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 ...
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, which she would deliberately disrupt through the keen placement of pearls, small blocks of wood, or even unfinished stones such as quartz.
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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Ambra Medda launches online design shop L'ArcoBalenowallpaper.com, June 19th
For their 'Embroidered Blue' bench, they have embellished a simple, Modernist form with blue and white, locally hand-embroidered upholstery. A bit of glamour comes through the golden, They are like jewelry for your walls. Combine letters as you...Read more
Cool collaboration: Toms x Jonathan Adler eyewear launches todayLos Angeles Times, June 18th
Just in time for the 4thof July, Toms eyewear has launched a patriotic-looking collection of shades in collaboration with the maestro of modernist design-with-a-twist Jonathan Adler. A moment with New York-based jewelry designer Monique Pean...Read more
' Magic City ' captures Miami Beach's glamorous pastKansas City Star, June 13th
While modern audiences might be enchanted with the South Florida of the 1980s portrayed in a show like "Miami Vice," Bramson was quick to point out that the show's setting was contemporary with the time it was made. The producers didn't have to go back...Read more
This weekend on a shoestringMountain Xpress, June 13th
"This retrospective exhibition illuminates Seidler's legacy as Australia's most important modernist architect. Harry Seidler studied with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in the mid-1940s and Downtown Hendersonville hosts its twenty-second...Read more
Leslieville gets its own flea for summer 2013blogTO (blog), June 4th
Thus far, vendors include the likes of Scandimania (modernist jewelry, Canadian studio pottery, etc.), Objektkul (renewed and repurposed items, like furnishings),Tatiana Kozlov Design (one-of-a-kind, handmade pouches). There are also a number of...Read more
Old meets modern in New MexicoSacramento Bee, June 2nd
Markets, shops and street vendors sell everything from red chile wreaths to turquoise and silver jewelry to decorative cowhides. The Palace of the Governors, 120 Washington Ave., built in the 1600s as the seat of government for Spain's Southwestern ...Read more
St. Pete prepares for life without its inverted pyramid pierTbo.com, May 26th
The modernist five-story glass and steel structure was an attempt by city leaders to shake off the city's image as a retirement destination. Even more radical was its Debra Brown was there for the re-opening, working in a jewelry store. She later...Read more
'American Gothic' headed to Cincinnati in 2014Cincinnati.com, May 20th
From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith, Feb. 22-May 18, 2014. Inspired by surrealism, biomorphism, and primitivism, Smith was one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century. The Brooklyn Museum of Art touring...Read more