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.
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North Shore Community CalendarThe Salem News, March 26th
Salem: “A Glittering Past: Introduction to the History of Jewelry,” 1 to 4 p.m., Phillips House Museum, 34 Chestnut St. Half-day workshop on the history of jewelry from 1700 to present day with Historic New England's Associate Curator Laura Johnson...Read more
'Pretty Woman' reunion: Get the movie look on the 25th anniversaryToday.com, March 24th
If you are into rom-coms with a fairy tale ending, "Pretty Woman" may be the classic that ignited your love affair. As the cast reunites for the film's 25th anniversary, we reminisce about the fashion moments that so perfectly defined Vivian Ward's...Read more
Pinterest-inspired DIY jewelry holders to organize your baublesToday.com, March 23rd
Spring is finally here, which means it's time to get organized—and that includes your jewelry! So, stop hiding your beautiful baubles in the bottom of a drawer only to find your favorite necklace in tangles. Instead, make one of these cute, clever and...Read more
Now Trending: Sculptural Rugs That Artfully Stand OutWall Street Journal, March 20th
Modernist designer Eileen Gray's boldly layered geometric rugs may have started it all in the 1920s, but the look came into full flower with British decorator Syrie Maugham's intricately channeled carpets, designed by Marion Dorn for the glamorous...Read more
Art in the Palm of Her Hands: Interview with Anne RickettsHuffington Post, March 18th
I am inspired by modernist design objects, mementos, old postcards, a leaf, a dried bone. I love nature, artifacts, antiques, ... I carve sculptures and jewelry in wax, clay, or foam, depending on the shape I want to create. With any sculpture, when it...Read more
90-Year-Old Iranian Artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Gets Her First ...Huffington Post, March 17th
The burgeoning modernist aesthetic seeped into Monir's artistic vision, inscribing sharp-edged forms and refined color palettes into her practice. But New York's influence was only a flicker in the mirror compared to that of Monir's home country of...Read more
Michael Graves, Princeton-based post-modernist architect, dies at 80The Daily Princetonian, March 15th
Expanding the boundaries of his design to kitchen products, jewelry, watches, rugs and other similar small-scale objects, Graves firmly believed that architects can build more than just buildings, according to a 1994 interview with The Indianapolis Star...Read more
Cranbrook opens exhibit of Bertoia jewelryThe Oakland Press, March 13th
A necklace made for Loja Saarinen is part of a new exhibit opening March 14 at Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, featuring jewelry designed by Harry Bertoia, one of the Cranbrook Academy's most illustrious alumni. Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum ...Read more