Round and Flawless

Editorial design for research project on cultured pearls. Starting with the most traditional form of jewellery, the pearl necklace, this project investigates the contemporary environmental and production contexts of pearl farming. The human and non-human activities are intertwined during the growth of a single pearl. The cutting of the pearls – as a form of anatomy – shows these activities in the concentric layers of the pearl. This cut, as a small lens opens up and acknowledges the larger contexts a single pearl can connect. This research has resulted in an editorial project and a series of objects, the latter you can see here

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Round and Flawless

Research, text, object and photos by Irma Foldenyi, cultured pearl, 2020-2021


When cut in half, a cultured pearl reveals it’s internal secrets: layers of years of growth by it’s protective oyster around an artificial core inserted by humans. The oysters lay in farms, the farms lay in sweet and saltwater, organised by farmers, cleaners, oyster health practitioners, hatchery technicians, divers and pearling boat operators to eventually be sold, made and displayed as a strand of opaque pearls. ‘Pant suits, silk shirts and formal skirts’ may very well be the context where these traditional pearl necklaces will be marketed for.

Because of the distance or disconnectedness I feel from perfect, round and flawless pearl jewellery, I made an attempt to research with a direct, hands on approach to see what lays behind the impenetrable, secretive and shiny surface.

With a curious gaze, running through the MRI like pearl slices, tiny maps appeared. These maps visualise the pearl industry: layers of interactions between humans and non-humans became transparent. Through this tiny cross-section, relationships and multi-species interactions between communities such as Chinese nucleus producers, oysters, farmers, jewellers and wearers can be decoded.

The overview of this interconnectedness opened a new aesthetic choice for re-assembling a pearl jewellery. By making a necklace with pearl slices that display their inherent logics of production, the aesthetics of the pearl necklace updated effortlessly into a vulnerable, strong, feminine and transparent appearance.

If we would turn relations around, and let oysters determine pearl production, would we ever wear pearl necklaces?



IMG_9802 bewerkt



‘Stones Against Diamonds’

A project by Jewellery Perspectives, curated by Evelien Bracke.

‘Stones Against Diamonds’ is a research project on the diamond company De Beers by Marge Monko. Read here the text by Evelien Bracke
at Tallinn City Gallery
January 12 – February 11, 2018

43_01_DSC_8374_150dpi@Monko 43_02KH2018MargeMonko 43_03_DSC_8423_150dpi@Monko 43_04_DSC_8416_150dpi@Monko 43_05_DSC_8428_150dpi@Monko 43_06_DSC_8430_150dpi@Monko 43_10_DSC_8528_150dpi@Monko 43_14_DSC_8497_150dpi@Monko 43_15_DSC_8515_150dpi@Monko

Images courtesy of the artist and Tallinn Art Hall.

Design and construction of the vitrine: Kaisa Sööt
Photography: Karel Koplimets, Marge Monko.


Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

a reference for jewellery in economy


maker                                                                                                                                                       ‘Old electronic appliances are considered a nuisance in households, but they are actually a treasure trove,’ said Renet Japan President Takeshi Kuroda, as he perused piles of dusty PC’s, printers and cellphones packed in cardboard boxes. ‘I want people to know that useless cellphones and PC’s can be turned into medals for the Tokyo Olympics’ he said.

material                                                                                                                                                    For the 2012 Olympic Games London used 9,6 kg gold, 1210 silver and 700 kg copper to produce the medallions which were handed out. During the year 2014 Japan could save 143 kg gold, 1566 kg silver and 112 kg copper from it’s electronic waste recycling. In fact, the land that lacks the natural resources own 16 % of the gold and 22% of the silver resources world wide due to the recycling of electronic waste. Collecting the artificial resource is also called urban mining.

world                                                                                                                                                       To mine the needed amount of precious metals, the Japanese government recognised, that a central e-waste collecting system needs to be developed.

jewellery perspective                                                                                                                               Seeing all this from the perspective of the jewellery, the medallion on one hand is an object that sheds light on an anthropocenic condition. The artificial layer of discarded devices are used as mines to replace missing natural resources. On the other hand the creation of such jewels opens the need for a larger change: a newly organised e-waste circulation and infrastructure needs to be developed in the country. As such, the Olympic games 2020 draws a new relation between the disciplines of architecture and jewellery.

Japan Times,  Tokyo 2020nos









reference for jewellery in economy

material                                                                                                                                                       Platinum is an extremely rare metal with a low concentration in the earth’s crust. It exists in higher abundances on the moon or in meteorites. While gold and platinum are almost equally rare, the amount of Platinum mined through history is a tiny fraction of mined silver and gold. From the three precious metals platinum has the highest density, and is the least reactive metal with it’s high melting point (1768 C) a legendary resistance to wear, tarnish and corrosion.

world                                                                                                                                                         Although platinum was officially discovered in the 18th century, references to it have popped up throughout history. The ancient Egyptian casket of Thebes (700BC) was adorned with platinum along gold and silver. The ancient indigenous populations of South America also used platinum in items such as nose rings and ceremonial jewellery. Some speculate that ancient people may have thought platinum was a natural mixture of gold and silver. In the 18th century Antonio de Ulloa (spanish general of the navy, explorer, scientist, author, astronomer) was credited for the discovery of platinum. In Canada, the same material was discovered in 1888 in Sudbury, Ontario alongside copper and nickel deposits. From the end of ww1 to the early 1950’s, Canada was the world’s largest platinum producer.

maker                                                                                                                                                         During the WW2 the US declared platinum as a strategic metal and it’s non-military applications (such as jewellery) were disallowed.

owner                                                                                                                                                         Today platinum is a scarce material, which leads to critical market activities. Planetary Resources is an american company that wants to mine platinum from asteroids, and bring it back to the earth. By colonising the asteroids, the company imagines to be the single owner and primary seller of the material in the global market.

sources  Platinum ReviewBloomberg

Pinarello Handlebars

reference for jewellery in economy

‘On Sunday evening (7th June 2015), Sir Bradley Wiggins broke the world hour record on a Pinarello bike fitted with 3D printed aerodynamic handlebars which had been developed at the Mercury Centre.

…Dimitris Katsanis, chief designer in Pinarello Lab, says: “Bolide HR is the most aerodynamic bike in the world. When it came to the handlebars, we needed them to be as good in terms of aerodynamics, but we also needed them to be a perfect fit for the rider.’

read more



Piranelli 3d printed handlebar, collection  Victoria and Albert Museum, London







The London Metal Exchange

reference for jewellery in economy



The London Metal Exchange                                                                                                                       The LME is the world centre for the trading of industrial metals.

world                                                                                                                                                     The Exchange provides producers and consumers of metal with a physical market of last resort and, most importantly of all, with the ability to hedge against the risk of rising and falling world metal prices.

material                                                                                                                                                   In August 2016 LME announced its new initiative, the LMEPrecious. This was developed in response to a market demand and in close consultation with key precious metals stakeholders. Gold and silver will be traded on a daily basis. The yellow metal, gold is also known as the international currency. The single largest demand source for gold is in the production of jewellery, which uses up to 70% of the annual gold consumption. It is estimated that the total demand of gold in jewellery is close to 50 billion USD. Like any other metal, gold is also found in underground mines. he mining of gold is pretty costly as less than 10 grams of gold is received after extracting one ton of ore. After the extraction the the metal is refined and partly purified on the site. This metal is than melted into gold bars, which are sent for detailed refining to reach a sellable form. The refiners make mostly bullion bars or blank jewellery. Blank jewels are mass produced forms of jewels, that will be further worked on by the jeweller.

Blank jewel examples

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sources                                                                                                                                                 London Metal Exchange                                                                                                                    Wikipedia                                                                                                                                              Commodity Markets and Derivatives







Planetary Resources


reference for jewellery in economy


Platinum, a precious heavy metal was first used by pre-Columbian South American Natives to produce artefacts. It was referenced in European writings as early as 16th century after the Spanish Conquistadors discovered the white metal in the rivers of Ecuador in 1590. Rarer than many other metals, only about 133 tons of platinum are mined each year compared to 1782 tons of gold.

Platinum is abundant in Asteroids, which are minor planets of the inner Solar System, mainly composed of mineral and rock. The size of asteroids varies greatly, some reaching as much as 1000 km across.

Planetary Resources is a company, who wants to mine Asteroids. o achieve this, they will expand the Earth’s natural resource base by developing a robotic asteroid mining industry.

In 2015 President Obama signed a historic piece of legislation into law that recognises the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilisation of resources from asteroids. This new commercial exploration has been called as the new gold rush.

sources Asteroids, Planetary resources, Platinum








How to Read Donald Duck

reference for jewellery in economy and politics






Donald Duck                                                                                                                                           The Donald Duck Universe is a shared universe which is the setting revolves around the adventures of Donald Duck and the accumulated wealth and gold of Scrooge McDuck. In 1971, a book-length essay ‘How to Read Donald Duck’ was published. The book critiques the Disney comics from a Marxist point of view as being vehicles for American cultural imperialism. Among other aspects, the book critically discusses the role that gold takes up in the cartoons such as the pool of gold where Scrooge McDonald takes a regular swim, or the golden objects and wearables that appear as plots. What is the role of gold in the context of the Disney comics? How are golden wearables used? What models of economy and power relations are depicted in the world of Donald Duck?

The Donald Duck Universe envisions a world of concurrence, where all the relations are set by the possession of gold and its monetary values. Social mobility in this universe is a question based on luck, where personal intelligence or hard work is kept unexplored.

In many Donald Duck comics, gold appears as a toy with which characters play as amusing children. In that fabricated world there is no harm done to anybody – unlike in reality. The Disney Universe is proof of a world ruled by gold and an exact reflection of the political design it produces. Gold as an actor of the comic plots reduces humanity to the level of a thing and objects possess a life of their own.

In such world, the maker of every golden item is eliminated from the story. Golden objects appear as if they would arise untouched by the human hand and we never see the processes of the production of any artefacts. In the comics there is no production, only consumption where objects are never produced but always purchased. This mercantile relationship is not limited to the level of objects, people see themselves as buying each others’ services and eventually all human exchange becomes a form of commerce.

The comic issue ‘the Golden Helmet’ is an example where a golden object becomes the plot of the comic. Here Donald Duck is enlisted by a museum director in a rival attempt to find a golden helmet. The object of power has the same effect on each of its successive owners: awakening of greed and ambitions of a would-be tyrant. The idealistic museum director is the worst of all; he wishes to change the North American culture to his own ideals. Eventually Donald’s nephew throws the helmet into the sea to end the madness. The golden helmet has an unquestionable power – without words, as a conflictual wearable it brings out a contradictory reaction of its wearers.

sources                                                                                                                                                  How To Read Donald Duck                                                                                                                      The Golden Helmet