Forget gold, silver or any traditional material. If you want to make a statement with your jewellery this spring-summer, recycled is the hot word to add to any must-have piece. Stone, fabric, wood, wrapping paper, crochet, anything goes as long as it is recycled.
An increasing number of well-established artists and up-and-coming designers are turning to environment-friendly materials and techniques to make their handmade jewels.
Eleonora Battaggia, with 30 years of experience as a jewellery designer, used gold and precious stones before she decided to turn to recycled materials for her unique, handmade pieces which she sells under the 'Caracol' label.
"'I am a trained goldsmith and loved to work with gold," Battaggia told ANSA. "But using gold is highly polluting so over twenty years ago I started searching for eco-sustainable materials that could express my vision with the same impact as gold."
So Battaggia turned to textile, stone and fabrics for ideological reasons, yet with the conviction that "what makes a jewel precious is the way it is made, proportions, colour and vision."
The difference for her and other artists who have followed suit is that such pieces are now high on demand with top fashion names like Marni making its ultra-sophisticated necklaces for the 2012 Summer Edition line in vinyl from recycled records. The Milan-based brand owned and designed by Consuelo Castiglioni will use recycled plastic bottles for their next Recycle accessory collection. At times of great financial crisis, the concept and craftsmanship of a jewel is what makes it precious, according to Anna Maria Cardillo, an architect who turned to jewellery designing when she started recycling crochet, fabric and raffia she used for interior decorating.
"When the economy sinks, I think the value of re-using objects that have a home feel to them becomes very strong among designers," Cardillo, who is working on a collection made from women's stockings, told ANSA.
The architect loves to mix materials with different textures like metallic nets, leather, plastic strings and pins.
And while recycling is the starting point, the end result with the boho chic feel of such unique pieces goes beyond the materials used as they are moulded, coloured and crafted into jewels often resembling small sculptures.
Indeed two prominent jewellery designers who recycle, Margherita Marchioni and Maria Cristina Bellucci, are artists. Marchioni makes impressive installations and Bellucci's colliers made from pencil cubes are little sculptures which were recently portrayed in Vogue Italia.
Art is the background of many of these designers as shapes and colours take centre stage in jewels which have today great cross-generation appeal.
Marina Suma worked as a theatre and cinema actress before starting her collection Leni - after a Sicilian town and inspired by the island - including bangle bracelets and necklaces made with recycled papier mache'.
Up-and-coming designer Francesca Lorenz, a former restorer who hails from a family of artists, told ANSA that "playing with colours and geometry is what led me to jewellery making."
"Working with re-cycled materials is a lengthy and creative process which I find very challenging and I think it is particularly important now that people can't spend very much," said Lorenz. "After all, my passion for recycling comes from my grandparents who had lived through World War II and always urged me never ever to throw away anything,"