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Creativity and Originality in Polish Jewelry Design

 
 
 
When a friend from the Polish jewelry industry told me during the recently concluded "Gold Silver and Time" tradeshow that the price of amber is comparable with the price of gold, I thought she was exaggerating. It turns out she was being conservative. Good rough amber sells for up to $60 a gram, about $20 per gram more than gold. 

 
 

This came home to me when a woman working for Amber Apple, an amber and jewelry company, showed me a giant bracelet made entirely of rough amber. It was hard to me to believe it was a serious piece of jewelry for anyone other than Wilma Flintstone. I asked who would wear such a thing? The woman behind the counter said "A very large woman." It turns out she would also have to be a very rich woman as that bracelet was valued at more than $10,100. 

 
 

The reason for this is none other than China, which seems to be sucking up the world’s natural resources (amber is fossilized tree resin) faster than the billions of years it took the earth to produce its bounty. The Chinese are buying rough amber, driving up the price to a ridiculous level, and using it to make inexpensive jewelry to sell to its own market. 

 
Pendant necklace made with layers of amber and driftwood by Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood 

Much of the amber in the US and other markets is used for inexpensive jewelry matched with silver. However, the escalation in its price has had a detrimental impact on this market. The result is that with rough amber costing more than gold, the Polish jewelry industry has turned to the creativity and originality of its top jewelry designers to distinguish itself in the international marketplace. Poland is the world’s second largest producer of silver jewelry and many of these designers primarily work with silver, gold and other metals.

 
 
 
 

At the tradeshow, several designers were featured in a special exhibit that coincided with the 25 year anniversary of Poland’s Solidarity movement. Tradeshow officials also dedicated about 60 exhibit spaces to these designers at a discounted price. That’s a significant number considering the tradeshow hosted a little more than 300 exhibitors.

 
 
 

“The young people are creating jewelry that is interesting and different … very creative,” says Rafał Galimski, president of the MCT International Fair Centre, co-organizer of the trade fair. “We try to help them with the 60 stands.”

 
 

One of the selling points of Polish jewelry design (in addition to originality, design and craftsmanship) is value. The Polish currency, the Zolty, is worth about 25 percent of what the euro is worth. Poland is already an EU member and someday the country will adopt the European currency, although there is no timetable to do so. Once that happens, the cost of Polish jewelry will increase significantly. Collectors of modern jewelry may want to stock up on these pieces now. While acknowledging that adoption of the euro will be good for the country overall, Galimski says he isn’t looking forward to the increase in jewelry prices that will no doubt follow.

A yellow amber necklace by Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Poland’s largest jewelry markets for Polish designer jewelry are Germany, China, Italy and the US.

Many of the designs combine a modern aesthetic with a unique artistic perspective from being isolated from the rest of the world during the Soviet occupation. In fact, the approach of many of the designers is artistic rather than market driven.

 
 

 
 
While speaking for Polish jewelry designers in general, Zaremski wasn’t necessarily speaking for himself. He did have a formal education, attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw with the intent of pursuing an interior design career. However, he chose to follow his parents lead and take up jewelry design but with a personal take. His jewelry and art objects are perhaps the most accessible of the group, creating pieces with all kinds of metals from gold and silver, to steel and copper.
 
 
 

A younger designer whose is getting international attention is Jacek Ostrowski from the northern Polish city of Gdansk, the center of the country’s amber jewelry industry. He works with silver, colored acrylic, crystal Swarovski Elements, and of course, Baltic amber.

“My projects are dominated by the geometry of the shape,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the simplicity of form.”

 
 
Meanwhile, Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood is a purist. As amber is fossilized tree resin, she chooses to create jewelry by pairing the material, sometimes in its natural state, with driftwood from the same beaches of the Baltic Sea where amber is found.

“I am fascinated by these two organic materials … the possibility to discover the things that have been hidden for millions of years,” she says. “Every piece of amber has its own story.”


However, she doesn’t shy away from using more exotic woods, such as African ebony, brick-red Padouk and violet Amaranth.
 
 
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  • Every piece of jewellery is a perfect match of amber and wood.
    Natural amber is used in Wlodarska’s design.

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  • Simple collection
  • Mosaic collection

Amber walker

Nowadays, it is never a surprise that contemporary jewellery is set with alternative materials in an imaginative way, besides using traditional precious metals and gemstones. Polish jewellery designer Marta Wlodarska is definitely one of the examples, combining amber and plain wood in her simple yet innovative jewellery.

Founded by Wlodarska in 2010, Amberwood reveals the designer’s passion for amber and wood. She once described that every piece of amber and wood has taken a long journey to arrive at her studio, after being buried under layers of dirt and fought against the strong ocean current. She said: “They are essentially perfect, and the outer layer of the materials astonishes and inspires me. They take a long journey to the present, unveiling the secret of the past.”

Wlodarska is fond of amber and wood, but her ultimate goal is to encourage people to investigate the mystery of both materials. She explained: “Amber resin is actually coming from wood; the two organic materials are strongly connected with each other. Yet, most people including scientists never understand the relationship between them. In the project of Amberwood, I hope to show that the origin of amber is wood.”

Every piece of jewellery is a perfect match of amber and wood. Wlodarska expressed: “I adore greenish-brown amber which contains inclusions of natural plants or insects. For wood, I collect driftwood at the seaside, beaches or even from the old boats. Their colours really surprise me. What’s more, pine woods soaking in water over a long time also deliver captivating colours. Combining ambers with various exotic woods, I create jewellery with a new and fresh expression.” She joked that apart from seaside and beaches, she would also collect woods from her garden.

For the past several years, Wlodarska has introduced a wide array of jewellery set in silver or plated gold on the theme of different shapes, such as triangle, leaf, float, mosaic, etc. She said: “The Float collection, one of my favourite collections, is inspired by the Zen philosophy. I also like a lot of mosaic items which are composed of geometric woods and natural ambers.” In 2015, she will have her jewellery set in gold for the first time. “Besides designing jewellery, I will also try to make some modern furniture, for example, lamps,” she told Hong Kong Jewellery.

Currently, Wlodarska exhibits at major local jewellery fairs, including Gold Silver Time, Ambermart and Amberif. Her amber jewellery is also showcased to the globe at Inhorgenta in Germany. She expressed: “Most of my clients are coming from Poland, Germany, China, Australia, etc. In the future, I will participate at some other important jewellery fairs in Europe, in order to promote my amber jewellery.”

Hong Kong Jewellery MagazineHong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association
 
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I discovered some great jewellery designers at Jewel East, which takes place at Spitalfields Market between 7-9th June 2013.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Amberwood jewellery by Marta Wlodarska
My first experience of Jewellery Week 2013 was a trip to Jewel East in Spitalfields Market. Here a range of up and coming designers display their wares in a sheltered spot that delineates them from the rest of the bustling market. I was expecting a far larger showcase, but the trip was well worth it for a few really exciting discoveries.

Amberwood jewellery by Marta Wlodarska earrings
Amberwood jewellery by Marta Wlodarska matching pendants
Firstly, Amberwood, the astonishing work of Polish jewellery designer read more

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