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
- American Society of Jewelry Historians
- Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts
- Society of Jewellery Historians
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Modernist Jewelry
Source: Google News
Photorealism pops with 1970's Still Life at the Nassau County Museum of ArtExaminer.com, July 18th
Perrell, the Museum's former senior curator and the co-curator of Garden Party, also discusses the complicated, oddly modern and artistically productive marriage between O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Admission is $15 (members, $5) and ... The Museum...Read more
Christie's sees half-year sales rise 23pc to $3.6BLuxury Daily, July 17th
Watches, jewelry and wine accounted for $455.5 million in sales overall. Other categories that grew include Old Masters, Arts of Americas and Impressionist and Modernist art, while Asian art declined 15 percent. Christie's relaunched its mobile...Read more
'Biennial' works are personally inspiredRochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 12th
This summer's "Biennial" invitational features three powerhouse Rochester-area artists, including Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez, a Henrietta jewelry designer and metal sculptor who is chairman of Rochester Institute of Technology's School of American...Read more
The Bright New Hotel Star Of Europe: The Park Hyatt ViennaForbes, July 7th
Vienna is relentlessly, classically beautiful—the perfectly preserved Romantic and Baroque architecture, the Belvedere and the Winter Palace and a zillion other palaces and museums, the glittering jewelry and crystal still made by imperial ateliers...Read more
Desert Style: Cosmetics line inspired by Palm SpringsThe Desert Sun, July 5th
Palm Springs, in all its modernist glory, is captured in Aarons' iconic 1970 image, “Poolside Gossip.” The photo shows several women lounging by the pool of the Kaufmann house ... SMART JEWELRY: The jewel JUNE bracelet by Netatmo ($99; netatmo.com...Read more
Albert Paley's fluid, yet sci-fi metal works at the CorcoranWashington Post, July 2nd
Jewelry he made in the 1960s and '70s is wonderfully crafted to hug the body, but it feels weirdly alien, as if designed for rituals on some planet more advanced yet more brutal than ours. Throughout the exhibition, one notices ... They are exquisite...Read more
Table of ContentsHONOLULUMagazine.com, June 30th
Once again, we asked for your help finding the tastiest food, the chic-est shopping, the hottest entertainment, the most helpful services, and everything from the yummiest pancakes to the best jewelry repair. Here are the top reader and editorial picks...Read more