Exhibiting work outside of display cases

Hi All, My course at college is drawing ever nearer to its conclusion
and I am currently putting a lot of thought into the display of my
jewellery pieces for the end of year exhibition which will also be
the context in which they are considered for assessment purposes. I
am determined to steer clear of regular display cases or plinths for
this exhibition. What I would really like to do is to develop an
"installation" in which my work will be placed not only to show it
off visually but also to allow a strength of concept to show

To open up my thinking a bit I thought it might be helpful to
research how other people have displayed jewellery pieces outside of
a display case type context. If anyone here has ever done this type
of thing before I’d love to hear about it - how you displayed your
work, what the idea behind it was and how it was recieved by the
audience/visitors. Also, if anyone can think of artists/jewellers
that they know of who have done this please tell me about that also

  • even references for magazine articles or books etc to look at for
    this kind of thing would be greatly appreciated.


Whoa Tina,

Unless your jewelry is very large, I’m sorry to say that you should
plan to secure it in some fashion if not protected by a display
case. Just reality speaking.

You could tether pieces and either hide the tether under something

like sand, or suspend the pieces from a fixed frame, tree branch,
etc. Another idea would be to super glue items to something large
and heavy. In general, make it difficult to remove your jewelry,
without your permission, that is.

Best wishes for a wonderful exhibition and I hope you make many

sales! Judy in Kansas

There’s a store in Mississauga (outside Toronto, ON) called Magi
that has over-priced but gorgeous jewelery made by non-mainstream
artists. They use a window designer who has really made a name for
themself on the basis of their displays. I can’t tell you how many
times, as each season changes, the window artist would come out with
some new, always wondrously simple concept for displaying pieces. A
crystal clear undulating vase filled with black eyed peas with some
dried wheat stalks set in it on which there was a necklace and
earring set dangling, for example. A block of glass (see Ikea in the
lighting department) illuminated by a small refrigerator bulb on
which to set the piece. In every case the window was scrupulously
arranged and dust-free. Not a single detail overlooked.

As long as your work has minimal intrinsic value you can probably
display it anywhere, but if it does have value how are you going to
prevent it from being stolen outside of a display case? Jewelry is,
after all, incredibly portable, easily concealed and hence easy to

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

I have seen worked displayed by hanging from the limbs of an old
tree stump. I have used natural flat rocks as risers and then filled
in around them with leaves, pine needles, etc.

J. S. Ellington

Dear Tina,

I have done this only in situations where I – or someone I trusted
to be vigilant – would be present: I make wire “trees,” mobiles,
etc., for my wire jewelry and they’re a real hit. I’ve also made
smaller ones that fit inside glass boxes (on pedestals or counters)
with one side (the back) open–since I can barely remove things
myself without ruining the display, they’re fairly secure if you have
a docent nearby. (This awkwardness, unfortunately, cuts down on
sales, too).

I originally used rocks of various colors and sizes as bases for the
"trees," but recently I’ve been using (more stable) terra cotta
flower pots and saucers–sometimes gilded silver or gold, sometimes
whitewashed; sometimes simple and sometimes very Italiante; and
always upside down. I plug up the holes with Quakehold and they don’t
seem to show. I do a lot of coiling and generally have a lot of fun
making them–doing these “wire sculptures” has actually influenced my

Brass is great, copper okay, but I still haven’t found a good
"siver-colored" wire–I ordered a bunch of nickel and it’s hard as
Hades, so I don’t recommend it. People have recommended armature wire
(which I haven’t tried) and black annealed steel (which I can’t find
with consistent color) and galvanized (the package says it’s toxic,
so I decided to pass).

Of course, you probably studied 3-D design–now’s your chance to do
something really unusual with whatever they taught you. Good luck!

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

Tina, you’re almost There! Congratulations.

As for your display, try focusing on the ‘strength of concept’ you
mention; it will point you in a useful direction.

I set similar challenges for myself when mounting my Masters show.
The imagery related to walls so I wanted to hang the pieces on the
wall. One series consisted of 2-inch squares that would be lost on
the walls so I defined their space with 14-inch x 17-inch panels of
transparent smokey Plexiglas. I cut 2-inch square openings into the
plexi and flanges around the metal pieces made it possible to set
them in place from the back. This arrangement also helped from a
security point of view in that someone would have to remove the
entire panel if they wanted to pocket the silver.

The show also included full-size drawings of aspects of walls -
torn and drooping wall paper, window frames, doorways. To integrate
the metals and the drawings I made a “filler” wallpaper and covered
the interstices between the drawings with it. The metal pieces
hung in these interstices and the paper’s visual texture showed
through the plexi. At the opening we served Harvey Wallbangers -
but maybe that was taking it a step too far!

What is the best time of day for your mind to run free? When I’m in
need of a creative solution I’ll set the problem in place as I’m
going to sleep and see what’s there in the morning. Best of luck;
you’ll find a solution.


You could tether pieces and either hide the tether..." 

This reminded me of a solution I saw at a gallery’s display at SOFA.
All the rings were out on pedestals, no glass. The tops of the
displays were opaque plexy. You could easily pick up and handle the
pieces thry them on, but each one was tethered to a long cord that
went through a drilled hole in the display where it sat. The other
end had a weight on it, so if you let go of the piece, it retracted
right back to where it belonged. I’m guessing that if someone
managed to cut the tether, the weight falling would make enough
noise to alert the personel. I thought this a very clever solution!