Black to Kawaii
Jewellery designer Gitte Nygaard opts-out of traditional materials for jewellery making and instead shows us ‘Japanese diamonds’ in her latest Binchotan necklaces.
Not the first collection using this relatively obscure material, Binchotan originates from Japan and is, in fact carbonized oakwood. Nygaard created a series of chain necklaces in which pieces of Binchotan may be hung as pendants.
As a jewellery designer Nygaard sees how much pollution is involved in the mining industry, often the cause of ecological and humanitarian damage. Just think of children mine workers, blood diamonds, and the depletion of natural resources. “I think designers shouldn’t ignore burning issues such as climate change or worker’s conditions so I started to look for alternative materials,” she states.
Binchotan has many qualities including water purification. Although the material is 100% biodegradable, it can act as a piece of jewellery after its functional life span is over.
Nygaard: “I was inspired by a song about diamonds and coal and figured as they are from the same molecular atom group, in my jewellery diamonds could be replaced with Binchotan - man made coal produced in Korea and Japan.”
She continues: “The age-old tradition of burning the oakwood at extremely high temperatures, keeping the CO2 inside also gives it sustainable qualities. The carbon has a large number of ‘pores’ which makes it suitable for cleaning drinking water, adding minerals at the same time. The coal also has cathartic properties,” an lets not forget its second life as jewellery.
Some of the Binchotan pendants have been shaped but form-wise seem very natural. “As the material is rock-hard, it can sometimes be unpredictable, leading to unforeseen happenings in the process.”
The pendants are combined with steel chains and a minimal use of gold. “It’s only used on connection points and is certified gold from Oro Verde. I try to let it compliment the natural shape of the coal as a sort of inverted comma,” Nygaard adds.
Like many designers today, Nygaard is not just creating beautiful and functional products but aims to ask questions and start a debate through her work. She explains: “The power of jewellery is its intimacy, both in terms of its relation to the human body and to the stories it carries. At the same time, the public nature of jewellery makes it a suitable medium for attracting attention.”
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