STEAM-BENT VS HEAT-BENT BAMBOO TORQUES, one of latter with antique Balkan silver chain, antique silver beads and Turkoman silver and glass pendant, 5.1 centimeters long, not including loops; the asymmetrical one is set with antique Chinese carnelian ornaments; steam-bent torque set with Cornaline d’Aleppo Venetian glass beads from the African trade. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.
Bamboo Jewelry

A Sustainable Resource




There has been a stigma against ornaments made of such substances, except in various indigenous and certain Asian cultures.

Even though there is now much discussion in the jewelry world about ethical and safe practices in mining for minerals and gems, the best extraction process is still environmentally damaging. While the worldwide economic downturn may slow our thirst for precious metals and stones, it is unlikely their ingrained, perceived or real values will lessen very much for the foreseeable future. On a smaller scale, there is some thought about recycling and sustainability among jewelers. Such concepts are perhaps more applicable to organic materials, but there has been a stigma against ornaments made of such substances, except in various indigenous and certain Asian cultures. In contemporary Western craft jewelry, Gustav Reyes’s wood and Fred Tate’s bamboo/metal jewelry are notable examples of artists using organic materials well, and in the case of bamboo, employing a very sustainable resource.

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant for which the attributes beauty and utility match perfectly; the graceful canes consisting of hollow internodes, solid nodes and high lignin content, a combination which gives this grass its great strength (Meredith 2001). These traits are dramatically demonstrated when one sees the use of bamboo in Asian construction scaffolding for high-rise buildings (Torr 2012). Bamboos in general produce soothing sounds when the wind blows, are pleasing to touch and some, like the black bamboo, even have medicinal qualities (Crompton 2006, Squire 2007) and are antibacterial. Since bamboos are economically and agriculturally important, they have had a long history of usage and study, but there is very little in terms of their use for ornaments, which I have briefly discussed (Liu 2010a). In this article, I show the few examples we have seen in almost forty years of writing about jewelry, where bamboo was used for ornaments by contemporary craftspeople, over half of whom are Asian, if I include myself. The majority leave the bamboo structure relatively intact, while Tomomi Matsunaga (1992) sculpted giant timber bamboo culms into graceful ornaments. In the internet marketplace, there are commercially-made bent bamboo cane bracelets and slices of cane used for earplugs.






This article in its entirety appears only in the print magazine.

Keep rich and engaging content in your life, click here to subscribe today.


Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains


Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


  Follow Ornament on...