Anwerpt is known as the world’s diamond capital for good reason—the practice of diamond cutting dates back to the 16th century—yet few people know that the city also boasts a long history of semi-precious gemstone cutting, which is understandable because the craft has now completely disappeared. Local stonework atelier Studio DŌ aims to remedy this by reviving Antwerp’s lapidary tradition through a contemporary lens.
Founded by jewelry designer Dana Seachuga and visual artist Octave Vandeweghe, the atelier combines both old and new techniques to produce sculptural yet functional objects that expand the possibilities of stone cutting and redefine the use of gemstones in the context of jewlery and homeware. Seamlessly mixing organic and geometric forms, and juxtaposing rough-hewn and fine-sculpted surfaces, the atelier’s unique, primitive-modern aesthetic viscerally connects the finished product with the raw materials they were sculpted from, striking a fine balance between natural beauty and human craftsmanship, and between heritage and innovation.
The studio’s debut project, “Gemma ex Lapide”, encapsulates a conceptual and technical departure from the canonical approach to stone cutting. Translated from Latin as “gemstone extracted from a rock”, the name is an accurate description of the project which consists of pieces of jewelery that come together with the stone they were cut from, now serving as an object to display/store them. What this means is that, instead of tossing your bracelet, pendant, ring or pair of earrings into a drawer or jewerly case after wearing them, you can literally re-embed them into the piece of rock they were extracted from. Functioning both as sculptures and wearable accessories, the pieces blur the line between art and design, and the functional and decorative, as well as uncannily connect the body and the space it occupies.
In contrast with the crude, chunky piece of stone that accompany them, the jewelry pieces are underpinned by an elemental design language of circular and cylindrical shapes whose geometric simplicity belies the cutting-edge techniques required to extract such shapes with precision. Complemented by gold, silver and brass segments, Gemma ex Lapide’s three distinct series - Blunts, Minimals and Studies - celebrate the colourful exuberance of semi-precious gemstones with a wide range of shades and hues, from sensuous Red Jasper, to romantic Rose Quartz and pale violet Amethyst, to soothing deep blue shades of Lapis Lazuli, the golden and red-brown hues of Tiger’s Eye, to the dark green Heliotrope splattered with bright red accents.
Like Gemma ex Lapide, the cheekily named "Abra Candelabra" wall and table candleholders, the inaugural series of the atelier’s Lux project, incorporate the raw piece of stone or mineral they have been extracted from into the design, in this case as the base for the cylindrical stem. Using stones or minerals to create a spark was the predominant method to light a fire in pre-industrial societies, while today stones are used to protect campfires. The series both conceptually and practically embodies the ageless bond between fire and rocks made as they are out of materials like marble, granite, yellow jasper, pink quartz and pyrite.
Studio DO’s foray into functional objects continues with a series of vessels and mirrors launched in 2021. Continuing the atelier’s experimentation with the technical qualities of minerals and stones, the series includes pieces like a Sodalite rock turned into a ‘landscape vase’ that you can use for flower arrangements, a Pyrite Cumulus Cloud Mirror and a pair of Frosted Rock-Crystal Shot Glasses that come with the mineral block they were carved out of. Like the Gemma ex Lapide and Lux series, these objects blur the line between natural and man-made, and the primitive and modern, encapsulating the atelier’s paradoxical mission to both celebrate the imperfections of the raw materials and explore the potential of technology in lapidary.