As old as human vanity, jewelry marks a space between signifiers of status, style, and symbols of belief systems. A repository of human beliefs—such as protection, devotion and reverence — jewelry is not just used for adornment but as a means for the wearer to form a conduit to the divine. Mark Wilson’s first collection for his jewelry line, Caro, remodels found jewelry forms representing belief systems, including Thai Buddhist talismans, Filipino Christian anting-anting, Florencitas or Sinampagita, and hollow Tumpal granulated beads, originally part of pre-Hispanic necklaces. Highly valued, these beads were later incorporated into colonial-era rosaries.
The launch of the jewelry line will be in the form of a Leon Gallery show, Adornment & Equanimity, which displays Wilson’s restored and repurposed jewelry juxtaposed against the art of F.B. Concepcion, an abstractionist who started with painting impressionistic scenes.
The artist was an academic who cared little for showing in galleries or other commercial displays, preferring to delve into his craft both in his free time and in the University of the East, where he was the Dean of the Fine Arts Department. Inspired not only by the work, but by this romantic aspect of the artist’s biography, Wilson selected Concepcion as a complement to his jewelry collection due to a lateral connection. Wilson recognizes a security and depth that emanates from the painter’s work; although strong and bold, it is without frippery. Wilson imagines his clients in the same vein: as people who are secure and make bold, but simple & stylish choices.
Within the extensive jewelry collection, one of the exceptional finds are the reclaimed silver beads that Wilson found on two heirloom necklaces, both from the Cordillera area, which he repurposed as earrings. Forged between 1565-1680, the spherical beads called Tumpal, correlate with the introduction of European-moresque styling, combined with Chinese influence during the period. Possibly produced in Ilocos, a pre-colonial jewelry production center, the exquisitely made silver beads are joined together as two plain hemispheres decorated with tumpal granulation, displaying granules radiating in a triangular pattern on the top and bottom.
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Another motif of Wilson’s first collection is inspired by talismans: Christian, crosses and anting-anting; and Buddhist, especially Thai. The Thai & Filipino talismans are recast from original 19th Century metal amulets. Silver and gold casting is very much alive in the contemporary Filipino jeweler’s repertoire. Unfortunately, lost forever are the capacities and techniques to make fine details on such a small scale, like that of the 16th/17th Century Tumpals & Florencitas beads.
Adornment & Equanimity launches Caro, Mark Wilson’s new jewelry line, alongside paintings by artist Florencio B. Concepcion, at Leon Gallery in Legazpi Village from November 7-10.