Jewelry Trends: Openwork and Negative Space in Jewelry Designs

There’s nothing new under the sun, most will tell you. But in jewelry trends and jewelry design, sometimes certain styles reappear more vividly, capturing many imaginations along the way.

ABOVE: openwork brooch by Suzanne Williams.

Hot Jewelry Trends: Openwork

One of the most popular jewelry trends at the Tucson gem shows this season, especially by prominent, high-end designers, is openwork. The term openwork means to use openings, like holes and negative space, to create visual motifs and appeal in finished jewelry designs, such as the brooch pictured above designed by Suzanne Williams. It requires a fairly sophisticated perspective to use openwork to define designs, to make the open space equally as important (as the metal) in the overall composition and balance of the piece.

We saw this jewelry trend over and over again at many of the Tucson shows. This trend saves material costs, keeping retail prices down, and makes larger pieces lighter while creating visual intricacy and interest.

jewelry trends: openwork cuff bracelet designed by Aleksey Gnilenkov.

Bracelet designed by Aleksey Gnilenkov.

Jewelry Trends: How to Create Openwork

Openwork can be created in many ways, depending on whether you are fabricating or casting. Piercing with punches and drills, sawing to cut out, adding or subtracting wire and solid shapes of metal all create intimate, intricate spaces of delicious appeal. The spaces can range from basic shapes to more of a filigree look–or the shape of the open space can be a noun, so to speak.

jewelry trends: openwork ring designed by Dana Bronfman

Ring designed by Dana Bronfman

The ornamental openings allow the interaction of light and shadow to enter into the design equation. Using  light and shadow, open and solid, creates contrast and generates a visual interaction or communication with a piece. This may not be accomplished by more solid design motifs. This type of design synergy is subtle but brings more life to the finished piece of jewelry.

jewelry trends: openwork pendants designed by Dana Bronfman

Pendants designed by Dana Bronfman

Openwork is found in many disciplines and crafts, across many mediums: lace, embroidery, ceramics, furniture design and architecture–and beadwork. So whether you’re a metalsmith or a beader, consider incorporating openwork to add visual interest in to your next jewelry design.

jewelry trends: beaded bracelet by Teresa Meister

Bracelet designed by Teresa Meister


Learn how to create openwork jewelry designs, including wire filigree and pierced sawing, in the Interweave Store.


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