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Beyond Bling: More-Than-Meets-the-Eye Jewelry Hits SF

Let’s try this one on for size: wearing fine ideas can be just as luxurious as precious metals and sparkling stones.

Believe it? We’re betting you will after perusing the 80+ pieces on display at the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design through May. A brand new exhibit opened on Friday at the Sutter Street museum, Designers on Jewelry: 12 Years of Jewelry Production by Chi ha paura…? proves eye-catching baubles need not rely simply on the size of the stone or cut and carat to produce envy-inducing oohs and aahs.

Shown together for the first time in the U.S., the exhibition inspired by designer Gijs Bakker (of Droog Design fame) showcases the work of 51 international artists and designers created for Bakker’s Chi ha paura…? (literal translation: who's afraid of...?), a collective of artists working to challenge the notion of contemporary jewelry as mere ornamental accessory.

“It’s a challenge to see so many different designs from so many different designers, and they run from the big names to the ones that are still in the beginning of their careers,” Bakker says.

Pieces range from the provocative Bling Bling, a gold-hued cross pendant made up of numerous tiny brand names, and the pretty-but-practical Triller, a silver ring that doubles as a subtle safety whistle, to the intimate Forever Yours, a ring designed to leave a special message imprinted on the wearer’s skin and politically-tinged Bound by Blood, a dramatic multi-strand necklace made of deep red prayer beads sourced from different religious traditions.

Exhibition runs through May 16, 2010 at the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design, 550 Sutter St., www.sfmcd.org.