By Lisbeth Levine
So much more than an open-and-shut case of form meets function, steel mesh holds an unabashedly modern allure. Its woven metal links nod to both contemporary and industrial design and are renowned for their strength, but mesh itself is flexible, supple and sensuous – a potent combination of masculine and feminine that creates inherent tension and intrigue.
An ideal material for watchbands, steel mesh “is a `softer’ expression of metal, which ties back to the Danish approach to design having a distinct human factor to it,” says Skagen’s Senior Creative Director Thomas Bennedsen. “From a functional standpoint, it is very versatile in that it is easily adjustable, as opposed to your other normal metal strap option in links, plus it is much lighter and thinner.”
The style originated in 19th century Italy, where Milanese craftsmen fashioned slinky bracelets — and later watch straps — out of tiny metal links. They are still known as Milanese watch straps, though they are more likely to be made outside of Italy and by locking together spiraled lengths of steel wire to form a metal cloth that is then cut to the desired size.
Variations in mesh further broaden its reach. While finer gauge mesh channels a refined look, heavy gauge mesh plays up its machine-age aura and heightens its textural appeal. Its sleek style makes it a natural in jewelry, either as an inlay on earrings, rings or cufflinks or serving as a chain on bracelets and necklaces. Silver tone convey a cool, contemporary feel, but warm yellow and rose gold or charcoal gray coatings offer different takes on a modern look, and crystals juxtaposed with mesh signal icy glamour.
Mesh may be forever linked to its practical side, but one thing is certain: It will continue to take utilitarian to new heights.