of the pieces of this year’s participants which are not exchanged.

Martyna Tejwan from Poland and Catherine Granche from Canada

Martyna Tejwan from Poland and Catherine Granche from Canada

Artur Hash from USA and Brooke Marks Swanson from USA

Artur Hash from USA and Brooke Marks Swanson from USA

Safira Blom from Sweden and Emily Watson from USA

Safira Blom from Sweden and Emily Watson from USA


Tell us, what do you think about it