Sam Tho Duong was born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, in 1969. In the late 1970s his family fled Vietnam for Germany by boat after the rise of communism. His 2011 Frozen series of neckpieces and brooches was inspired by the snow- laden branches of bare trees in the middle of a German winter. This Frozen necklace features hundreds of seed pearls secured in clusters of spherical forms by nylon thread onto an oxidised silver base. Its structure creates an organic sculptural form, suggesting that it evolved from nature rather than the jeweller’s workbench.

Sam Tho Duong, born Bien Hoa, Vietnam 1969, Frozen , 2011-12, Pforzheim, Germany, oxidised silver, pearls, nylon, 43.5 x 20.0 x 3.5 cm; Gift of Truus and Joost Daalder through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2017, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, photo: Grant Hancock.

The seed pearls used by Sam Tho Duong’s are formed in either a saltwater oyster or freshwater mussel and usually measure less than 2 mm. Think about other materials that artists use to make jewellery. Make a list of materials you could use to create a wearable work of art.

  • Seed pearls have a long history in jewellery design in the Western tradition, especially in their use in mourning jewellery to represent tears. They were often set as borders for the brooches, rings and lockets that enclosed the locks of hair of a deceased loved one. Investigate examples of Victorian mourning jewellery. What are some of the common symbols, characteristics and materials used in these pieces?
  • Imagine wearing the Frozen necklace. Write a description about what it would be like to wear Tho Duong’s necklace.

Tho Duong’s neckpiece captured the fleeting beauty of a European winter through his clusters of sculptural seed pearls. Design a neckpiece inspired by a memory associated with the place where you live or your favourite season.