The British Academy of Jewellery is delighted to announce the winners of its design competition in collaboration with top London-based jewellery brand Alighieri.
The competition’s brief challenged students at BAJ to design jewellery pieces inspired by the opening lines of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy:
“In the middle of the journey of life,
I found myself in a dark wood,
where the right path was unknown”.
Ultimately, the quality of submissions was so high that it was impossible to choose just one design, Alighieri said. Four students have therefore been selected as the competition’s winners: Dorottya Feher, Petra Otenšlégrová, Linnea Thuning and Emma Withington.
With judging being carried out by a panel led by Alighieri founder Rosh Mahtani, students on the Jewellery Design and Manufacturing course at BAJ were encouraged to interpret the brief as creatively as possible. Designs could reflect the difficult and surreal political, health and environmental challenges currently facing the world, or another more personal experience that students have had in their lives, such as an important turning point or an opportunity for rebirth.
Submissions dialogued with a wide range of inspirations and issues. A ring composed of a female figure constricted by tendrils, Feher’s winning design addresses the growing issue of respiratory illnesses, while Withington’s necklace, which features two hands reaching out for each other across a white pearl, evokes themes of guidance and mutual support.
Thuning took her inspiration from nature and the circle of life to create her gold and pearl earrings, while Otenšlégrová’s design channels the dual themes of hope and despair into a double-sided pendant featuring a mirror, twisted branches and skulls.
“It was really, really difficult to pick one winner,” said Mahtani. “I loved that the students really understood what Dante was trying to say about finding light and how you have to go through the darkness in order to find the light. The way they all translated that so uniquely into their pieces is quite amazing.”
“This competition was a wonderful opportunity for our students to explore their creativity and put the skills that they have learnt to good use,” added Kate Rieppel, Head of Academy at the British Academy of Jewellery. “What’s more, Alighieri, a highly successful and unique British brand, is a great example of what they might achieve in the future.”
See the winning entries below
“Hope and despair. Opposing concepts and yet one cannot exist without the other, like two sides of the same coin. I wanted to capture this idea in the pendant. The front side with the mirror symbolizes hope, as I think that belief, whether in divine help or simply in ‘things will get better’, comes from within. The reverse side portrays how despair can suffocate and grow into a seemingly inescapable cage.”
“My piece reflects the idea that we are all looking for that guiding hand to lead us through life’s journey. We are always looking to do our best but the right path is not always clear and sometimes we need a little help. I wanted my piece to reflect the idea of hope; that there is always a ‘guiding hand’ out there if you are willing to look for it. The idea of light at the end of the tunnel is not only a saying but a truth.”
“The tendrils… represent the suffocating and desperate feelings experienced during respiratory illnesses which is the main concern in today’s society.”
“I would like to create a piece that represents the natural circle of life. There will always be another day, another season and another year. Time is the only currency that matters, regardless of one’s faith. The piece will be a reminder that there is no dark without light. A reminder that nature comes to bloom in the summer after a long winter.”
Since launching in 2014, Alighieri has become a runaway global success. Created in London’s iconic Hatton Garden, the company’s products are now sold around the world through more than 60 stores, including the likes of Liberty, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter.
Each piece in Alighieri’s collection corresponds to one of the 100 cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where the poet comes face to face with mythical creatures, scraggy landscapes, and terrifying demons as he travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.
In recognition of her work at the brand, Mahtani received the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in February 2020, accepting the prize from Princess Anne at a ceremony hosted on the last day of London Fashion Week.
Before starting Alighieri, Mahtani studied French and Italian literature at Oxford University, where her fascination with the Divine Comedy began. The idea of launching a jewellery brand came to her following a one-day wax-carving course, which sparked the desire to give physical form to Dante’s timeless verses.