‘Control the Spice’ is a calculator and measurement resulting from the historical value of black pepper in trading and our current (mis)understanding of currencies. Black pepper has been of great value throughout our history. Even though it has been known to humans since ancient times, until the 17th century this spice was so rare that it was highly exclusive and became a valuable commodity. So valuable and desirable that it drove exploration, looking to find routes to the spice. In doing so, pepper influenced the history and discovery of the world.

At times, the exclusivity, importance and value of pepper was so high that it was worth more than gold ; peppercorns themselves where even used as a trading currency. Currently black pepper accounts for one fifth of the worlds spice trade and is far from being a rarity. Even though its value has dwindled with the increase of pepper supplies, the peppercorn still holds a value. Today 1 average supermarket peppercorn of 46 mg is worth £ 0.00092. Though what does that number in pounds sterling represent? Up till WW1 currencies reflected the value of gold. Modern money though is a fiat currency, which means it is a legal tender with no fixed or intrinsic value. What then does that number of 0.00092 represent for the peppercorn?

‘Control the Spice’ intends to give back a visual and physical value to the peppercorn. By casting the peppercorns in four different precious metals, four measures are created. Each representing their own value in peppercorns. These cast peppercorns are then used in an abacus. Their measurements are visualized through the pouches  that come together with the abacus pin. Each pocket fits the amount of peppercorns the metal version is worth.

Brooch with pouch is available through Design Marketo.

Photography : Amandine Alessandra
Photography : Cody Chen