Designers / Fashion / Industry / Trends

MAD About Jewelry Showcases Diverse Artistry, Gender-Fluid Styles


This year’s MAD About Jewelry show could be described in two words: Anything goes. The annual exhibit and sale, held at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design in April, featured contemporary jewelry made from the latest techniques and unusual materials such as postage stamps, recycled kimono silk, eggshells, and the metal niobium.

“The theme is diversity,” says Bryna Pomp, director for MAD About Jewelry. “Each edition presents a slice of what I think is the best contemporary jewelry and makers working around the world.”

This was the 23rd year for MAD About Jewelry, which kicked off with a benefit dinner that honored the 2023 MAD About Jewelry award recipients, including designer Alexis Bittar; Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman; and Sam Broekema, editor-in-chief of Only Natural Diamonds.

Alexis Bittar
MAD About Jewelry honoree Alexis Bittar is founder of an eponymous luxury jewelry and accessories brand. His sculptural style and use of color and unique materials have set his designs apart for more than 30 years, says show director Bryna Pomp.

During the four-day show, the public could see and purchase jewelry by 50 artists, who were chosen to participate because of their innovative vision for what contemporary jewelry can be, Pomp says. The artists were from 20 countries, including the show’s first entries from Brazil, Estonia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Kenya.

“I have staunch criteria in the artists I select. There has to be something for everyone, from serious collectors to someone visiting the museum for the first time,” Pomp says. “This is a milestone event for these makers as well—they have a platform at an important institution worldwide to show their work. For many, this is a real launchpad.”

Pomp doesn’t plays favorites when it comes to the MAD About Jewelry artists. She will happily tell you where she met each of them and why she feels their work is noteworthy. But if you ask nicely, Pomp will go into greater detail about why she sees certain artists’ efforts in sustainability or gender fluidity as revolutionary.

Yumi Kato of Japan, for example, recycles material from kimonos to create textile jewelry. Kato, whose mother was a dressmaker, has a background in fashion and textile design, and her work stands out in terms of the colors and designs she creates with the silks. She also partially or completely hand-sews each piece of jewelry.

Akvile Su
Many of the 2023 Mad About Jewelry makers’ jewelry is gender-neutral, Pomp says, and these rings by Akvile Su are a good example of this modern and minimalist aesthetic.

Another incredible maker is Diego Saraiva of Brazil, who repurposes objects including coins, stamps, and cutlery in his jewelry—creating something that is both visually stunning and a commentary on consumerism, Pomp says.

Gender-neutral designs, like those from Akvile Su, were a thematic addition to this year’s show. Su is a Scotland-based Lithuanian designer who works in recycled precious metals, making geometric chains, rings, and minimalist earrings.

Pomp wears jewelry from the show not only for interviews but across her social media. One recent favorite is the walnut-based jewelry from Dutch husband-and-wife designers Michiel Henneman and Jiska Hartog. Pomp says her husband also has worn one of their pieces with a navy blazer and received many compliments.

“People who come to MAD About Jewelry absolutely love things made out of unusual materials,” Pomp says. “They love to wear it and ask people to guess what their jewelry is made from. [When] people collect paintings or sculptures, you only see it in their homes. When you buy a piece of contemporary art jewelry, you’re going out in public with it. People see it, ask about it, and appreciate it. To me, it’s a much more expressive way to show one’s interest in contemporary art.”

MAD About Jewelry artists were available during the show to talk to visitors, and they participated in a new mentorship program with designer Emanuela Caruso and a mentorship seminar with Lorraine West, who served as artist liaison for the event.

Top: A piece of textile jewelry by Yumi Kato, a Japanese designer who uses recycled kimonos and was one of the creators in the 23rd edition of MAD About Jewelry, a spring show and sale at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York (photos courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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