Natural textile fibers in contemporary Brazilian jewelry
The present study discusses the use of textiles in the contemporary production of jewelry in Brazil, highlighting the application of natural fibers. Manual weaving of natural fibers is closely linked to traditional handicraft just as metallic interlacing is used in jewelry production since antiquity. Bibliographical and scientific literature review were carried out as well as consulting collections of Brazilian creators, artists and designers, currently working with jewelry and employing natural fibers. Reflecting on the use of natural fibers in the Brazilian contemporary jewelry, this study has as its reference, in order to make a broad discussion, the work of artists and designers from different regions of the country, whose expression is different regarding natural material available and applied on the works and the productive techniques originated in regional traditions. Considering the search for innovation in the use of materials, it can be observed an intense renewal in Brazilian jewelry, which is impregnated by both unusual natural elements and traditional values of the culture of the country.
KeywordsNatural fibers Brazilian jewelry Contemporary Innovation Biome
The accurate observation of the jewelry elaborated by contemporary artists is evidently the result of the vestiges of thousands of years of history of adornments and their use, rituals and customs. In the reports found and linked to this artistic expression, we can observe the description of the humanity trajectory has gone through, its discoveries and the evolution of social groups, among other aspects. Therefore, jewelry has a trajectory ranging from the noblest to the most common materials, from the initial brilliance of gold to that of current natural fibers, from body adornment to artistic object.
The discovery of metals—mainly of gold—and of the casting process and alloys allowed the inhabitants of Mesopotamia to develop new weapons and tools. This discovery, combined with other advances, such as the invention of the wheel, enabled the sedentarization of social organizations and influenced decisively on the evolution of society in that region .
Primitive civilizations associated gold with the splendor of the sun and attributed divine powers to it. During the Middle Ages, the fascination of this beautiful, flexible and durable material turned the guild of goldsmiths into one of the most respected and superior to others . The ancient jewels, found intact by anthropologists and researchers, were almost exclusively made of gold . Therefore, the history of adornments is intrinsically linked to the history of the art of goldsmithing.
The artifacts found in archaeological sites, which have withstood the action of time and allowed its study, are those manufactured with unalterable materials. Among these objects are ceramics, stones, bronze, horn, ivory, silver (deposited in protected places) and gold. Since gold is an incorruptible material par excellence, the earliest pieces made with it go back to the beginning of the third millennium BC and are in perfect condition after 5000 years . These studies also show the huge gap left by artifacts made from perishable materials such as plant fibers, fabrics, leather and wood. With the exception of Egyptian wood, which survived due to favorable weather conditions, samples of artifacts produced in those materials such as Egyptian garments made from linen, cotton or wool fiber were described by researchers .
From the end of the Middle Ages and along Renaissance, with the rise of monarchy and bourgeoisie, the promotion of appearance would include luxurious expenses with clothing and jewelry, among other decorative luxuries . In the Florentine Renaissance, following the important advances of research in all artistic expressions, goldsmithing achieves great refinement in the handling of metals such as application of enamels or in the use of precious stones . Since then, the split between the ancient sense of adornment is established and the concepts that emerged in the fifteenth century remained impregnated in the art of jewelry until the middle of the twentieth century.
Since the 1950s, by overthrowing the paradigm of preciousness of materials—metals and gems—jewelry has detached from its stigma of elite product and has become more democratic, also for the artist, who is free to determine new arrangements of materials and shapes. As the ornaments took on the status of luxury objects, indicating power, they gradually distanced themselves from their magical or symbolic significance. However, the ancient notion of its origin survives until our days once people still wear adornments.
After being considered, for a long period, as an object of investment, jewelry is rediscovered and their other roles branch out to increasingly diversified performances .
1.1 The rupture in Brazil—new jewelry for the country and for the world
Until the mid-1960s, the concept of traditional jewelry, with the use of gold and precious gems, followed the models produced and marketed in European countries. Siqueira  observes that the Brazilian jewelry production of that period was directed to the external consumer, whose preference fell on the colored gems. Special pieces of jewelry were handmade by Brazilian companies, while jewelry produced on an industrial scale, aimed at the internal public, did not have a variation in terms of design .
“The avant-garde artist is not restricted to producing artworks” , he wages a struggle to impose his ideas, which are not exhausted in the aesthetic field. Although Caio Mourão did not employ natural fibers as a final resource in his jewelry, the artist used organic matrices originated from different elements of nature. In the case of the necklace of Fig. 1, he recreated in noble material, polished silver, wood sticks, precious raw material abundant throughout the Brazilian territory. In this case, as in many other creations of the artist, it is the use of well-known references, reorganized and presented in singular poetics. Thus, it was through his innovative perception that other alternative materials have been included in Brazilian jewelry since the 1960s. Jewelry, as well as art and fashion, is linked “[…] in some way to the aesthetic currents of its time” .
1.2 Structures in metals and natural fibers
In Brazil, new parameters for jewelry were established since the conceptual revolution led by Caio Mourão. It is observed, especially in pieces created by contemporary artists and designers, a profusion of unusual mixtures resulting from both, research and technological developments, as well as the valuation of natural raw materials and renewable sources. As Brazilian jewelry retook its role of adornment, it also recuperated traditional manufacturing techniques, re-establishing relations with other sectors of the society such as handicraft. In Brazil, the approximation of design with handicraft began in the 1980s and was extended to jewelry, with greater expressiveness, in the 1990s. Especially since the 2000s, innovation in Brazilian jewelry modifies the perception of the international audience, resulting in a great number of international awards .
In the 21st century, Brazilian artists and designers have mixed natural fibers with traditional jewelry materials such as gold, silver and precious gems. The continental extension of the country, the climatic peculiarities that gave origin to the different biomes with diverse flora and fauna, constituting immense resources and potential for innovation. This innovation in Brazilian jewelry is materialized in the presence of different materials and new solutions for aesthetics and use, which was employed by Caio Mourão on the development of the new foundry processes, applying them to the creation and production of his jewelry.
Considering this scenario, in contrast to commonly employed materials (such as metal, stones and others), the present study aims at discussing the use of natural fibers handcrafted and applied in Brazilian contemporary jewelry.
Few references were found that specifically addressed the use of knitting or weaving by jewelry art and none of them was concerned with the application of natural fibers in jewelry produced in Brazil. Thus, this research aimed at consulting collections of creators, artists and designers, currently working with jewelry and employing natural fibers. This list includes the collections of Adeguimar Arantes , Maria Lucia Barbosa  and Ivete Cattani .
3 Results and discussion
3.1 Brazilian jewelry
Until the 1960s, in Brazil, the traditional concept of a jewelry was the one that used gold and precious gems, as the jewelry produced and marketed in European countries. Siqueira  observes that the Brazilian jewelry production of that period was targeted at the external consumer, whose preference fell on the colored gems. Special pieces were handmade by Brazilian companies, while jewelry produced on an industrial scale was targeted at the internal public and did not vary much in terms of design .
Also, until the 1960s, traditional production processes such as casting with lost wax, as well as the reproduction of jewelry already consecrated were used. The earliest jewelry artists trained in the country were the ones responsible for introducing new construction and casting techniques of metals. New pieces of impacting jewelry, both in shape and choice of materials, appear in the Brazilian jewelry production. The gemstones polished by Harold Burle Marx had bold shapes  and Caio Mourão’s jewelry turned silver, copper, aluminum and bronze into materials of desire . This is how Brazilian jewelry begins to be designed.
In this context of changes, several Brazilian artists and designers were engaged in a movement to re-establish traditional culture and the value of the country’s natural heritage, associated with new materials and new technologies. In the process of cultural restoring and innovation, the jewelry of Adeguimar Arantes, Maria Lúcia Barbosa and Ivete Cattani sought to re-establish the link between the different elements of nature—natural fibers, metals and gems—commonly used in the adornments of primitive times, resignifying them in the contemporary movement.
Tensile values (expressed by average, standard coefficient and variation coefficient) and holocellulose (cellulose and hemicellulose) and lignin concentrations and crystallinity for buriti linen, raffia and golden grass
Young’s Modulus (N/tex)
Holocellulose (wt %)
Lignin (wt %)
Crystallinity Index (%)
8.3 ± 0.5 (6.8%)
28.4 ± 5.5 (19.6%)
6.1 ± 0.8 (13.1%)
68 ± 13** (19.1%)
By presenting the main properties of the lignocellulosic materials of the jewels shown in this study in Table 1, they could be compared in future studies with those of other materials commonly used in jewelry (such as metal, stones and others).
Although the employment of natural fibers is not exclusive of Brazilian artists, they have become a reference in relation to the contemporary development of jewelry and fashion. Nations endowed with megadiversity, as is the case of Brazil , also have an important collection of knowledge resulting from their historical formation , whose information is applied in art, crafts and industry.
The combined binomial of creativity and innovation manifested itself in Brazil from the end of World War II. The reconstruction policy stimulated consumption in all social spheres in various areas, as a reflection of the New Era. In painting, Antonio Dias and Hélio Oiticica; in landscaping, Burle Max; and in differentiated jewelry, sculptures, objects and tools, Caio Mourão, Reny Golcman, Ulla Jonshen, Ricardo Mattar, Renée Sasson and Salvador Francisco Neto .
In recovering its function of adornment, contemporary jewelry experiences unusual materials in technical arrangements and interlacing of metals used in knitwear since the earliest civilizations. In Brazil, the approximation of design with handicraft began in the 1980s, and was extended to jewelry, with greater expressiveness, in the 90 s. With the skill of the goldsmith and the wisdom of the artist, Caio Mourão was an agent of the democratization in the country. By breaking the hegemony of the use of gold and precious stones, he returned to jewels the most intimate and true meaning. In this way, Brazilian jewelers surpassed the last frontiers established by the power and preciousness of the materials.
The analysis of the jewelry created by the artists analyzed in this study, Adeguimar Arantes, Maria Lucia Barbosa and Ivete Cattani, shows that the relationship between elements of the Brazilian nature and goldsmithing acquires new forms and meanings, especially in the case of the jewelry in which natural fiber weaving is a special feature. Originated in different biomes, these fibers have particular characteristics, both regarding their physico-chemical composition and their technical possibilities of weaving. Another relevant aspect is the fact that artists have in common the use of elements of nature. The specter of these combinations is widened, mainly, by the differences found in the conception of jewelry.
Therefore, jewelry produced from the junction between traditional goldsmithing and natural fiber weaving, when proposing this typology, brings forth a jewelry impregnated by the Brazilian culture, in harmony with the contemporary and with different meanings from those usually found in the market.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- 1.Gregorietti G (1974) Precious ornaments in ancient civilizations. In: Ernst A, Heininger J (eds) The great book of jewels. Lausanne, Zurich, pp 87–136Google Scholar
- 2.Billeter E (1974) Why does man adorn himself? In: Ernst A, Heininger J (eds) The great book of jewels. Lausanne, Zurich, pp 49–86Google Scholar
- 3.Higgins RA, Tait H (1974) Development of styles and forms. In: Ernst A, Heininger J (eds) The great book of jewels. Lausanne, zurich, pp 137–174Google Scholar
- 4.Tértart-Vittu F (2015) August racinet: The costume history. Taschen, CologneGoogle Scholar
- 5.Lipovetsky G (2005) Luxo Eterno, Luxo Emocional (“Eternal Luxury, Emotional Luxury”). In: Lipovetsky G, Roux E. O Luxo Eterno (“The Eternal Luxury”). Companhia das Letras, São PauloGoogle Scholar
- 6.Jiménez S (1989) Ofebreria de los siglos XV y XVI (“Goldsmith of the XV and XVI centuries”). Editorial Planeta-De Agostini, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
- 7.Siqueira C (2007) A Pesquisa de Tendências: uma orientação estratégica no design de joias (“Trends forecasting: strategic orientation in jewelry design”). Dissertation, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de JaneiroGoogle Scholar
- 8.Andrade A C de (2004) O Desenvolvimento do Design de Joias no Brasil – Politicas, Instituições, Ações e Resultados (“Jewelry Design Development in Brazil - Policies, Institutions, Actions and Results”). Unpublished. Cited by “Tendências Contemporâneas e o Design de Joias no Brasil” (“Contemporary Trends and Jewelry Design in Brazil”) https://www.maxwell.vrac.puc-rio.br/10365/10365_5.PDF. Accessed 22 September 2019
- 9.O Estado de São Paulo (1960) Joias: não tem importancia o material (“Jewels: the material does not matter”). Newspaper. São Paulo, 19 AugustGoogle Scholar
- 10.Sangirardi H B (1962) Talento + Exotismo = Joias (“Talent + Exoticism = Jewelry”). Revista Joia, NovemberGoogle Scholar
- 11.Atelier Mourão (2018). Caio Mourão. http://ateliermourao.com.br. Accessed 19 July 2018
- 12.Cavalcanti G (1968) Joias de Caio Mourão Chez Cardin em Paris (“Jewels by Caio Mourão Chez Cardin in Paris”). “Jornal Correio da Manhã” newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, 11 FebruaryGoogle Scholar
- 13.Sampaio R (1973) Caio Mourão na Bonino (“Caio Mourão in Bonino”). “O Jornal” newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, 9 DecemberGoogle Scholar
- 14.Zózimo (1970) Gesto bonito (“Nice gesture”). “Jornal do Brasil” newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, 25 JulyGoogle Scholar
- 15.Morais F (1975) Artes Plásticas: a crise da hora atual (“Visual Arts: the crisis of the present time”). Paz e Terra, Rio de JaneiroGoogle Scholar
- 16.Gullar, F (1961) Joias de Caio Mourão (“Jewels of Caio Mourão”). “Jornal do Brasil” newspaper. Rio de Janeiro, 8 DecemberGoogle Scholar
- 17.Duby G (1988) A Europa na Idade Média (“Europe in the Middle Ages”). Martins Fontes, São PauloGoogle Scholar
- 18.Andrews C (1990) Ancient Egyptian Jewelry. Harry N. Abrams Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 19.Cartlidge B (1985) Twentieth-century jewelry. Harry N. Abrams Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 20.Arantes A (2019) Personal collection provided by the artistGoogle Scholar
- 21.Barbosa ML (2019) Personal collection provided by the artistGoogle Scholar
- 22.Cattani IM (2019) Personal collection provided by the artistGoogle Scholar
- 23.Mourão C (2003) Personal testimonial textGoogle Scholar
- 24.Jornal O (1962) Caio Mourão na berlinda outra vez (“Caio Mourão in the spotlight again”). Newspaper. 8 DecemberGoogle Scholar
- 25.IBGE - Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (2019) “Map of Brazilian Biomes” http://geoftp.ibge.gov.br/informacoes_ambientais/estudos_ambientais/biomas/mapas/biomas.pdf. Accessed 3 May 2019
- 26.Alezandro MR, Dubé P, Desjardins Y, Lajolo FM, Genovese MI (2013) Comparative study of chemical and phenolic compositions of two species of jaboticaba: Myrciaria jaboticaba (Vell.) Berg and Myrciaria cauliflora (Mart.) O. Berg. Food Res Int 54:468–477. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2013.07.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 27.Moura P W (2013) Catalog. https://br.pinterest.com/maricy1/joias-adeguimar-arantes/. Accessed 22 September 2019
- 28.Lorenzi H, Noblick LR, Kahn F, Ferreira E (2010) Flora Brasileira – Aracaceae – Palmeiras (“Brazilian Flora - Aracaceae – Palm Trees”). Plantarum, São Paulo, pp 278–281Google Scholar
- 29.Cattani IM (2016) Fibra de Buriti (Mauritia flexuosa Mart.): registro em comunidade local (Barreirinhas-MA, Brasil), caracterização físico-química e estudo com impregnação com resinas (“Buriti fiber - Mauritia flexuosa Mart.: registration in local community - Barreirinhas-MA, Brazil - physicochemical characterization and study of impregnation with resins”). Dissertation, University of São PauloGoogle Scholar
- 30.Cattani IM, Baruque-Ramos J (2016) Buriti palm fiber (Mauritia flexuosa Mart.): characterization and studies for its application in design products. Key Eng Mater 668:63–74. https://doi.org/10.4028/www.scientific.net/KEM.668.63 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 31.Cattani IM, Baruque-Ramos J (2016) Brazilian Buriti Palm Fiber (Mauritia flexuosa Mart.). In: Fangueiro R, Rana S (ed) Natural Fibres: Advances in Science and Technology Towards industrial applications. rilem bookseries, vol 12, pp 89–98. Springer, Berlin. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-7515-1_7 Google Scholar
- 32.Pastore A (2019) Personal catalog provided by the photographerGoogle Scholar
- 33.Valadares N (1999) Joalheria: Maria Lúcia Barbosa (“Jewelry: Maria Lúcia Barbosa”). Revista Ventura, n. 28, São PauloGoogle Scholar
- 34.Esquenazi D, Wigg MD, Miranda MMFS, Rodrigues HM, Tostes JBF, Rozental S, Silva AJR, Celuta SA (2002) Antimicrobial and antiviral activities of polyphenolics from Cocos nucifera Linn. (Palmae) husk fiber extract. Res Microbiol 153(10): 647–652. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0923-2508(02)01377-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 36.Campos L C, Garcia M M M N (2012) Pensando nos nós do Macramé: uma história, uma técnica, um lugar de memória no cotidiano feminino (“Thinking about the Macramé knots: a story, a technique, a place of memory in women’s daily life”). 19&20. Rio de Janeiro, 7(3): jul./sep. http://www.dezenovevinte.net/arte%20decorativa/aa_macrame.htm. Accessed 22 September 2019
- 37.Gorski C (2012) Ritual de iniciação no Candomblé de Ketú: uma experiência antropológica (“Initiation ritual of Ketú Candomblé: an anthropological experience”). Revista Todavia 3(4): 52–64 http://www.ufrgs.br/revistatodavia/Ed.%204%20-%20Artigo%204.pdf. Accessed 22 September 2019
- 38.Hortmann D (2004). Inovação: Ivete Cattani (“Inovation: Ivete Cattani”). Personal text catalogGoogle Scholar
- 39.Santos L R (2016) Germinação, desenvolvimento e resposta ao alagamento de Macrolobium acaciifolium (Benth.) Benth. (FABACEAE) de populações de várzea e igapó da Amazônica Central (“Germination, development and flood response of Macrolobium acaciifolium (Benth.) Benth. (FABACEAE) of populations of floodplain and blackwater-flooded forests of the Central Amazon”). Dissertation. INPA - National Institute of Amazonian Research, ManausGoogle Scholar
- 40.Iglesias E (2004) Personal catalog provided by the photographerGoogle Scholar
- 41.Schmidt IB, Figueiredo I B, Borghetti S A (2008) Production and germination of “capim dourado” seeds, Syngonanthus nitens (Bong.) Ruhland (Eriocaulaceae): implications for management. Acta Botânica Brasileira 22(1): 37–42. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-33062008000100005
- 42.Venanzi I (2019) Personal collection provided by the artistGoogle Scholar
- 45.Lovejoy T, Inoue, CYA (2012) O Cluster de Biodiversidade (“The Biodiversity Cluster”). In: Gaetani F et al. (Org.). O Brasil na Agenda Internacional para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável (“Brazil on the International Agenda for Sustainable Development”). Brazilian Ministry of the Environment. https://www.mma.gov.br/publicacoes/desenvolvimento-sustent%C3%A1vel/category/148-geral.html?download=1002:o-brasil-na-agenda-internacional-para-o-desenvolvimento-sustentavel. Accessed 22 September 2019
- 46.MMA - Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (2019) Biodiversidade Brasileira (“Brazilian Biodiversity”). https://www.mma.gov.br/biodiversidade/biodiversidade-brasileira.html Accessed 22 September 2019
- 47.Niemeyer, L (2014). Design Contemporâneo no Brasil (“Contemporary Design in Brazil”). In: Moura M et al. (Org.). Design Brasileiro Contemporâneo: reflexões (“Contemporary Brazilian Design: reflexions”). Estação das Letras, São Paulo, pp 35–46, 69Google Scholar