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23 pieces of birthday jewellery

Designer Nina Sajet shares some memories of the jewellery she received every birthday designed by her father Dutch jewellery designer Philip Sajet. The 23 pieces are on show for the very first time at the CODA Museum.

By Jeanne Tan / 17-02-2011

Each year for the past 23 years, jewellery designer Philip Sajet designed a special piece of jewellery for his daughter Nina Sajet as a birthday present. Each birthday, it would be a complete surprise what the piece would be, and even though Nina might have had requests, her father found playful ways to reinterpret them. 

The tradition began with a baby-sized ring to commemorate Nina's birth, made from gold featuring a tiny ruby. The collection continued with a series of rings, necklaces, brooches, bracelets and earrings until the most recent which Nina received on her 23rd birthday, a gold ring fashioned from beach pebbles and precious stones. Pieces include a necklace for Nina's 6th birthday featuring math's sums, a brooch shaped like a piece of toast (13th), a ring in the shape of a teapot (7th) and a pair of playful ice cream cone earrings (9th). "Like every child," explains Nina, "I looked forward to receiving a birthday present - most children would get something they forget about after a while. Of course it was always a surprise, what my father would make each time."

How did the tradition begin? "What I do know is that the tradition created itself as it was what my father did, so he did it for me too," Nina continues. "He made the first ring because he wanted me to remember how small I once was - maybe he wanted not to forget that himself as well."

The jewellery reflects the different stages in both father's and daughter's lives. "The funny thing about collection of the 23 pieces is that most of them were made for a child. The work my father makes is usually for a woman. So in the collection, you can see that I grow up because the pieces became bigger and less colourful and more like his work that you see in a gallery."

Nina, a recent Product Design graduate from ArtEZ Arnhem, did sometimes request a particular piece of jewellery however her wish wasn't always granted. "Usually my father made what ever he felt like, but of course he knew my taste. I remember once I asked him to make me six earrings: a rabbit, a horse, a sun, a moon, a square and triangle." Instead of six pairs of earrings Nina received something else. "I got one pair with all those six elements incorporated. I think maybe at the time, I was a bit disappointed, but now I like them even more."

What's even more beautiful about the jewellery are the memories associated with each piece. One of Nina's favourites is a necklace strung together from beach pebbles collected during a family vacation. "I remember when we went together to look for the pebbles, by the sea in Italy. But afterwards, my father wanted to stop working with pebbles. So one day when we went back to Italy, I had to throw them all back into the sea." The pebbles returned recently in the ring Nina received on her 23rd birthday when her father asked her to collect new stones in Italy (Nina is half Italian). The pieces are clearly cherished by Nina, and remain well-loved in her collection. "Most of the pieces travelled with me. When I have a important day or exam, I always wear a jewellery piece from my father. It gives me the feeling that it brings me good luck."

And does Nina have any inkling of what she will receive for her 24th birthday? "Well when I was at the exhibition at CODA, I had a look at all the pieces on show - many of which I hadn't seen before - to get an idea of what to ask for," Nina laughs. "But usually I don't ask for anything, so we'll just have to wait and see…"   

The entire collection of 23 pieces is on show for the first time altogether at the CODA Museum, Apeldoorn as part of the retrospective of Philip Sajet entitled ‘Verzamelingen Verzameld’ (Collections Collected). The exhibition is on show from 22 January until 10 April 2011.

Main image and images 1-6, 23 jewellery pieces for his 23-year-old daughter by Philip Sajet, photography courtesy CODA Museum
Images 7 & 8: Beach pebbles, photography courtesy of Nina Sajet
Images 9-12: Graduation collection Nina Sajet, photography courtesy of Nina Sajet

Click on the images to enlarge

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