Virtual Jewellery

Article  /  CriticalThinking   HighTech
Published: 19.05.2022
Jieyi Sun
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This article is the first version of the February 2022 study on virtual jewellery, a simplified and basic definition of virtual jewellery. I will refresh and update the following second edition, the third edition, etc. Each version will be an expansion, extension, and refinement of the research, documenting and reflecting my research at every stage. The work of two groups of students/designers reflects and empirically proves the original definition. Practice and research catalyse each other, boiling over with chemical effects.
This article acknowledges the guidance and advice of Dr. Roberta Bernabei, Dr. Phillip Lindley, and Dr. Tincuta Heinzel during my previous PhD study in Practice-Based research at Loughborough University, UK (January 2021-January 2022).

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Background: We are now living in a digitized world, but the development of virtual jewellery is only in its infancy. Following the emergence and advance of the metaverse concept, virtual living interactive spaces are being created and will be applied to our future life. It can be speculated that the demand for virtual jewellery shall soon be derived in this new virtual life field. At present, there are mainly two sorts of applications related to Virtual Reality (VR). The first is 4D facial decoration applications based on the filter function of mobile phones or other electronic products (which have been extended by some visual artists to create a wide variety of styling and visual effects). The second is applications that superimpose virtual images of fashion accessories or other products on the real scene through Augmented Reality (AR) technology, so as to enhance customers’ online virtual experience as a fashion marketing approach. Meanwhile, some jewellery designers or artists have made use of this method to showcase their jewellery pieces through online channels.

Initial Definition of Virtual Jewellery
Virtual jewellery can be defined as “environmental immersion experience jewellery”: VR-related technologies usually achieve environment rendering by combining with the narrative background. In between, the relationship between jewellery and technology can refer to several model examples: Narrative virtual environment - (Symbiosis) - Jewellery experience; Virtual environment - (Symbiosis) - Narrative jewellery.
Virtual jewellery is essentially mimetic jewellery: From a biological point of view, creatures achieve various purposes, such as self-protection, access to food, etc., by simulating the state of others. Virtual jewellery mimics jewellery in the real life world. At the same time, the morphological changes of virtual jewellery in the space realised by digital parameters technology are unlimited, and even infinite. The mimetic features of virtual jewellery also reflect the “evolutionary” trend of jewellery development.
Virtual jewellery is also anti-gravity jewellery: The development of virtual jewellery is an evolving process from material (traditional jewellery or digital jewellery) to immaterial (virtual jewellery). From the perspective of gravity, the commonality of the former is matter (gravity) - one-way downward movement, and its field of vision is limited; the latter is non-material (anti-gravity) - unlimited directional movement, and its field of view dimension is fully released. Therefore, virtual jewellery reflects a king of freedom beyond reality.

Classification and Technical Process of Virtual Jewellery
Type 1: Jewellery pieces that have explored the meaning of this special dimensional space, i.e., Exp-virtual-jewellery; the corresponding technical process is: traditional process -> digital process -> virtual process. Since we are still in the initial stage of exploring what virtual jewellery is, the technical process of Type 1 is hybrid, warranting interdisciplinary comprehensive experiments by combining with diverse processes.
Type 2: Virtual jewellery presented by VR- and AR-related technologies; the corresponding technical process is: to realize the final form of a jewellery piece by combing the creative concept with VR, AR and other related technologies.

Projects and Analysis
Description (referring to practice Type 1): Since 2020, our way of life has changed dramatically due to the pandemic; consequently, working through online virtual communities has temporarily replaced the “face-to-face” work scenarios of the past. As a result, we may need to use virtual identities to continue our conversations in the virtual world, so the demand for virtual identity (body) decoration may also increase in the future. Just imagine, if online activities become increasingly more diversified, what is an appropriate state we should be in to attend an online gathering like a memorial service, an interview, or a discussion? The theme of creation for this project is: Students are required to create virtual jewellery works for certain activities, including the design of related virtual characters and virtual jewellery. Students are grouped in teams of two. Taking the online conference platform Zoom as the background, each team is required to design a virtual jewellery interface and the virtual jewellery works for Zoom with graphic concept plans and renderings.
Analysis of Two Excellent Student Works:

Student Work 1: Virtual Wedding Ring. Designed by Zhang Tianyi & Zhang Chongxiao.

Analysis: The theme of the first work is Virtual Wedding Ring, which was designed based on a scenario of a virtual wedding. In a virtual wedding event, the two-partyrelationship corresponds to a newlywed couple (groom and bride) and all the guests. Each of the guests would select a virtual diamond on the Zoom interface, which would then be projected to the fingers of the newlyweds to form their virtual wedding rings. The data of each virtual diamond is a unique data record, so that the virtual value of jewellery is smartly explored. In the virtual world, virtual diamonds gather together and form a wave surrounding the fingertips of the groom and bride, which presents a sense of romance beyond gravity.

Student Work 2: Cyber ​​“Red-Flower”, designed by Qu Bingyan & Lan Wenjing.

Analysis: The work Cyber ​​“Red-Flower” was inspired after a long-term implementation of online classes due to the pandemic. The application scenario is an online classroom, and the two-party relationship corresponds to the teachers and the students respectively. The designers introduced the “Red-Flower” reward mechanism in physical classroom into the virtual space. The inlaid relationship between the virtual “Red Flower” medalsand the wreath brooch inherits the concept of physical craftsmanship of jewellery. With the accumulation of “Red-Flower” medals, the wreath brooch would be gradually filled. Such a concept similar to the scoring mechanism in games may stimulate the students’ enthusiasm for online classes. At the same time, the functionality of jewellery is re-explored in the virtual space.


About the author

Jieyi Sun (Jie Sun) is a jewellery designer, artist, curator, and PhD researcher focusing on contemporary jewellery currently at the school of art, Kingston University London, England. She graduated in jewellery design from Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2011 and obtained a master’s degree in Politecnico di Milano and diploma’s degree in The Academy of Fine Arts, Munich after her study from 2012 to 2019. Living and travelling between Italy, Germany, UK, and the Netherlands, Jieyi Sun finds her great passion and foothold in contemporary jewellery design, art and curation from a cross-cultural perspective.