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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A Baltic cruise shines a new light on a region rich in historyToronto Star, February 3rd
There's a unique modernist style growing in the region, along with traditional crafts, such as weaving, carving, art glass, amber jewelry, and shoe making, that young entrepreneurs are taking up. The streets are invariably lined with cafés that get...Read more
Modern Masters Picasso and Calder at Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert ...ArtfixDaily, February 1st
Almost two dozen Alexander Calder works are on display in the exhibit, including a five-foot wide standing mobile constructed circa 1940, petite stabiles, jewelry, prints, and a number of gouaches. Many of these artworks come from private collections...Read more
Meet the style stars: Insiders talk decor, fashion sense tips and tricksVancouver Sun, January 29th
For interiors, we've just moved from a West Coast modernist home to a Cape Cod-style farmhouse. So now I'm deep into the ... I love to accessorize and switch up my outfit with a great pair of shoes, handbag and jewelry. I also make it a point to...Read more
20 Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gifts for MomBrit + Co, January 28th
Now that you've gotten a Valentine's Day gift for him, it's time to get a little something for the real love of your life — your mom. She's supported you, cared for you and loves you unconditionally, no matter what. This Valentine's Day, repay her for...Read more
Chanel Couture Spring 2016WWD, January 26th
As for accessories, spectator shoes on sculptural cork wedges spoke to the natural-eco moment, as did the show's only jewelry — bees as broaches and single earrings. “Bees are disappearing,” Lagerfeld said, connecting the eco dots. As for the latest...Read more
Frank Lloyd Wright House in Los Angeles Will Be AuctionedNew York Times, January 21st
Los Angeles Modern Auctions will offer the 1939 home, which has a sales estimate of $2.5 million to $3 million, on Feb. 21. The four-room wood-and-brick structure, with tiers of decks, is cantilevered over a slope in the city's Brentwood section. In...Read more
Up for Auction: Real Art, Owned by a Seller of ForgeriesNew York Times, January 8th
Jewelry. Some impounded vehicles. Occasionally fine wine and sometimes paintings or antiques. But Gaston & Sheehan has rarely tried to compete with large art auction houses. So it was a bit unusual when it took in nearly $5 million from the sale last...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