Its French name – bijou – means “jewel”. For centuries, it had played various roles. It was an attribute of power and status, expressed political beliefs and warded off evil spirits. Up to this day, jewellery is for many people more than just a simple decoration.

Snail shell with a small hole through which you could drag a string – it is probably the oldest found jewellery, made over 80 000 years ago. Initially, jewellery was made of organic elements such as stones, shells, feathers, wood or bones. To keep up with the progress of civilization, people started choosing copper, lead, iron or silver as raw material. On the other hand, in ancient Greece and Rome, gold and precious stones were used. This, however, was just the beginning of further development of artistic jewellery.

Memory locked in a jewel

On the one hand, Medieval Poland brings to mind traditional, simple ornaments, and on the other – royal and more complex jewels. Of great popularity were also silver or gold temple rings, worn in the ear as earrings or attached to headgear. Whereas, in the 19th century, interest in souvenir jewellery grew. Who has not read in popular novels about locket that young ladies were giving to their true love? Once the locket was opened, the bachelor saw a photo of his beloved or a lock of her hair. Such an object was thus a keepsake with a symbolic value for its owner.

Retro elegance

In the 1940s and 1950s, jewellery was a symbol of femininity. Rings with colourful, decorative stones; wide, richly decorated bracelets and ornamental watches were the most common choices. Inspiration came straight from the faraway Hollywood, which then experienced the so-called Golden Age. Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo and Liz Taylor delighted with style and phenomenal jewellery. At that time in Poland, one of the highly esteemed artists was Henryk Grunwald, a painter, goldsmith and illustrator. His works often referred to nautical, literary and folk themes. Moreover, they were rich in motifs of seahorses and fish, as well as references to the legend of the Kraków’s Lajkonik or Golden Duck.

Amber years

It is impossible not to mention the amber jewellery that was popular in the 1980s. Poland is considered the world leader in its production – an amber bracelet from the city of Gdańsk was even given to Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. However, the younger generation was not fond of amber for a very long time, as this beautiful raw material was associated with old-fashioned jewellery. Currently, amber jewellery is returning to grace. The manufacture of NAC Amber in Gdańsk presents amber in a modern, yet timeless form. Marcin Wesołowski, the owner of the brand and a talented jeweller, emphasizes that the jewellery owner should be able to enjoy it for a long time – hence the simplicity and universality of the design is of greatest importance.

Art without borders

Polish jewellery designers are boldly conquering foreign markets, with their works being noticed by world-renowned cultural institutions and the media. Projects by Anna Orska, one of the most famous Polish artists, were presented, among others, in the German edition of the Vogue magazine. Orska’s expressive works combine modern design with handicraft technique. The artist takes inspiration from the world around her – the result of her trip to Asia is the Vietnam collection, in which she used sea pearls from Ha Long Bay. On the other hand, Natalia Kopiszka’s original jewellery was appreciated by the American Urban Outfitters platform. The founder of the KOPI brand graduated from architecture at Cracow University of Technology, as well as the International School of Costume and Clothing Design in Warsaw. Kopiszka is inspired by, among others, vintage fashion, which she combines with geometry and anatomical shapes. Last but not least, the works of Paweł Kaczyński from Warsaw can be admired at Aaron Faber Gallery in New York. For his works, the artist draws inspiration from nature, as well as uses raw materials such as silver and wire mesh.