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Art students give old jewelry a major makeover

SMFA Tufts professor Tanya Crane created these earrings by repurposing old jewelry. (Courtesy MassArt)
SMFA Tufts professor Tanya Crane created these earrings by repurposing old jewelry. (Courtesy MassArt)

A special program to repurpose old jewelry brought together students and faculty from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, North Bennet Street School, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University this fall semester.

Called Radical Jewelry Makeover, the collaborative program brings awareness to using recycled materials and gemstones to create new jewelry.

Emily Cobb, a professor at MassArt in jewelry and metalsmithing, began teaching the course in collaboration with SMFA Tufts professor Tanya Crane this year. Between the institutions, 22 students enrolled in the course to learn how to create jewelry ethically.

After almost two years of social isolation through the pandemic, creating a sense of community was vital, Cobb says. “This project was focused on interaction and collaboration across professional artists, students, faculty and also had, of course, education surrounding sustainability and ethical issues with jewelry making, it was a win-win,” she says.

Necklace by Vicky Rodriguez. (Courtesy MassArt)
Necklace by Vicky Rodriguez. (Courtesy MassArt)

Radical Jewelry Makeover is an initiative of a national organization, Ethical Metalsmiths: The Community for Responsible Jewelry, whose mission is to teach better material sourcing and mining practices.

An exhibition of the work created opened at the North Bennet Street School remains on view until January 14. The pieces created for the class, including rings, brooches, earrings and necklaces are for sale at varying prices starting from $40.

Students reinvented donated jewelry from over 70 community members. Class participants and the faculty transformed the jewelry into new pieces through the process of separating metals.  They constructed news pieces using cold connections as opposed to hot connections made by torches. They also learned about pricing their own work.

Cobb says some people donated their jewelry was because they no longer wanted to see it sitting in a drawer or wanted to give the piece a second life.

As a result, people now have a chance to purchase revived jewelry. “I don't need to go out and buy something new. There's so many amazing materials that already exist that can be transformed into something really valuable,” Cobb says.

Magdiela Matta Twitter Arts Fellow
Magdiela Matta was the arts and culture reporting fellow for WBUR in 2021.

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