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.

Another Greenwich Village resident whose vintage modernist jewelry is highly prized was Paul Lobel, who designed lovely silver pins and bracelets, as well as glass, furniture, and silver hollowware.

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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Modernist 18ct White Gold Solitaire Marquise Diamond Ring Size K 3.4g Not ScrapVtg Sterling Silver Modernist Studio Artisan Israel Amethyst 4" Large PendantSterling Silver Coral Modernist Cuff Bracelet Melvin Francis Navajo 145.9 GramsVtg Art Deco Machine Age Jakob Bengel Modernist Chrome Green Galalith NecklaceVtg Mexico Modernist Sterling Silver Chevron Bracelet Taxco 108 GmsSuper Art Nouveau Modernist Enamel & Solid Silver Earrings David William Harkison Scotland Modernist Silver & Amethyst Pendant Edin. 1972Vintage Mexico Modernist Sterling Silver Choker Collar Necklace & Bracelet LotLarge & Very Heavy Modernist 18k Gold Multi Gem Stone & Diamond Pendant NecklaceVintage Benedetto Panetta Mid Century Modernist Multi Color Rhinestone NecklaceVintage Mexico Modernist Textured Sterling Silver Choker Collar Necklace 210grVtg Polish 800 Silver Modernist Studio Artisan Signed Or Dangle Bib NecklaceVtg Mexico Solid Sterling Silver Modernist Bypass Collar Necklace Taxco 91 GramsVtg 950 Sterling Silver Taxco Large Modernist Cuff Bracelet 2.25" Wide 50 GramsRobert Lee Morris Modernist Sterling Silver Sculptural Watch NrNorway Else And Paul Hughes Modernist 1960s Scandinavian Vintage Silver NecklaceJ. Gomes Taxco Mexico Vintage Sterling Silver Modernist Clamper Bracelet 75.5gVintage David Andersen Sterling Silver Modernist Blue Enamel Bracelet 7 "Men's 10k Yellow Gold 0.45 Carat Tcw I2-3 I Diamond Modernist Ring Nr822Herman Siersbol Denmark Modernist Sterling Silver Styalised Tulips Brooch 1950sAntique Genuine Baltic Amber Beads Necklace Butterscotch Modernist BrutalistNice Vintage Reveriano Castillo Sterling Silver Modernist Bracelet Taxco MexicoSterling Silver - Heavy Eliot Modernist Collar 61g - Necklace (12") Dz5631Massive Vtg 80s Haute Couture Molded Lucite Crystal Clear Modernist Runway CuffLarge Modernist Designer 5 Carat Opal, Carnelain & Jade Silver Pendant NecklaceSterling Silver - Norway Tone Vigeland Modernist 3.2g - Pendant Ps0831Sterling Silver - David Andersen Norway Modernist 10.9g - Ring (5.5) Pt6451Modernist 9ct White Gold Pale Blue Green Gemstone Ring Size N1/2 2.5g Not ScrapAntonio Pineda Mexico 970 Sterling Silver Modernist Cufflinks Archers HuntersVintage Modernist Matisse Copper Enamel Cuff Bracelet Vintage Modernist Long Mexico Stamped Sterling Silver Southwestern EarringsVintage Jade Set Modernist Ring Uk Size L Usa 6 #3 4114k Yellow Gold True Modernist Pearl & Diamond Asymmetrical Openwork Ring Nr791Vintage David Andersen Sterling Silver Modernist Yellow Enamel Leaf Bracelet 7 "Super Art Deco Modernist Pearl & Solid Silver Earrings Vintage 1940's Modernist Renoir Matisse Copper Cuff Bracelet & Earrings Set Vintage 925 Sterling Silver Scandinavian Mid Century Modernist Jewellery BroochSterling Silver - Henry Steig Abstract Modernist 2.3g - Pendant Pp2821Modernist Vintage1970 Silver Pendant Sweden Gk SwedishEstate Vintage Designer Ed Levin Sterling Mid Century Modernist Brooch PinVintage 70's Kunio Matsumoto Trifari Gold Tone Modernist Statement NecklaceVintage Sterling Silver David Andersen Amethyst Cabochon Modernist Ring NorwayVintage Chile Morita Gil Modernist Artisan Mixed Metal Agate Link Necklace 24"Super Vintage Modernist Solid Silver Cuff Bracelet Bangle & Choker Necklet 50gmsAbstract Brutalist Modernist Vintage Beau Sterling Silver Ring AdjustableVintage Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Modernist Ball Design Taxco 28g No ScrapLilly Barrack Modernist 14k Gold & 925 Sterling Pendant Necklace Excellent Cond! Manouk Netherlands Lagenlook Handmade Acrylic & White Metal Modernist NecklaceVintage Modernist Lester Kish Sterling Silver Shell Earrings & Pendant Set J LxMassive Mexican 7oz Sterling Silver Artisan Modernist Monteros Necklace Tm 100Modernist Sterling Silver Fish Brooch By Miguel Garcia Martinez Taxco 1922Vtg-1950's-60's Silver Tone Modernist Squash Blossom Necklace N/rModernist Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Hallmarked Dublin 1970 Makers Mark "rh"Superb Modernist Retro Danish Silver Brooch, A. Michelson, E. JensonVtg Butterscotch Amber Marbled Bakelite Modernist Wide Cuff 67g BraceletSuper Vintage Space-age Modernist Gold & Solid Silver Earrings 24gms 1960Antique Vintage Estate Modernist 7.5mm Natural Pearl 14k Yg Necklace 6.2 GramsModernist Ring Finland Amethyst Sterling Silver Estate Designer KultaVtg Bold Modernist Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Boucher Modernist Nest Brooch Pink Art Glass Rhinestone Signed

Recent News: Modernist Jewelry

Source: Google News

Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale: Celebrates 15 Years of Modern Love
Palm Springs Life, January 30th

However, the 10-day modernism lovefest is also the home of one of the country's largest marketplaces for 20th century furnishings — the Palm Springs Modernism Show, featuring decorative objects, ceramics, sculpture, pottery, art, vintage clothing...Read more

Celebrating Images of a Long-Gone Florida
New York Times, January 29th

For the centennial of the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, museums there are bringing out souvenir jewelry and pennants and plaster ornaments from demolished buildings. (Exhibitions are listed at Save Our Heritage Organization's website, ...Read more

What's happening on the local art scene this week
The Intelligencer, January 28th

Jim's of Lambertville, “The Thrilla in Lambertvilla XXV”; through Saturday; features Pennsylvania impressionist and modernist paintings; works by greats including Redfield, Garber, Schofield, Coppedge, Folinsbee, Leith-Ross, Andrew Wyeth and more. 6...Read more

ABQ exhibits push artistic boundaries
Albuquerque Journal, January 24th

The exhibition argues that with the post-World War II boom years, an influx of California modernists established, then crystallized, a progressive vision leaving the Santa Fe and Taos art colonies a shadow of romantic sunsets and pretty pueblos...Read more

2015 Winter Antiques Show Showcases 3000 Years Of Timeless Art And Design
Insurance News Net, January 23rd

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Insurance Business Weekly -- Ancient Egyptian bronze and monumental modernist Bertoia sculpture, John Pierpont Morgan's chairs and Joan Crawford's jewelry, and paintings by celebrated American artists William ...Read more

At Armory's Winter Antiques Show, Volumes of Variety
New York Times, January 22nd

With 73 purveyors of rare and remarkable objects, from ancient Egyptian sculpture to Modernist painting, it offers innumerable opportunities to encounter and learn about aspects of painting, decorative arts, furniture, jewelry or glass that might be...Read more

Have a Perfect Beach Vacation in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Huffington Post, January 21st

The Vik group's original beach property has an extremely modernist feel, all glass facades, fire pits, and artwork, most notably a James Turrell light installation and a Zaha Hadid-designed table in the main house. .... The mid-century modern, two...Read more

New Mini Meems Collection from M33Ms Jewelry
HONOLULUMagazine.com, January 20th

The latest in sibling finery to hit our radar is Mini Meems, little sister to architectural, modernist line M33Ms Jewelry by local designer Emiko Miyazawa. Sold exclusively at the MORI boutique in Ward Village Shops, this collection is inspired by...Read more