Bianca Abreu’s approach to jewelry making is simultaneously that of an engineer, a scientist and an artist. Composed of candy-colored color-shifting glass elements often set in kinetic and engaging architecture, Bianca’s brand, Aur Jewelry, is simply irresistible. 

Instinctively curious, Bianca’s exploration of materials, form and function exude a genuine and contagious sense of playfulness. If there ever was a collection of jewelry made for the inner child in us all, this is it. But the work is serious stuff – the process is both research and labor intensive. A graduate from Pratt Institute, with a BFA in Sculpture and a concentration in Installation, her art practice evolved from large scale structures to the wearable works her audience knows today. 

Image courtesy of Specific Gravity

The unique story of Aur Jewelry centers around the material. Inspired by optics, light and color play, Bianca uses color-shifting glass in the same manner that many jewelers use gemstones – setting them into hand-fabricated bezels (a traditional “casing” for a stone or other material in jewelry). Due to the inclusion of metals in the glass, the “stones” shift their color display when exposed to fluorescent light, creating a whole new experience when one visually encounters the piece. The color shift is a reaction of By way of lamp working, she shapes and hand-cuts glass rods over a 2000 degree flame. The glass pieces are then annealed, cut, carved and polished into the shapes she desires. Those pieces are set into the other unique brand defying element: hand-crafted silver jewelry settings that, more often than not, consist of movable elements that engage while wearing. The fascination-inducing material and lure of the completed piece’s interaction are what define the brand’s one-of-a-kind appeal. 

Today, we welcome Bianca to Future Heirloom in anticipation of the opening of MAD About Jewelry at the Museum of Arts and Design. An annual curated show and sale of one-of-a-kind contemporary jewelry, MAD About Jewelry benefits the museum and features more than 40 US-based jewelry artists who will be on-site to present their collections. More information on the event, opening to the public tomorrow, March 7th, is available here. Read on as NYCJW Co-founder, JB Jones, interviews Bianca Abreu of Aur Jewelry. 

JB Jones: Your work reflects a fascination with color and material that extends beyond simply creating beautiful, wearable jewelry, and we know your background is sculpture, so tell us, why jewelry? 

Bianca Abreu: To be honest my response to that question has always been pretty fluid! I think the short answer is that I love the process just as much as I love the end result and I love making an object that someone has the deliberate intention of interacting with, on a physical level. Also, I love making things that make people feel good! 

JB: And it does! There is an irresistible joy that is derived from seeing the glass you use in your work change color. It’s one of those things that make you stop in your tracks and say, “Wow, this is so cool – I can WEAR this?!” Tell us how working with the color changing glass came to be and why glass is your material of choice? 

BA: I started working with color changing glass because I thought it was cool! Before Aur Jewelry I had been making flameworked beads and I would go to a location in Brooklyn to purchase more glass rods so I could see the color in person. I accidentally picked up some glass one day and it changed right in front me! Of course I audibly squealed and asked the attendant how this was possible. I fell in love with the material right there and knew I had to figure out how to incorporate it into my practice. What’s amazing is that I remember that feeling so vividly because it was my first time being excited about making jewelry in years. I was working three jobs at the time and all I wanted to do was find a way to work for myself. I would wake up thinking about what I thought was popular, what I think would sell well, how I could get the most ROI from my one woman production assembly line…. What I didn’t realize was that I was blocking all my “risk taking creativity” which ultimately made me feel disconnected to my work. When I discovered this glass it was like someone turned on a light! I finally began making work I wanted to wear again. 

JB: I love that. It’s exciting to hear that the material excited you as the maker as much as it does your audience. Let’s talk a bit more about your obvious passion for what you do – what, beyond material, fuels your desire to create jewelry?

BA: My passion for making jewelry is deeply connected to how my work makes people feel. It’s amazing watching someone as they watch my pieces change color or fall in love with a design. It fuels my drive to make more!

JB: And what about your creative process, what does it entail? Your work is highly complicated, from the colored glass – which you cut yourself for each piece, to the metalsmithing – you often bezel set each glass piece, and then to the mechanics of it all – making the work kinetic!

BA: The actual process of making my work is a bit lengthy but ideas for new designs can come from some unexpected places. It’s great studying simple machines and then testing out new forms when making kinetic work but lately I’ve been getting so much inspiration from food! Looking at people who make gorgeous food makes me want to make jewelry…maybe there’s a connection?

JB: Oh that’s fascinating – I do think there is a connection…in the joy you want people to feel and the joy that many of us get from eating delicious food. That makes perfect sense! 

BA: I’ve always felt that if someone feels anything from my work at all, then my work is successful. One thing I don’t want to be is boring!

JB: No worries there, I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who was unimpressed by your work. Certainly though, because of the unique materials you use, you must encounter hurdles that many other jewelers do not? 

BA: Yes! The biggest hurdle is at any time the production of the glass rods I use to make my work, can just stop. It’s not easy, but I guess that’s part of what makes my work special. 

Portrait of the artist by Pompée

JB: And this happened recently, correct? 

BA: Yes, this did happen recently. One of the most popular color shifts, Shift III which changes from lavender to pale blue, hasn’t been in production since March. It is a direct result from Covid so there isn’t much I can do about it in the meantime. But I figured I might as well take this opportunity to scout out a new color shift to add to the family! Shift V will officially be available to the public during MAD About Jewelry.

JB: That’s so exciting, I know I can’t wait to see it…I’ve been waiting patiently as an avid Instagram follower of yours to see what the new color shift is. Speaking of the finished pieces, and what we’ll see at MAD this week, do you have any favorite pieces?

BA:  One of my favorite pieces from this collection are the Stacked Bi-Color Earrings. It was a personal goal of mine to figure out how to push myself to take the glass beyond just manipulating shapes over a torch. I wanted to find a way to play with more light and color and I think the “bi-color” pieces have started that conversation for me. 

JB: What are the “bi-color” pieces? Can you describe them for us?

BA: The Bi-Color earrings consist of two different pieces of color changing glass that have been joined within a single bezel. In other words I have created glass “doublets” so that the audience can view more than one color change while wearing them. They are bold and juicy and I’m so excited that my design came out the way I envisioned! It took some troubleshooting to get the desired effect of the glass pieces being seamlessly joined and I’m pretty happy with the end result. 

JB: I love that you referred to the pieces as “juicy.” That’s such a perfect description, but also very much in contrast to the names of your pieces, which are, however, also perfect descriptions but in a more “scientific” way. Like “Orb Shift Ring IV” or “Pendulum Shift Earrings III.” Is it intentional on your part to name them in a way that helps engage your audience in the concept of the work? 

BA: Absolutely. I also knew I didn’t want to influence the clients experience of my work by telling them how I felt about the pieces in my description. People see the stars or the ocean or even candy when they see a new collection from me and I love that. I feel like the best way to allow room for interpretation of my work, is to describe it by how it moves, it’s shape or it’s color. 

JB: Let’s shift gears to talk about MAD About Jewelry, which only happens once a year and is always a highly anticipated event for the contemporary jewelry community. 

BA: MAD About Jewelry is such a beautiful collection of talent across different mediums! This is my first time doing the show and I feel honored to have my pieces alongside such amazing work. 

JB: Are there any pieces of note that you are excited to be bringing to the show? 

BA: Yes! The kinetic and pendulum shift earrings will be making an appearance along with a few one of a kind pieces. Also, along with Shift V making its debut I have a couple more surprises. I can’t wait!

JB: We can’t wait to see the collection and YOU! Congratulations, Bianca and thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

MAD About Jewelry opens to the public on Tuesday, December 7th and runs through Saturday, December 11th with a Benefit Preview tonight at Museum of Arts and Design. For more information click here

Visit Aur Jewelry online here and on IG here.

Our sincere thanks to Bianca Abreu for speaking with us. Interview conducted, edited, and compiled by NYCJW Co-Founder JB Jones. Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is the Official Museum Partner of NYCJW21. Special thanks to Rebekka Grossman, Director, Special Events at MAD.