Ornament, bauble, bling, trinket, treasure, trimmings, knickknack, frippery, finery, adornment, accessory. These are the words we often use to describe jewelry, marginalizing its importance. But if we look at jewelry through a different loupe we can see that jewelry is much more than an accessory. It is vital to personal expression and a powerful tool for action, protest, and identity formation.

These aspects of jewelry have long engaged artists and jewelers Amelia Toelke and Andrea Miller. Over the last few years they have worked collaboratively to mount the public art installation, Underpin & Overcoat, facilitate the community art project, Sash Memorial, and now to organize the exhibition, Worn.

Worn speaks to the complex relationship between identity, culture, and ornament by engaging many makers, spaces, and thinkers in the language of adornment. Simply put, jewelry expresses our innate impulse to adorn and to communicate who we are. As our personal signage, jewelry is entangled in intricate social functions—it reveals aesthetic taste, economic status, religious views, and embodies our transcendent desires.

As with each facet of their collaborative efforts, Worn highlights the significance of jewelry and wearable objects in our nation’s social and political history. More than just a typical exhibition of traditional artwork, Worn couples Toelke & Miller’s work with multimedia presentations of other collaborative projects that explore the intersection of jewelry and social issues: Amend, Documenting the Nameplate, and the Hand Medal Project. Viewed together, Worn showcases how jewelry is ubiquitous, powerful, private, public, precious, democratic, and so much more.