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
David Ebony's Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for Novemberartnet News, November 24th
Early on in her career, she referenced feminist issues in Latin American art by incorporating in her vibrant compositions details of colonial-period women's clothing and jewelry. The shapes are relatively more hardedge and the colors more strident in...Read more
Gray's Department Store OpeningFW: Chicago, November 23rd
Eat, drink, and be merry with us as we unveil the latest curiorisites by the League of Women Designers, including housewares, lighting, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and lingerie. A shopable installation will be on view, curated by Eve Fineman and...Read more
Kaminski Auctions presents Thanksgiving saleWicked Local, November 22nd
Her personal collection at the time of her death was said to rival that of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1988, Christie's sold 60 of their major contemporary works for $60 million, an auction record at the time for a single owner collection. In 1991, 50...Read more
Reimagining a Family Jewelry BusinessInternational New York Times, November 22nd
“I call it dancing jewelry” she said. “It's very colorful, very joyful with touches of Art Deco style.” John Rubel's Modernist-style Rouleau bracelet of curved gold and blue and pink sapphires inspired Ms. Mizrahi-Rubel's Ginger ring, named for Ginger...Read more
Best of the rest: Events for Nov. 21 and beyondThe State, November 20th
SAMARITAN'S PURSE CHRISTMAS PROJECT: Saturday at various locations. Locations in the Columbia area will serve as collection sites for “Operation Christmas Child” — the world's largest Christmas project of its kind. The annual Samaritan's Purse ...Read more
Art's Cool Kids Are Now Anti-Bullying ActivistsVulture, November 20th
Early on in the new film, we see Sevigny in the woods of snowy, affluent Bedford, New York, and stalking around a modernist house populated by recognizable works of contemporary art — a Rob Pruitt, a Dan Colen. She is ... The kids talk, gossip, gang...Read more
Best of the rest: Events for Nov. 20 and beyondThe State, November 19th
Students and faculty will have handmade artworks for sale including: ceramics, jewelry, printmaking, photography, painting, and drawing. 1615 Senate Street, Columbia, SC 29208 with accessible street parking on Pickens, Senate, ... Her Carolina Story...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