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Treasure has often been associated with things of beauty, jewels, wealth and other objects of materialistic value, although this has not always been the case. Before the industrial revolution western society valued everything, nothing went to waste and everything was repaired and reused. However, the industrial revolution, which began at the start of the 18th century, saw products becoming cheaper and available to the mass market. This change sparked the beginning of the way that we currently view objects, as things with one life, disposable and worthless.
In this essay I will investigate how jewellers, in particular, are pushing the boundaries of what determines the value of an object, how they are using one man’s waste to create another man’s treasure. I Will also examine how these artists plan to use their views to encourage others to do the same.

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The industrial revolution changed all aspects of life for many people around the world. By replacing animal and people power with steam, production of goods became much more efficient and more cost-effective. Industries were producing items more rapidly and on a much larger scale. The consequence of this swift turnover was, that the products being formed were of a lesser value and quality which subsequently caused the beginning of the consumeristic approach.

We have a desire to acquire, we see desirable objects as disposable, they are used until they break or go out of fashion. They lose value and meaning other than to fulfil a need that is soon substituted by a brand new replacement. We purchase goods because of want not need. However rather than fixing and reusing, which was once a necessity, we throw away, selfishly and without thought as to what happens next. This consumeristic attitude is causing a multitude of worldwide problems. The biggest amongst them is landfill. It is having a huge impact on the environment, this is because most of the waste we produce is plastic based. Plastic does not decompose naturally, it sits in landfill sites, in the sea and in the bodies of unsuspecting animals that have ingested it. 
Some believe that the solution to the problem is to recycle, and for the past 30+ years it has been the supposed answer, causing the growth of recycling programs across America and the United Kingdom. In America 2.3 billion pounds of bottles and 830 million pounds of plastic bags were kept out of landfills in 2007 and reborn as new products. However as large as those numbers are, only 37% of plastic drinks bottles were recycled in total and many other plastic items cannot be recycled at all (Solash, 2009), with recycling centres only taking one or two different types of plastic and sending the rest to landfill anyway because the returns would be too low to make it economically viable.  
While in some cases recycling could be helping the problem, in regard to recycling aluminium or paper, recycling also involves ‘down-cycling’ (Watson, 2016). In the introduction to the book, Recycle the Essential Guide, Lucy Siegle, a journalist who typically writes about ethical living, sates;

“Traditionally recycling involves ‘down-cycling’ — that is with each process the original resource, be it oil based plastic or office paper, loses value. As this is of limited appeal to manufacturers, waste specialists, regulators and consumers, for recycling to progress into the mainstream we need more people to take an opposing view: I.e. ‘up-cycling,’ when the design process recycles upstream in order to add value to the material”. (Siegle, 2006, pp. 32)

I believe that the above fact holds a great truth, as to recycle plastic in reality costs more than it does to make a new product. Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle looks deeply into the issues surrounding recycling and “why being less bad is no good” (Braungart and McDonough, 2009, pp. 45) They believe, along with Robert Lilienfeld and William Rathje that, “The best way to reduce any environmental impact is not to recycle more, but to produce and dispose of less” (Lilienfeld and Rathje, 1998, pp.74). Most importantly, Cradle to Cradle engages in the discussion about what would have happened if the industrial revolution had taken place in a society where commodities and materials were valued, reused and recreated, into something more valuable than the original material, reincarnating objects, rather than the ‘cradle to grave’ life cycle of the western society (Braungart and McDonough, 2009, pp. 103)

Plastic products, in particular, are produced to be disposable, especially food packaging and water bottles. One person who is working to change this is Gulnur Ozdaglar, a Turkish artist, architect and jeweller. Influenced by Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle, she has been producing jewellery, cups and home decorations, since 2008, out of PET plastic bottles. Her biggest aim is to inculcate in widely discarded plastics, a greater aesthetic and monetary value by conceiving designs for objects of great beauty and desire. By doing this she also wants to underline the extreme importance of not only recycling but reuse (Ozdaglar, n.d.). She states that; “Waste material may not be as valuable as ‘gold and silver’ but it reflects the social ‘values’ better” (Ozdaglar, 2009). Ozdaglar also believes, “That that in the future there will be a plastic material that will not proceed from the cradle to the grave, but that will return to the cradle with no loss” (Ozdaglar, n.d.).                                                 
    Figure 1) Untitled PET Necklace, from the collection; ghosts     

With this piece (Figure 1) the origin of the material is not immediately obvious, it looks almost to have been constructed out of delicate pieces of glass, but it is, however, striking. The form appears to be of an organic style, which is a direct contrast to the material that it’s constructed from, PET plastic. Even though the characteristics of the piece are natural, the lines it creates are very clean and aesthetically pleasing. There is a careful and deliberate consideration with the colour of her pieces, they are the original plastic and not often pigmented. This technique would involve the tedious task of compiling waste bottles that are not necessarily the frequent bluish colour that we are all acquainted with. However, because of the greyish hue in the plastic, the colour is also supporting a contemporary style. With her work, she is undoubtedly addressing the destruction these materials are having on the environment. The pieces that she creates are unmistakably beautiful objects in their own right, however, the material that she has used has not only been saved from the landfill sites but have been given a new avail. She has taken the ordinary and transformed it into something extraordinary. “She sees this as her personal answer to the problematic of recycling” (Ozdaglar, 2009). 

Another Jeweller who has been influenced by the worlds urgent need for reusing scrap materials is Jamie MacDonald. In her book, Jewellery from recycled materials, she discusses a lot regarding value, what makes an item ‘valuable’ or ‘precious’. “Preciousness can be seen as a desire to protect something that we fear may be lost” (MacDonald, 2009, pp. 26). Jamie believes that the value of an object is not necessarily involved in the price, or the material. The value is whether the object engenders a strong emotional response. This passionate reaction could be because of its historical value or its connection to a memory. These types of objects are typically passed down through generations. The objects often accumulate more ‘value’ as more stories become associated with them, not because of the materialistic or monetary value. “It follows that if something is valuable because of it’s meaning and thus we need to protect it then it then it doesn’t matter what it is made from; and thus we should value and protect all material that have their origins in the earth. We should have the ability to view the common place as precious” (MacDonald, 2009, pp. 26). This view on value is one that’s incredibly important to the way we see materials. Jamie, like Gulnur, also creates alluring jewellery out of waste. She specialises in making intricate work using non-traditional materials that have not been deemed typically of ‘value’ by the masses. She feels that although jewellery is typically an interpretation of art that no one material is associated there is still a real incline to use materials traditionally of value, such as gold and silver. Her ambition is to challenge this perception by reusing ‘waste’ in her work (MacDonald, 2009, pp. 7, 14).
 
Figure 2) Wave Goodbye Necklace — Reused HDPE plastic and sterling silver— 2004.

This Necklace (Figure 2), created out of discarded contact lens containers, is shaped as a breaking wave. The shape of the jewellery naturally draws the eye into the centre of the ‘wave’ towards the negative space. This form could be relevant to the artist breaking free and pushing the boundaries of what can be used as an appropriate material to create something of ‘value’. The use of plastic in the piece is moderately evident, because of the materials visual qualities, it has not tried to be hidden or made to look like something it’s not. I believe that the use of plastic is also significant to the meaning behind the design. This particular use of the material is powerful as a result of plastic being one of the least ‘valuable’ product and one of the most widely deposed of. Henceforth her reuse of such an unloved substance directly challenges this masses opinion of value.  This particular piece was created for MacDonald’s degree show in 2004, where she was researching alternatives to using traditional jewellery materials (MacDonald, 2009, pp.7). 
 

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