Photography / Editorial / Print

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 12

Contemporary jeweller Kelvin Birk revels in the chaos of destruction, with Sapphires, Rubies, Emeralds and other precious stones smashed and then reconstructed on precious metal surfaces. His work is primarily conceptual, "working with the material and letting it take shape," he says, in what could be described as bringing the materials back to their true nature. From ancient to more civilised times, precious and semi-precious stones have always held our fascination, however, the finished work challenges our perceptions of value commonly associated with jewellery.

Kelvin grew up in a family run hotel in a "small Bavarian village in Germany, surrounded by green grass, meadows and mountains", graduating in Goldsmithing from Staatliche Berufsfachschule für Glas und Schmuck, followed, in 1994, with an MA in Silversmithing at what was then London Guildhall. He has always had an interest in jewellery and the arts, with his strengths lying in 3D and sculpture, preferring a hands on approach and being sculpturally creative. Exploring the spark for the chaos and reconstruction, we find out "when you lose someone very precious, you are lost and can't do anything to change the outcome. When I break a stone and cast it into a piece of jewellery, something else happens or comes out of the destruction."

Preferring experimentation over 2D drawing or sketches, he "allows the material to dictate the flow," and is still fascinated by the sight of liquidising gold or silver and then pouring it into a mould. When visiting his workshop, we saw the use of coloured enamel in a few pieces, where it is used in conjunction with stones in a mould, creating interesting patterns.

The refashioning of precious stones and metals and even old pieces of jewellery into distinctive new works is avant-garde. The experimentation has led to more elaborate and larger pieces, made out of crushed stones, one in the form of a crown, another in the shape of an octopus, each made from 10000 or so crushed gemstone parts on a silver frame. There are also milled freeform bangles and necklaces, created from where a ring has been flattened and elongated to create a new form. It is not a conventional approach, but that is what makes his work unique.

Interview and portraits
Nardip Singh
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