Karl Fritsch: Put a Ring on It

Manchester Art Gallery is currently home to a collection of jewellery designer Karl Fritsch's weird and wonderful creations. We take a look at the techniques and approaches used by the celebrated craftsman

Feature by Amie Gee | 04 Jun 2013

Nestled in between Manchester Art Gallery's world renowned art collections, stretching from the historic to the contemporary and everything in between, is a jewellery exhibition like no other. Until 23 June, the gallery is playing host to the first UK solo exhibition from internationally acclaimed jewellery designer Karl Fritsch, whose unique and boundary pushing pieces of work are sought for exhibitions and by collectors across the world.

The unusual (and sometimes quite bizarre) collection features handcrafted pieces of jewellery where every process, from the soldering to the setting, has been completed by Fritsch himself – making each individual piece truly unique, right down to his fingerprints leaving their mark within the metals as a design feature. His work doesn’t place importance on perfection, but rather on each piece having a different story to tell.

Fritsch utilises traditional precious materials that you would expect to find in fine jewellery, such as gold and gemstones, and uses processes such as oxidisation, where he purposefully tarnishes and distresses these materials and combines them with non-precious objects. Even rusty screws are used to create pieces that are both ornate and 'decayed', or 'neglected', at the same time. The once bright and polished gold and silver materials are unrecognisable, reduced from their former glistening glory to their dull and dark oxidised form. These oxidised bands, often intricate and delicate, are juxtaposed with beautifully cut glass and gemstones, often piled high on top of each other and within the designs of the manipulated metal.

Some pieces feature nails piercing through gemstones and holding them in place, cut cylinders of gemstones interlocking and protruding through mounds of black metal, and show-stopping miniature sculptures, including – in one case – a jewel-encrusted bronze cow sitting proudly on top of a ring, which itself would be considered unwearable by most due to the sculpture's actual size and weight.

Fritsch's pieces completely break the boundaries of jewellery design and show that it is possible to work even non-precious materials into something exquisite. His designs are praised as wearable pieces of avant-garde art, with each piece exciting and intriguing. Over his career, he has never failed to surprise with his lavish, ornamental and often outrageous collections. A jewellery show of this calibre and exclusivity is rarely seen in the UK, and is a must-attend event for anyone interested in design – and many of Fritsch's pieces are also available to purchase, with prices starting from (a pretty reasonable) £100.


Manchester Art Gallery, until 23 Jun, Mon-Sun 10am-5pm, Thu until 9pm, free http://www.manchestergalleries.org