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Eric Loubser Reimagines Antique Jewels At 'Gone But Not Forgotten'

Contemporary jeweller Eric Loubser is restoring some shine to the treasures of previous generations at his new exhibition at Tinsel Gallery.

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Eric Loubser | House and Leisure

More and more local designers are beginning to embrace their own heritage stories, and the sometimes-strange beauty of the past is not lost on them either.

Nowhere is this more brilliantly evident than at 'Gone But Not Forgotten', the latest exhibition by jeweller Eric Loubser at Tinsel Gallery.

In this exhibition Loubser, a secong-generation jeweller, has carefully and elegantly reworked vintage and antique settings into thoroughly modern versions of their former selves, injecting new life into these old objects. 

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Among the pieces on show, no antique is considered too precious, and there are cheeky reimaginings of the cameo, as well as more literal reconstructions of antique rings, broaches, cufflinks and necklaces.

We particularly loved the tongue-in-cheek rings at the exhibition, one of whose setting face now reads 'I Used To Be A Brooch', and another that replaces its emerald-cut onyx with a faceted sterling silver 'stone' that echoes the memory of its predecessor, but is decidedly more cool. 

Eric Loubser, Gone But Not Forgotten

House and Leisure spent a few minutes with Eric Loubser to learn more about his exciting approach to jewellery-making, and to get the inside scoop on Tinsel’s new Jewellery Museum, which opens in November as part of the inaugural South African Jewellery Week. 

5 Minutes With Jewellery Designer Eric Loubser 

How do you work to bring the new and old together, and when do you know if something looks new enough to be 'contemporary'? 

Generally an old piece will suggest a new incarnation of itself (after sitting on my desk for an appropriate amount of time) and then I just do what’s necessary to make that happen. Then it just feels right and I don’t have to do any more to it.

Eric Loubser, Gone But Not Forgotten

Is there still a superstition about using 'old gold' and other reused materials in new jewellery? 

I wasn’t aware of that, but even if there is it wouldn’t worry me. A lot of gold that’s used in the jewellery industry is old gold anyway [because] it can be endlessly refined and reused.

For me the fact that pieces have been previously owned and loved is what’s important – some of that sentimentality is carried over to the new pieces.

How did you get started in jewellery? 

I grew up with it – my mom, Liz Loubser, is a jeweller who worked from home, so I spent a lot of time in her studio as a kid. Then going to Stellenbosch to study jewellery seemed like the natural thing to do.

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Eric Loubser, Gone But Not Forgotten

What's the state of jewellery design in South Africa at the moment? 

To be honest, things are pretty tough for local designers at the moment. There are a lot of talented designers out there but the market for locally designed and made jewellery is very small (80% of jewellery consumed locally is now imported) so most of them have to make very commercial pieces to survive.

Very few designer-makers have the freedom to make very contemporary work, so I’m really lucky that I sometimes get to do that.

Can you share three young jewellers you're excited about?

Joani Groenewald, Mariam Bibi Khan (both of them now lecture at Stellenbosch) and Gussie van der Merwe (she studied with me and now lives in Shanghai).

Tell us about Tinsel's new Jewellery Museum.

Tinsel Jewellery, Jewellery Museum South Africa

The Jewellery Museum is a project that I’ve been excited about for a while and we (myself, Liz Loubser and Geraldine Fenn) finally made it happen this year.

It’s a space dedicated to showing our personal collection of contemporary jewellery pieces from South Africa and abroad, to educate people about these kinds of artworks. We present these pieces alongside more historical works of adornment, to show that they’re part of a continuum.

Anyone is welcome to come and see them at any time, and we particularly encourage students to visit. The museum is currently up and running, although we’ll be launching it officially on Saturday the 2nd of November, as part of the inaugural SA Jewellery Week, when we’ll also be opening Tinsel’s annual group show.

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For more follow Tinsel Gallery on their website, and on Instagram