Do all universal shifts happen in waves, or only the cultural ones? While ancient civilizations are accredited for their amulets and ornamentation, even the Neanderthals were beading seashells by the shore. Jewelry and accessories have existed always and are regarded as forms of identity, stature, or honor. From the talismans to the high jewelry of the world, and in the cyclical manner of life, we are amid a paradigm shift, and a new era has dawned (or returned)—the era of readymade jewelry.
The term 'readymade' comes from Marcel Duchamp, the French revolutionary artist who challenged ideas of mastery and obsession, jumping himself from one discipline to the next. One of the first examples of readymade was his creation Bicycle Wheel in 1913 (a wheel mounted on a wooden stool). Over the next several years, he'd produce many works like these that stunned audiences with their perplexingly brainless conception. The theory of his idea was published anonymously in the May 1917 issue of The Blind Man (a magazine run by Duchamp and two friends), which read:
Whether Mr Mutt, with his own hands, made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life and placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – creating a new thought for that object.
This simple explanation propelled several vital points: the choice of object is the first creative act, and by stripping it of its function, the object becomes art; lastly, all elements of its display expose it to the limelight of reinterpretation. Concurrently, many fashion houses gave birth to their Haute Joaillerie collections during this time. This is important to note because by the end of the 1900s, the term 'readymade' was used across all art disciplines, including fashion.
Over the last century, each season becomes closer and closer to each other, original thoughts seeming to stray from the pack. Trend forecasting is a journalistic job, predicting what palettes, patterns, and silhouettes will reign supreme this Fall/Winter. But one shift worth celebrating is the resurfacing of readymade objects as jewelry.
Taking a Duchampian approach, or even more closely aligned to what the Egyptians did with scarab beetles, established and independent brands lately have returned to objects symbolic of their identities and ethos and pass them off as jewelry and accessories. It's refreshing because though sometimes bizarre, there's a true brilliance in seeing the beauty in any and every object. Heritage and subcultures find their way back into the narrative and immortalize their place in precious metals and lux materials.
Without walking us through each object and its significance, some pieces resonate in today's contemporary setting and act as a prompt by providing no explanation, leaving the interpretation up to its viewership.
Text by Shahrnaz Javid