In the 16th century, households throughout Europe began boasting cabinets of curiosities. These cabinets — also known by various other names, including Wunderkammer — held collections of exotic objects, both natural and man-made, with qualities ranging from scientific to supernatural. A Wunderkammer, be it a cabinet or a room, would just as likely hold stuffed animals and supposed unicorn horns as it would religious relics and medical specimens.
Cabinets of curiosities were both reflections of their times and sanctuaries from drab reality. The composition of collections was diverse, as each collector had individual tastes and preferred specific types of oddities over others. The concept of such a room or cabinet, though, continues to inspire imaginations today, including that of Korean designer Minjung Kang, who has collaborated with Swarovski Gemstones to create a Wunderkammer-themed collection of bangles.
A display of precious Swarovski stones at an exhibition in Seoul, South Korea
MINJUNG KANG SEES JEWELLERY AS “A LUCKY SYMBOL AND A SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE”
Talismans, religious artefacts, and items depicting the heavens would not be out of place in cabinets of curiosities, and Kang’s creations reflect all three. She sees jewellery as “a lucky symbol and a source of confidence”, and often turns to the sun and stars for jewellery themes. The series also takes visual cues from St Vitus Cathedral in Prague. “I was inspired by the treasures carved in the halo of the sun of St Vitus Cathedral and the beauty of the stars at the top of the Prague artefacts,” says Kang.
Korean jewellery designer Minjung Kang
Kang describes her style as featuring symmetry, “harmonies with curves”, and pavé setting on geometric patterns. These three elements are apparent in the bangles she has designed for Swarovski Gemstones. La Petite Etoile expresses “the illusion of sunlight spreading in the night”, using yellow gold studded with Misty Rose topaz, ruby, and pink, blue and yellow sapphires. Per Ardua Ad Astra evokes the dawn and the Aurora Borealis with 18K rose gold, sapphire, and topaz in Misty Rose and Rainforest hues. Amor Tui represents a rainbow using red ruby, white topaz, and sapphire.
IN CREATING THE BANGLES, KANG DREW ON HER EXPERTISE IN METALLURGY AND GEMMOLOGY
Ita Vita bangle in yellow gold and silver with topazes, rubies, and blue sapphires
In creating the bangles, Kang drew on her expertise in metallurgy and gemmology, and banked on the stones’ accurate sizing and colours to express the symmetry and forms of the designs. “Swarovski Gemstones’ tight tolerance, sizes, and colours are very important to me. The beautiful, uniform colour of the natural stone, the exact size, and precisely cut gemstone are a great strength and advantage in improving productivity,” says Kang.
La Petite Etoile bangle in yellow gold with Misty Rose topaz, ruby, and sapphires
Per Ardua Ad Astra bangle in rose gold with Misty Rose and Rainforest topazes and sapphires
Kang adds that in South Korea, demand has increased for valuable coloured stones, as people continue to look for new, unique items that reflect their personalities. She herself is a case in point — she often wears her birthstone, ruby; her favourite colour, emerald; and a ring on her left little finger that she believes provides protection from bad luck.
This article was originally published in SOLITAIRE #90 August/September 2017 Colours Edition.