Thursday, October 21, 2010

Goth Jewelry - Part 3: Materials

Hello Design Fans:

By far the thing I enjoy most about designing gothic jewelry is the fun of sorting through possible materials. Part of what makes traditional jewelry "traditional" is the use of familiar materials in expected ways. Gothic jewelry makes itself known not only through color and symbols, but by unusual use of regular materials (or by use of things that you otherwise wouldn't put in jewelry at all :)

You might find bone, leather, chain, dust, velvet, silk, coal, and liquids used in traditional jewelry, but these will generally be used in understated ways. For example: a gold chain for a bracelet, silk string for pearls, or glitter filled water in a small vial as a pendant. Similar materials in gothic jewelry will be used to make a stronger, edgier, more emotional statement. Examples include using several lengths of faceted anodized chain for a necklace, wide black silk to form a choker, or red 'blood' in a pendant flask.

I have a set of small flasks, and I enjoy finding interesting materials to fill them. Tame fillers, like glitter, don't seem to grab my interest. Ah, but unusual fillers get my attention.  Fake blood is already pretty overdone, so I look for the more unusual; crow feathers, watch parts, bizarre herbs, or whatever seems different.

Bone is almost always a good choice. Carved wood is appropriate, especially if you can hand paint it. All sorts of fabrics lend themselves to gothic jewelry, like lace, velvet, and silk. But keep your eyes out for other, more interesting stuff: volcanic glass, nylon mesh, recycled license plates, real fish net, and insects in amber or resin. If you can't find something strange enough to inspire you, maybe you can make it yourself - take the usual tour of the internet and see the ideas that are out there.

All of this hardly means you can't use typical gemstones to good effect. Garnet and black onyx are perfect, and marcasite has a wonderful feeling of mysterious, by-gone days. Even traditional standbys like bright blue topaz can be worked into a necklace that evokes a sense of dark winter nights. It is how these more typical stones are used in the context of the piece that is important. If your necklace is mostly blue topaz and bright silver, well, it probably has limited gothic appeal (unless the silver is in the form of a vampire bat and the topaz is in the eyes, say ...)

A word of caution - jewelry is for fun and fashion, and shouldn't be dangerous to make or wear. Do not get carried away in your desire to make your twisted jewelry creation. Check to be sure that no matter how sharp, tight, or painful your piece looks, that it isn't actually sharp, tight or painful. Gothic jewelry and fashion leans heavily on theater inspired props and the magic illusions of old. So keep it like the fake barbed wire, creepy but safe.


Image Credits:
Black Glass and Onyx Medallion - Lunar Blue Designs, listed in our Etsy store September 2010.  I found this dark silver metal and black glass medallion and wanted to pair it with an appropriate chain to make a gothic piece.  One chain alone would not work, so I matched up several lengths of different chain including antiqued nickel, faceted anodized steel, and black rolo.  The bail for the pendant is also chain, and the onyx drops complete the design.

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