Gem Kingdom in CODA Museum

A retrospective of 25 years of jewellery and art objects

31.05 to 25.10.2015

‘We are very proud and pleased to announce that our 25th anniversary year is awarded by the special exhibition Gem Kingdom at CODA Museum from 31 May to 25 October 2015’ says Johanna Titselaar and Bernard Jongstra. ‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank Carin Reinders and her team of CODA museum for the invitation to this particular stage which allows us to present an overview of our 25 years of jewelry and art objects. We also like to express our great appreciation for our enthusiastic fans who have been faithful all these years!’

Poster-Gem-Kingdom-DEFCODA Museum shows a unique first museological presentation of the Dutch jewellery brand Gem Kingdom, in honour of 25 years of jewellery and art objects made by designers Bernard Jongstra and Johanna Titselaar. They were amongst the first designers who managed to make a name for themselves as designers of fashion jewellery. Gem Kingdom ties in with CODA Museum’s ambition to present itself as the jewellery museum in the Netherlands. The result is the retrospective Gem Kingdom, the first exhibition where CODA will be a podium for costume jewellery.

From 31 May, CODA Museum shows various pieces and objects from the collection of the successful jewellery brand Gem Kingdom, which spans 25 years. Dutch designers Bernard Jongstra and Johanna Titselaar founded the jewellery label in 1990. By deliberately launching their quirky jewellery collections as a fashion brand, they attained an outsider’s position within the Dutch design world. A status they still enjoy today because the label has maintained its high quality over the years. National talent was not much appreciated in the Netherlands when Jongstra and Titselaar started their career, so the international focus was there from the beginning. After 25 years of Gem Kingdom, the label has attained widespread fame and the collections are sold and worn all over the world. CODA Museum presents miscellaneous works that give an impression of the development that Gem Kingdom, its designers and collections have gone through over the past 25 years.

25 years of Gem Kingdom

The success story of Gem Kingdom starts with their first collection in 1990. This jewellery collection, based on the splendour of Byzantine jewellery, instantly drew a lot of attention, both in the Netherlands and abroad. A unique jewellery show was organised by gallery Intermezzo in Dordrecht in honour of this collection. Large necklaces and accessories made from lead, ceramic shards, and hand-painted glass beads were shown to the audience by handsomely trimmed prize poodles, which guaranteed much admiration.

Gem Kingdom’s jewellery collections express the designers’ fascination with classic, historic symbols, including fleurs-the-lis, heraldic motifs and crosses, and are further characterised by lavish decorations, something the designers say developed during their youth in the Catholic region of South Limburg. Another distinguishing feature of their original style is an eclectic approach to the jewellery, combined with contrasting use of materials. The range of second-hand materials that brought Gem Kingdom fame during the nineties, has by now been supplemented with a wealth of natural and unusual materials. For quite a few years now, they have been working with high-grade silver and materials like mother-of-pearl, semi-precious stones, reconstructed coral, horn, wood, and various synthetics. For special elements like hand-cut cameos, Jongstra and Titselaar turned to artisans from Torre del Greco, near Naples. One necklace can, in addition to silver, mother-of-pearl and reconstructed coral, also contain, say, bronze and different kinds of man-made materials. Loose components, materials and techniques are thus assembled and turned into complete collections in the studio in Amsterdam.


Happy Babies and Baby Statues

Two subcollections that are highly valued, especially abroad, are the so-called Happy Baby necklaces and Baby Statues. These distinctive baby figurines are based on the famous American Kewpie doll (1909). The great popularity of this collection in Asia stems from the fact that the Happy Babies are seen as collectables. This way the Kewpie becomes, in its own manner, a new kind of symbol for modern society.

Commissioned works

Besides fashion jewellery, Gem Kingdom also makes special pieces for artists and feature films. For the recent Dutch epic film about the life of Michiel de Ruyter, monumental chains of office were created for a large part of the cast. Seventeenth-century, traditionally symbolic, coats of arms and insignia were seen as important starting points for these unique film pieces. The film’s main character Michiel de Ruyter wore a necklace with a lion with seven arrows, symbolising the seven provinces, which was designed and made by Gem Kingdom.

Costume Jewellery in CODA Museum

At the beginning of 2015, CODA Museum received the sum of €255,000 from the Nationale BankGiro Loterij for the acquisition of a collection of fashion jewellery and to renovate the jewellery display gallery. The purchase of fashion jewellery under the heading Costume Jewellery is part of a larger plan to put CODA Museum on the map as the jewellery museum. The National Department of Cultural Heritage has agreed to give its government-owned collection of jewellery to CODA Museum on permanent loan. The development of the Dutch Jewellery Platform – a database of the modern artist’s jewellery where experts and aficionados can not only find information but also share and discuss – is another initiative of CODA, which is realised in collaboration with other museums in Arnhem and Den Bosch.

Note to the editors | not to be published

For additional information and extra visual material, please contact Bernard Jongstra ( and +31 (0)20-4196805).


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