Precious Dialogue

Precious Dialogue combines artistic research and projects related to jewellery and the treasured object.

A jewel or an object is our starting point for our artistic research and projects. We focus on multiple aspects of jewellery, such as physicality, matter, presentation, ornamentation and symbolism. We explore cultural and social meaning of these themes, mainly through artistic works and within different contexts, ranging from everyday life or public space to the art and design world or one’s own discipline. The platform ‘Precious Dialogue’ will literally and figuratively function as a conversation piece in order to stimulate dialogue.

Current projects

‘Jewellery Matter Time: Hard Data, Soft Stories’

Researchers : Saskia Van der Gucht & Irma Földényi

‘Jewellery Matter Time – Hard Data, Soft Stories’ unveils contemporary stories about mined materials and how they contribute to jewellery as a practice. The global movement of materials has a variety of ecological effects, many of which are concealed in the shadows behind shiny objects. If jewellery can tell stories, which stories could they tell about their origin in the age of the Anthropocene?

This geological era in which mankind’s influence on the earth and its atmosphere is visible, overconsumption and overproduction asks us researchers to redefine preciousness and scarcity. In this research hard data is defined as facts on material movement such as extraction, transport, consumption and recycling. Soft stories are outcomes – meaningful connections between these facts – that will be crafted into objects and installations.



Fieldwork for sand probes at Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai, september 2022 – Saskia Van der Gucht

Past projects

Jewellery, Matter, Time – True Cost of a Jewel

Researchers : Saskia Van der Gucht & Irma Földényi

In our current project we are building on the research of ‘Jewellery, Matter, Time – Materials in the Anthropocene’ by Irma Földényi and Liesbet Bussche, which investigated how precious materials are becoming extinct as a result of human activities on earth. There we have developed a visual essay on how artificial diamonds are becoming a new form of natural stone and concluded that growth time is speeded up, materials have no rights, jewellers are not part enough of public debates on material issues and the industry is not fully transparent on the true costs – among others.

Therefore in ‘Jewellery, Matter, Time – True Cost of a Jewel’ we will focus on the social contexts of man-made precious materials – contexts such as production, makers, traders, curators, collectors, wearers – to trace true cost, and the renewed meaning of material usage. We will follow one material from production contexts to the wearers context.

Furthermore, even though these are challenging times we are looking forward to find new ways of connecting with people, deepening our understanding and extending the contexts of jewellery by engaging with professionals from different fields within arts and design who are dealing with various questions relevant to the Anthropocene.

Cuneiform tablet for an account of gold – 7th-6th century B.C.
Market price tag 100 fr. per chain 
HID® Jewelry Tag RFID Tags

Designing Dialogues – artifacts as catalyst (2019-2020)

Researcher : Laura Braspenning

This project focuses on facilitating a valuable dialogue in the contemporary urban reality of diversity and transnational mobility. In this artistic research project I want to investigate how artifacts can capture hybrid and layered intangible culture, and subsequently can act as catalysts for dialogue.

By making intangible culture tangible through artifacts, people become aware of these ambiguous histories, and in this project I want to explore how this artefacts can function to stimulate new insights, dialogue, mutual understanding and exchange between people, cultures and generations.

By comparing various existing research practices in a mapping, the field is further defined and, moreover, a network is set up around culturally diverse intangible heritage, in preparation for a PhD that further examines these themes. In addition the representation of the research process will feed the artistic practice of Braspenning.

Image by Laura Braspenning

Jewellery, Matter, Time (2019-2020)

Researchers : Liesbet Bussche & Irma Földényi

This research project rethinks the position of the jewellery designer in the Anthropocene through artistic research into his/her material use and work context.

Starting point is the area of tension between natural, traditionally valuable materials that cause irreparable damage to the earth during exploitation and artificially produced materials, which can serve as valid alternatives at first sight. The compilation of a material library, discussions with experts and field trips to industrial sites lead to critical findings on valuation and significance of matter, and are made public in a scenographic presentation and article.

The second part of the research project focuses on the artistic creation of a jewellery-related object in the context of the material. The unusual methodology for the jewellery designer of the inverted workshop that transforms a material-related context to a production context offers insights for the redefinition of the work context of the jewellery designer and the relevance of jewellery within the theme of the Anthropocene.

Image of the first synthetic diamond crystals produced by H. Tracy Hall on December 16, 1954 Source: Sample Images and Documents from 1954 Diamond Discovery
Image of the first synthetic diamond crystals produced by H. Tracy Hall on December 16, 1954
Source: Sample Images and Documents from 1954 Diamond Discovery

Speaking Jewellery

Students, lecturers and researchers of Sint Lucas Antwerpen explored the communicative qualities of the contemporary jewel. The ‘power of speech’ of a jewel lies hidden in and among all the references that it carries.

These references make the jewel readable and ensure that it attracts people. From a statement on the catwalk to an atmospheric attribute in a film. From a royal symbol to a magic grave relic. In contemporary jewellery, references to material, form, wearability, function, value, price and rarity are often overlooked or barely mobilized by the designers themselves. And yet, thanks to jewellery’s long history, these references are familiar to a broad audience.

Contemporary social references such as sustainability and ecology are not at all or hardly communicated in a presentable fashion in jewellery or its display. The denial, neglect or omission of these references seemed to the researchers to be one of the reasons why contemporary jewellery today is seen as hermetic.

The research project Speaking Jewellery therefore analysed the ‘language’ of jewellery and the references that it carried with it since time immemorial.

We looked at the elements which, we as researchers, can once more deploy to let the jewellery tell a story about itself and its genesis, its manufacturing process and its meaning. How can we let the jewel ‘speak’ again? In each artistic project, the research team turned the spotlight on an archetype from the history of jewellery.

In the first artistic project, we focused on the chain necklace. The necklace is, like the string of pearls or the signet ring, an icon in the world of jewellery. It is an essential part in both the more traditional and the contemporary design practice. Its many, varied manifestations are a rich source of well-founded and accessible research. Can the chain necklace let the contemporary jewel communicate once more with a group of people that not only consists of makers, wearers or collectors?

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