Jewellery in Context. A multidisciplinary framework for the study of jewellery

Published: 03.11.2019
Jewellery in Context. A multidisciplinary framework for the study of jewellery.
Marjan Unger
Edited by:
Arnoldsche Art Publishers
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Technical data:
232 pp.; 11 x 17.5 cm, softcover. English.
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Arnoldsche Art Publishers
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Inner page: portrait of Marjan Unger, photo by Manuel Ocaña..
Inner page: portrait of Marjan Unger, photo by Manuel Ocaña.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

One of the Dutch art historian and jewellery expert Marjan Unger’s perhaps most enduring legacies is her doctoral thesis, Sieraad in Context, submitted in 2010. Hitherto published only in Dutch, the text was for a long time only accessible to a small group of people. Theo Smeets, professor at the Trier University of Applied Sciences specialising in gemstone and jewellery design, was keenly aware, however, that this is a ‘must-read’ and had made great efforts during Marjan Unger’s lifetime to produce an English edition, now available in its entirety – and with her permission.
In her work, Unger endeavours to formulate a general definition of jewellery. Yet above all she also analyses to what extent jewellery is associated across the globe with different, sometimes contrary issues: all human fears but also desires, according to her thesis, have, in a sense, materialised around the world as objects of adornment.
This comprehensive approach aimed, not least, to develop a solid theoretical framework to aid the study of jewellery. Thus the text can, without doubt, already be seen as a standard reference work and a must for all prospective jewellery artists; experts too will discover new perspectives on the phenomenon of jewellery.
One of the most enlightening texts by the renowned art historian and design theorist Marjan Unger. A fantastic introduction for all those who have always wanted to engage with jewellery on a theoretical level.

Jewellery is a universal cultural phenomenon; it tells something about the people who have worn it and their actions. It is worn worldwide and has an endless variety of appearances and meanings. Jewellery marks, all around the globe, milestones in life. With a piece of jewellery you can cherish dear memories of people who have died, but also radiate a position of power, a political or religious conviction, states Marjan Unger, the famous and illustrious Dutch theorist and publicist in her 2010 dissertation. Among all texts on adornment and jewellery, this essay stands out as an elementary standard work. It is an absolute ‘must-read’ for every jewellery enthusiast. It will sharpen the perspectives of students and experts, and for any interested laymen, it will certainly open new horizons of insight on adornment and the ever-present phenomenon of jewellery.

Biography Marjan Unger:
Marianne Unger (1946–2018) first studied industrial design, later art history at the University of Amsterdam. In addition to teaching at various Dutch universities, she also worked as editor-in-chief for the design magazines Bijvoorbeeld and Morf. Marjan Unger curated the travelling exhibition Zonder wrijving geen glans [No Glaze without friction] and published numerous publications.

You hold in your hands the English translation of Marjan Unger’s dissertation. In my opinion, this essay is one of her purest. Among all the other texts I know on adornment and jewellery, it stands out as an absolute elementary standard work, and I consider it a ‘must-read’ for every jewellery student. But also for professionals, it will certainly open new perspectives and widen horizons. For interested laymen, it is a perfect introduction to the field of jewellery and adornment.

Until now, "Jewellery in Context. A multidisciplinary framework for the study of jewellery" was available in Dutch only. I often asked Marjan to also publish this text in English to make it available beyond the Dutch-speaking borders. But knowing that she didn't have much time left, she kept telling me that she preferred to do ‘new’ writing and asked me to be patient again and again. Just before she passed away, she gave me the right to publish the English version of her dissertation and asked me to take care of it. In consultation with Gerard Unger and Chequita Nahar, I conceived this book as a co-publication with many other jewellery institutions, schools, entrepreneurs and interested individuals. we considered this to be mostly in Marjan’s spirit.

My sincere thanks go to Suzanne van Leeuwen, Chequita Nahar, Dirk Allgaier, Wolfgang Lösche and all the co-publishers for making this possible.

Dr. Marjan Unger passed away in 2018 – a grave loss, not only for our field. Her work and heritage, however, will continue to inspire and educate generations of jewellery lovers worldwide. Holding the English version of Marjan Unger’s dissertation in my hands makes me happy. I wish you the same while reading this book!

/ Theo Smeets, August 2019
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© By the author. Read Copyright.