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Modern Jewelry: Traditional form, new material

Julie Usel changes our bejeweled perceptions with silk and silver threads



Julie Usel, London based contemporary jewelry designer from Geneva, transcends the line between exotic and everyday jewelry in her “la route de lasoie” (the silk road) collection of rings, earrings and brooches. Using shapes and styles associated with historical and opulent jewelry, she reinterprets what material constitutes jewelry and provides a new experience wearing familiar shapes with new materials. She explores by hand sewing layers of printed silk with metallic thread and gold/silver leaf details to mimic gem stones. To create a layer of depth, she carefully applies details of gold and silver leaves to imitate how light would reflect off the surface of shiny gem stones such as ruby when the wearer moves.



Julie Usel’s work draws from her background in goldsmithing, silversmithing and metalwork. An alumni of the Royal College of Art in London, she experiments with materials and our perception of the materials for each of her series. Her previous jewelry collection consisted of unisex, laser cut, stainless steel rings set with diamonds that transformed metal into a lace-like, transparent and light medium: qualities that often contradict our notion of metal.



As part of a series of necklaces called Generic Pearls, Julie uses the form of traditional pearl necklace as the theme and experiments with various materials to create novel perceptions of a traditonal form.
The name of her new collection“la route de lasoie”, the silk road, highlights the visual aspirations of exotic beauty. The silk road, a term first coined by the German explorer Baron von Richthofen in 1877, was an ancient transcontinental network of trade routes that connected China and Central Asia to the Mediterranean shores. For many centuries traders spread along these routes precious raw materials such as silk, Lapis Lazuli and Turquoise, as well as finished objects such as porcelain and woven textiles. These routes created dreams of distant beauty. Most importantly, they facilitated exchange of technologies and led to conception of many new innovative ideas. Julie’s work evokes the innovative and yet exotic hybridization that was characteristic of the silk road. You can see more of Julie’s unique jewelry here.

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