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Minerals, dead pets, design?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When searching for ‘mineral art’, Google suggests I look for ‘minimal art’. When searching for ‘mineral design’, the first hit I find is a website from someone who collects minerals and sells them as design. The first question that arose in my mind was inevitably: is there such a thing as mineral design? Sabine Amory, the woman who ‘seeks the most beautiful minerals she can find for her own collection and for her customers’, simply calls her website “”, but can you call it design when someone merely finds something beautiful of which Mother Nature is the only maker, and labels it design? I say no. In the art world you can put a ready-made in a museum, and then call it art. But the whole idea of design, is that you design something. You use your brain and your hands to create something new. Or is it old-fashioned of me to think like that? Am I condemning Sabine without a good reason? I decided to ask her, along with two other companies that call themselves ‘Mineral Design’ ( and My question was: could you please give me your opinion on minerals as a material in contemporary design? It’s been two weeks now, and I don’t count on a reply anymore. Maybe Sabine doesn’t see herself as a designer after all.

So-called ‘mineral design’

Fortunately, minerals are not only naturally occurring solid substances, they can also be produced by man. Among the 4,000 different kinds of minerals, diamonds, for example, are possibly the most well known. And although the first things that come to my mind when I think of diamonds are jewelry and mechanical tools such as diamond drills, I soon discovered that there are other, interesting purposes as well. A company called ‘LifeGem’, for example, turns the ashes of your loved one into a diamond. (As diamonds are carbon-based, most of the diamond will consist of the coffin the body was burnt in, but it’s the idea that counts, and it only costs up to 40,000 dollars). PreciousPets does the same thing, only with your beloved deceased pet (such as Pinky, in the image below).

Memorial necklace made from the ashes of a cat called ‘Devon Pinky’

LifeGem and PreciousPets, in my opinion, are closer to Design than Or am I confusing design with craftmanship? The fact is, my reaction to the search results so far of ‘mineral design’ is the same as my reaction to the exhibited photographs and moving images at the ‘Beauty in Science’ exhibition in Boijmans van Beuningen. It’s all very pretty, but what am I to do with it? They’re products of nature. Sure, I like nature, but I have a problem with calling it anything else than products of nature unless you manipulate them somehow and turn them into something more. However, that doesn’t make them less interesting or beautiful, on the contrary. It just depends on the context you surround them with. Maybe it’s just my personal taste; I simply don’t like useless objects, pretty or not. I would rather have a necklace made of my cat, however sick that is.

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