Treasures Not Lost
Debrasic’s first exhibition, The Big Meltdown, challenged jewellers to re-use and re-imagine materials. Friends in the community were inspired to look at their own treasures in new ways, too. I’m thrilled to share the story of an exquisite piece of jewellery that grew from this exhibition.
The simple gold cufflinks belonged to Corinne’s great-great grandfather, who fought in the Maori wars in the 1860s. The greenstone cufflinks belonged to her great-grandfather, who treasured his identity as a New Zealander. She remembers her father wearing the larger gold cufflinks, delicately engraved with his initials.
Now, Corinne wears each of these pieces on a bracelet that she says has brought her remarkable ancestors back into her daily life.
“It’s not just a piece of jewellery,” she said. “It’s a confirmation of your history.”
Corinne visited Debrasic’s Meltdown exhibition, which focused on re-imagining old materials, “excited and ready to see some melted-down and recycled jewellery.” She left the exhibition with two stunning contemporary necklaces and the seed of an idea.
“I got home and I just suddenly thought -- I’d like to have my family all about me and not just ghosts in a box,” she said.
Corinne gathered the cufflinks -- plus gold lockets that her great-great grandparents had worn with each others’ photos, an ornament she herself had worn as a baby, and other precious pieces -- and brought them to Debrasic with the vision of a charm bracelet.
With Debrasic, Corinne said she felt confident the bracelet would be exquisite in its own right while illuminating the beauty of the original pieces.
Lauren “has the artistic eye that will orchestrate your memories into something beautiful and tasteful,” she said. “She is a professional jeweller and she is used to looking for balance and style and beauty.”
Putting on the transformed piece for the first time “was very emotional, actually,” she said. “It was the knowledge that these treasures weren’t lost. They become more than a piece of gold. They return to having their own lives.”
Perhaps she will add another charm one day, or perhaps one of her great-great grandchildren will. If her grandson wants to wear the cufflinks one day, the pieces can be re-linked.
“We’ve always been storytellers,” she said of her family, and the bracelet offers a way to share the power of history in a contemporary voice with the next generation. It is not only about treasuring pieces from the past but about freeing them to become part of the future.
As Corinne explains: “It’s like all these ancestors are suddenly not lost.”