Everyday Armour, 2020

Everday Armour 2020 by Toni-Maree Savage

Everday Armour 2020 by Toni-Maree Savage 

Toni-Maree Savage 
Brooch: Waterlily #1, 2020 
Sterling silver with cubic zirconias 
5.5 x 5.5 x 2.5 cm 

Toni-Maree Savage 
Brooch: Waterlily #2, 2020 
Sterling silver and bronze 
7.5 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm 

Toni-Maree Savage 
Brooch: Waterlily #3, 2020 
Sterling silver with cubic zirconias 
7.0 x 10.0 x 1.5 cm 

Artist Statement

Many of us wear jewellery that provides warmth and comfort when we sense it against our skin. For example, for me, my engagement ring and wedding band are powerful pieces of jewellery. They embody promise, adoration and love. As curator Rock Hushka suggests in his fascinating essay about the psychoanalytic mechanisms of wearing jewellery, these pieces help me to “navigate the complexities of the world” at an emotional level.[1]

There is a long history of people imbuing jewellery with strong sentiments to help fortify and protect. Many ancient cultures had much faith in amulets, talisman and charms.[2] Often these pieces would include traditional symbols of good luck such as the four-leaf clover or icons to ward off negativity such as evil eye jewellery.[3] Nowadays, many people imbue less didactic adornments with their own beliefs and values. Much like the power I find in my engagement ring and wedding band, the wearer adds their own personal meaning to pieces which can become strong emotional and psychological supports. Whether explicitly protective or not, the belief is this jewellery can empower the wearer to face the obstacles of everyday life, boost positivity and reduce anxiety.

In her seminal work, author and editor of Metalsmith magazine, Suzanne Ramljak, presents many magnificent examples of contemporary jewellers who include protection jewellery in their collections. For instance, several well-recognised jewellers are represented including Americans Kathleen Kennedy with her Protection Device, 2007 featuring stylistic-chainmail, Robert Ebendorf with his Necklace with Pendant, 1995 a more subtle protective amulet, and Dauvit Alexander with his Mace (necklace), 2003 a brutal-looking neckpiece with a weighty spiked ball.[4]

Other jewellers of renown that have investigated protection jewellery include Swedish silversmith Torun Bullow-Hube and American jeweller Nancy Worden. Bullow-Hube’s understated designs and use of non-precious inclusions such as quartz and pebbles particularly resonate with me for its organic quality. Her Neckring with Crystal Pendant, c. 1950 is a typical example of her powerful minimalistic statement jewellery with protective qualities founded in an alluring feminine sensibility.[5] In contrast, many of Worden’s designs for her protection jewellery are startling and eye-catching that originated in her exploration of world cultures and modern social issues. For example, her Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Neckpiece, 2018 features a striking mass of materials styled like a Pacific tribal neckpiece designed to protect the wearer against evil.[6]

While many contemporary exemplars employ a literal form of physical protection in the design of their adornments such as chainmail or mock weaponry, Everyday Armour, 2020 uses more subtle devices to evoke psychological and emotional protection. Inspired by a desire to create pieces that boost optimism and positivity at a time of tremendous global disruption and tension, Everyday Armour is a series of three brooches which empower the wearer.

Everyday Armour is based on time-honoured waterlily iconography that bestows hope, pleasure, peace and new beginnings on the wearer.[7] Just as a waterlily can bloom from a murky and muddy foundation, so too can the wearer emerge from daily hardships and move towards a positive life. Like Lorena Lazard’s Spinning Heart, 2007, Everyday Armour aims to provoke “moments of happiness” in the wearer’s day through visual delight and soothing or mediative touch.[8]

Everyday Armour aims to actively provide a positive psychological stimulus to the wearer and, like the examples of protective jewellery created by Alexandra Hart, create a “psychic transformation” through awareness of the adornment. For instance, Tacey Rosolowski describes Hart’s Necklace, 1999 a spiked, curving creation that ensures the wearer’s mindfulness of the object, and introduces the philosophical concept of “present-to-hand.” As Rosolowski explains, an object is considered present-to-hand when the wearer is conscious of it. This contrasts with the traditional way of wearing jewellery which can often be considered “ready-to-hand” or worn without real awareness. [9] Consequently, the physical weight and dimensions of the Everyday Armour pieces, like Hart’s jewellery, are potent reminders that the wearer is protected.

The carefully selected waterlily iconography of Everyday Armour is also worn intentionally against the breast as a brooch (or pendant with convertor) to imbue the pieces with the strength that this powerful site of womanhood carries. As Hushka tells us, “the juxtaposition of jewelry and breasts has profound implications in understanding how the jewelry functions.” [10] By placing an object on or between the breasts, the power of the conceptual message grows exponentially as our associations with nurturing, sensuality and womanhood rise in a swirl of turbulence and feminine power.

The works in Everyday Armour are predominantly sterling silver with a dark patina to maximise the visual strength of the pieces and the potential transference of this energy to the wearer’s psyche. Gems are employed to enhance the visual appeal and the positive and prosperous sentiment that underlies the designs. Imperfections in construction add to the character of the pieces and remind us that the road to happiness is not flawless.

The pieces are primarily influenced visually and technically by the work of contemporary American jeweller, Susan Wachler. Similar to the Everyday Armour series, Wachler has a distinct, highly textured style that is dominated by silver patina works. Wachler’s Melange Ring, 2020, is a superb example of her style and artistry.[11] The Everyday Armour series is accompanied by a number of experimental pieces that helped to build my skills and techniques.

Everyday Armour empowers the wearer to meet the stresses of daily contemporary life through an assimilation of the positive meanings embodied in the symbology and wearing of the pieces. The works provide a powerful sense of safety as well as self-expression without being overtly defensive. The series personifies a keen recognition that jewellery, as Ramljak reminds us, “is a necessity, not an accessory when it is protective.”[12]


[1] Rock Hushka, “Holding Objects: The Psychoanalytic Mechanisms of Wearing Jewellery,” Art Jewelry Forum, accessed March 11, 2020, https://artjewelryforum.org/articles/holding-objects-psychoanalytic-mechanisms-wearing-jewelry.

[2] Valda Roric, “Warding Evil and Welcoming Luck: Protective Amulets of the Ancient World,” Ancient Origins, accessed November 19, 2020, https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/warding-evil-and-welcoming-luck-protective-amulets-ancient-world-005019.

[3] Beth Berstein, “New Takes on Tailsman and Protective Jewellery,” Forbes, accessed March 4, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bethbernstein/2020/08/01/new-takes-on-talisman-and-protective-jewelry/?sh=257f3b9977ab.

[4] Suzanne Ramljak, On Body and Soul: Contemporary Armor to Amulets (New York: Schiffer Publishing, 2014).

[5] “Necklace Designed by Torun Bulow-Hube for Georg Jensen, Denmark, 1950s,” 1st Dibs, accessed November 2, 2020 https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/necklaces/pendant-necklaces/necklace-designed-torun-bulow-hube-georg-jensen-denmark-1950s/id-j_8310401/.

[6] “A Catalyst for Change,” Ornament, accessed November 2, 2020, http://www.ornamentmagazine.org/a-catalyst-for-change.

[7] “Meaning of Waterlily Flowers,” ewaterPlant, accessed October 5, 2020, https://www.ewaterplant.com/meaning-of-water-lily-flowers.

[8] Susan Cummins, “Protective Ornament: Curated by Suzanne Ramljak,” Art Jewelry Forum, accessed November 5, 2020, https://artjewelryforum.org/protective-ornament-curated-by-suzanne-ramljak

[9] Tacey Rosolowski, “Consciously adorned,” Metalsmith (Spring, 2000), 14-27.

[10] Hushka, “Holding Objects.”

[11] “Susan Wachler Jewelry,” accessed March 3, 2020, https://susanwachlerjewelry.com/.

[12] Cummins, “Protective Ornament”.

 ⭐This artwork is available for sale. For further information please contact me