The modernist jewelers in the United States who practiced their craft from the 1930s through the 1960s were pretty emphatic about their rejection of the styles that had come before. Victorian jewelry was dismissed as too decorative, Art Nouveau pieces were deemed too fussy, and the Art Deco aesthetic was considered excessively rigid.
Modernist jewelers felt they had more in common with painters, sculptors, and other modern artists of the day. Their ambitious goal was to create one-of-a-kind works of art that people could wear.
One of the early champions and practitioners of the form was Sam Kramer, who, like many of his contemporaries, lived, worked, and sold his creations in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Kramer worked primarily in silver, but he was also adept at fashioning rings, earrings, and pins out of copper and found objects, including moose teeth, buttons, fossils, and ancient coins. Sometimes Kramer used semi-precious stones such as garnets or opals in his surreal, geometric, or biomorphic pieces.
Another unofficial leader of the modernist jewelry movement was Kramer’s neighbor Art Smith. His jewelry ranged from simple silver neck rings to biomorphic pieces that drew from African motifs. While Smith made small pieces such as cuff links and earrings, many of his best works were large enough to wrap the body, as if the human form was the mere backdrop for his creations. His vintage copper wrist cuffs, especially the “jazz” cuffs with musical notes applied to their outside surfaces, are highly collectible.
Boomerangs, straight lines intersecting curves, and atomic-age shapes typified Ed Wiener’s work. Sometimes a pair of silver earrings resembling deformed hourglasses were adorned with a single pearl; other times, a cat’s-eye agate would be placed in the center of a piece, as if to give his inanimate objects the semblance of a human face.
Outside New York there was Betty Cooke, who worked in the Bauhaus mode in Baltimore. Her jewelry was composed of geometric shapes and characterized by a strong sense of order, wh...
Another Bauhaus acolyte was Margaret De Patta, whose work reflected the profound influence of Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, with whom she studied. Meanwhile, out in San Francisco, Peter Macchiarini looked to African masks and Cubism for inspiration. Brass, copper, and silver were common materials, along with opals, agates, and wood.
In Scandinavia during the 1940s and ’50s, a parallel movement was underway. Henning Koppel and Nanna Ditzel were two notable Georg Jensen designers, whose silver necklaces sporting amoeba-like and teardrop shapes combined the perfection of Danish silversmithing with an interest in natural, even primal, forms.
Later, in 1960s Finland, Bjorn Weckstrom married solid silver and polished chunks of acrylic to create rings, bracelets, and pendants that were at once space age and organic.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
All About Jewels Dictionary
Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Modernist Jewelry
Source: Google News
small business districts are thriving in New York CityThe Guardian, August 30th
Rather than floundering, City Foundry has expanded into two additional storefronts in the past 15 years. Mingling with Bakhshi's mid-century pieces is a mix of vintage industrial pieces, science laboratory gizmos, modernist ceramic lamps and one-off...Read more
Friday Flashback: Pera Palace, Where Progress Stayed in IstanbulTravelPulse, August 28th
Editor's note: TravelPulse features an editorial column from one of our editors on a rotating daily basis. Destinations Editor James Ruggia has traditionally held the Friday spot, making it his own and sharing his views as someone who has seen nearly...Read more
Museum & Gallery Listings for Aug. 28-Sept. 3New York Times, August 27th
Brooklyn Museum: 'The Rise of Sneaker Culture' (through Oct. 4) Presenting more than 150 pairs of athletic footwear dating from the mid-19th century to the present, this exhibition should be intriguing not only for students of modern design and fashion...Read more
The Calming Quiet of Outer Cape CodNew York Times, August 26th
Turning down obscure rutted sand roads, they fetch up at weathered cottages, rustic cabins and delicate Modernist structures secreted in the woods of pitch pine and black oak, many sheltered within the confines of the immense Cape Cod National Seashore...Read more
Vigorous ceramics at Gallery 224, fashionable formalism at KleinBoston Globe, August 25th
Irving Penn's “Woman With Cheek Jewelry, ca. 1949” glides along the ... are fashion photos. The expected beauty of Jacqueline Kennedy and Princess Grace in Karsh's works pales beside the crisply sensual, modernist-influenced photographs of his peers...Read more
New Canaan photographer Pedro E. Guerrero to be celebrated with an American ...Thehour.com, August 24th
The property contained a small shack with no running water, not unlike the one Guerrero was born in; he and some friends promptly set about building it into a Wright-inspired modern home, employing skills Guerrero had learned as Wright's apprentice...Read more
Noor Fares' Modernist Manhattan ApartmentWall Street Journal, August 14th
WHEN THE JEWELRY designer Noor Fares was 20 years old, her parents commissioned the artist Francesco Clemente to do her portrait. The result was a large canvas of a huge-eyed young woman set on a pastel background, which her parents, Hala, ...Read more
“From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith” a rare treat ...ArtsATL, July 16th
A piece of jewelry is in a sense an object that is not complete in itself. Jewelry is a “what is it?” until you relate it to the body. The body is a component in design just as air and space are. Like line, form, and color, the body is a material to...Read more