Interview by SMCK Magazine

Visitors of Romanian Jewelry Week 2022. Photo: Assamblage NJA.

Romanian Jewelry Week envisions Bucharest as an international creatives' hub to boost artistic and social progress. SMCK Magazine had a de profundis discussion with ROJW's founder David Sandu on Romanian's jewelry historical perspective and the team's fervent plans for excelling.

SMCK: Romania – a country rich in natural resources, with an amazing culture, and strong art and literary traditions, as well as a highly educated middle class – underwent the experience of Communism that left it in a chaotic political and economic situation after the end of Cold War. More than 30 years have passed from the day the former regime collapsed, and we think it is legitimate to ask: where does Romanian jewelry find its source of vitality, which traditions inspire it now, what was the effect of the production of Communism on art jewelry, and what is Romanian jewelry artists' vision for the future?

DS: ROJW: Romania is often mentioned as a country of contrasts – during the interwar period, under Communism, and since 1989. We must be able to look with honesty and realism when conducting an evaluation. Wealth and natural resources can go hand-in-hand with poverty; Communism and totalitarianism coexisted with cultural and academic performances; corruption persists alongside a generation that wants change and a European identity.

ROJW opening 2022 at the National Library of Romania in Bucharest. Photo: Assamblage NJA.

In a similar manner, how contemporary jewelry finds its place in this context is also a paradox. Jewelry is an ideological discipline that almost perished as an art form under Communism, maybe more than in any other eastern European country. In a way, it was preserved through worker cooperatives, but without creative or cultural relevance. In the last 12 years, however, through the project of Assamblage Contemporary Jewelry School (and later Assamblage National Association), a handful of people restored the link to this field. Contemporary jewelry is a new art in Romania, yet the cultural maturation is visible in the works of many Romanian creators.
In a way, designer jewelry appeared before the public asked for it, which put the artist or designer suddenly in the position of a pioneer/educator of the public. I observe with great joy that in recent years many people embrace messages proposed by Romanian or foreign jewelry artists and buy works that are not merely the result of a fashion or commercial brand. A change has definitely happened.

ROJW at the National Library of Romania in Bucharest. Photo: Assamblage NJA.

SMCK: Do you find similarities between Romania and other Balkan countries in how jewelry is perceived, worn, and used or are there stark differences with other traditions?

DS: In eastern Europe and the Balkans, in general, the proximity to the oriental East means that, besides other common cultural elements, we too have a taste for jewelry. I also think that the Communist period, when it was not at all advantageous to display yourself in public with "uncommon" jewelry, made interest even greater after 1989. Recently, in the last 15 years, interest in folklore, symbolic decorative motifs from traditional customs, traditional music, and old language, with regionalisms and archaisms, has come back into the attention of Romanian cultural art. Rediscovering cultural origins is a recurring theme throughout each generation, without a doubt.

SMCK: How do you imagine ROJW's role in shaping international art jewelry five years from now?

DS: We managed to organize ROJW in 2020 when people mostly stayed at home, then in 2021 when the uncertainty and pressure on the social and cultural segment were huge due to Covid-19 restrictions. In this way, Bucharest really became a meeting point for the international contemporary jewelry community that wanted to connect and interact.


Instagram: @romanianjewelryweek