“A Talk with Marjan Unger”, Jewellery Ph D Art/Fashion Historian, Writer & former Teacher at The Rietveld Academy, The Netherlands

March 31, 2010 | 4 Comments

A Jewellery lover “Pur sang”!

Last week I had the honour to speak with Marjan Unger about jewellery, her thesis & her books written for graduating Ph D, 17 March 2010. We discussed Dutch contemporary jewellery next to Ethic and European classic jewellery. We also talked about the fact that she’s “Going to take a break” and the amazing announcement of  the donation of the “The Marjan & Gerard Unger jewellery collection” to The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam!

Let’s begin to congratulate Marjan with her obtained doctoral degree with her impressive thesis, entitled “Jewellery in context, a multidisciplinary framework of the consideration of the jewel”. A purely theoretical essay from the Art historical viewpoint of “How can you approach the jewel, as a general phenomenon?” Her eyes started to sparkle while rubbing her fingers softly over each other, showing that enthusiastic and honest sensitive feeling of her adornment with jewels. This is precisely her approach towards jewellery. Therefore I would like to quote her: “With jewellery it’s really about looking at them. I love holding the objects in my hands & trying a jewel on myself or someone else. It’s so interesting, the relation of a jewel to the body, the person who’s wearing it. It’s very cultural and time related! What I found so interesting was analysing how everyone is living with his/her own prejudice & how that influences the person’s perception of jewels. Meanwhile realizing and asking myself “on which basis is this founded?”.  Jewels are so related to people and how they want to present their selves, since the beginning mankind! There are treasures found of shells with a drilled hole in it from more than over 100.000 years ago”.

We continued the conversation by speaking about “collecting jewellery”, because that’s how we once met years ago at the auction house I worked for. Quoting Marjan: Because I’m a fashion historian I know “the system of fashion”. By this I mean “Something is right now fashionable to wear, that still can be worn for about 10 to 15 years…and then, somewhere about 15 years, comes the “break point”!  The moment that someone says “No darling, no…I’m not going to wear this anymore. I really don’t want to have this anymore”. This particular trend is in my opinion so interesting. It’s especially this reason that made it possible to buy very interesting jewels, signed pieces, at auctions. Because it will take another 30 to 40 years before antique jewellery dealers are interested in it again. So at the Arcade Auction you could buy so much “jewellery close the daily Dutch life”, objects from which I/you/everyone can easily say “Oooh, in that period someone was really happy wearing that” and meanwhile you see the influence of the national or global idol/Icon of that moment .
It’s fascinating that all personal desires and burdens, pleasant and unpleasant habits are represented in jewellery! Like, “I want more than you!” It’s so interesting to see how people represent themselves. In my opinion there should be far more attention to the inconspicuous jewel. The piece that a woman “wears close to her hart”, read: décolletage, that’s so personal & touching! Followed-up by a big laughter from both of us…because it’s true! It’s such a delicate personal place. A few beads for example with a hidden personal message showing the real “Stay-off, that’s mine!” and therefore it’s telling much more than an enormous “bling, bling” jewel.

I hope that I will get the opportunity in the nearby future to show you more about the “Jewellery know-how” of Marjan Unger, because she’s a joy to speak with. She really knows so much about jewellery and everything that comes along with it. So if you are in Amsterdam, from 2013 onwards!, you must visit the Rijksmuseum. To take a look at the collection of jewellery she and her husband donated lately. It’s the most impressive Dutch jewellery collection ever has been! It’s a joy for the eye & a true added value for jewellery lovers, students and all visitors to the Rijksmuseum.

If you would like to read more about Marjan Unger, please take a look at the article “The shock of the old” at  Art Jewelry Forum.

Right now the book and museum suggestions by Marjan Unger, which could have been a million times longer.

The museums:
Het Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, from 2013 onwards! Until that time it’s closed due to renovation (right now partly open)
Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, The Netherlands, “Museums of cultural anthropology are always so well documentated & so much to learn”.
Centraal museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands, “Interesting exhibition about Dutch fashion designer Alexander van Slobbe”
The British Museum, London; It’s so immense, big and beautiful and has such an enormous collection of jewellery from all ages!
The Victoria & Albert museum, London. “A beautiful collection, all together in one room”

The books:
Of-course the book advice of Marjan Unger is her own thesis! But it’s currently not for sale, thus that’s no option for now. I will let you know as soon as it’s available, unfortunately it’s only written in Dutch (and only text).
So let’s start by advising you her other book, “Het Nederlandse Sieraad in de 20ste eeuw” (translated: “The Dutch Jewel of the 20th Century, written only in Dutch but with many beautiful pictures) ISBN: 90-6868-348-9, €60. The jewels described in this book form the entire jewellery collection that is donated to The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last week!
By the way, we also seriously discussed that both her books have to be translated into English! So, wait and see…perhaps once…in case…I will keep you posted!

Traditional Jewelry of India, by Oppi Untracht, ISBN 0-500-01780-8, $40. “Such an interesting book about Indian jewellery…and nothing forgotten!”

7000 Years of jewellery, by Hughe Tait, ISBN: 978-0-7141-5032-1, Published by the British Museum Press, $25.

This article is published by the courtesy of Marjan Unger.


4 Responses to ““A Talk with Marjan Unger”, Jewellery Ph D Art/Fashion Historian, Writer & former Teacher at The Rietveld Academy, The Netherlands”

  1. Margriet Sopers
    March 31st, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

    Hi Damian,

    At first thank you for your fast reply !And secondly of-course to the fact that you created a link to my weblog! I never expacted that. In meantime I took care that the link on my weblog is directly to your article.
    For the nearby future it’s perhaps interesting to stay in contact: within a few weeks I’m going to interview Ted Noten and last week I interviewed Katinka Lampe (a Dutch painter famous for her portraits of children…and some wearing necklaces…so beautiful…right now she has a solo exhibition at the “Kunsthal” in Rotterdam).

    My kindest regards,
    Margriet Sopers

  2. Margriet Sopers
    March 9th, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    Hi Lodewijk!
    Wat leuk jou op mijn blog aan te treffen & wat leuk dat je me een reactie stuurt! Dit pionieren op het internet is ontzettend leuk & brengt me in contact met reuze leuke en interessante juwelen gerelateerde mensen! Het is verbazingwekkend wat er voor een informatie beschikbaar is voor iedereen (gewoon openbaar), wat een bijzonder tijdperk. De ‘surftrips’ die ik op internet maak om de artikelen te maken zijn veelal super gaaf.
    Ik zou het heel erg leuk vinden je te spreken, omdat ik het ontzettend leuk zou vinden iets voor de Vakschool te kunnen betekenen. Mijn kennis is inmiddels echt wel bijzonder divers in ‘onze niche’ & ik ben er van overtuigd dat ik voor veel leerlingen iets zou kunnen betekenen.
    Ga jij toevallig nog naar de TEFAF de komende dagen? Of zou ik ergens met je kunnen afspreken?
    Tot horens & groetjes, Margriet

  3. Margriet Sopers
    March 21st, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    Dear Allison,

    I know Dr. Unger did her PhD here in Leiden (The Netherlands), department ‘history of art’. But perhaps you want me to pass your message through to her (so that you are able to discuss it with her)? If yes, please let me know & I’ll pass it through to her.

    Kind regards,
    Margriet Sopers

  4. Margriet Sopers
    March 31st, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

    Dear Allison,

    In meantime I have received an answer of Marjan Unger. On behalf of her I send you this attachment, https://webmail.argewebhosting.nl/src/webmail.php . In which you can read a speech of her she lately gave. Due to the fact that she is totally occupied, just back from Germany and within a few days will leave again to Germany for four months she asked me to answer you. (this was her answer).
    I don’t know anything about a PhD, but I think that studying in London is ideal for you! My best advice to you is to read my article ‘Join the Society of Jewellery Historians!’ (chose department: societies on my blog. You will find information & address etcetera). This is such a lovely society in London; giving monthly lectures about jewellery, privat views & cooperating with highly interesting persons of the jewellery scene (V&A, British Museum, FGA,). They always try to give one jewellery symposium/ few days lectures with privat viewings once a year. They will help you & show you the way in that lovely city!
    I’m a member myself, since years, so perhaps we once will meet!
    Hopefully this is helpful to you Allison.
    Succes & kind regards,
    Margriet Sopers

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Margriet Sopers

Margriet Sopers, FGA

Having a diploma in jewellery, FGA and a propaedeutic of the Academy of Art followed-up by interesting years as a jewellery expert at Sotheby's & Gemeentelijke Krediet Bank, as well as being a member for years of the Society of Jewellery Historians, I am glad to share with you today's world of jewellery.

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