Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Thoroughly Modern Metals"

In the course of some jewelry history research, looking for creative inspiration as well as insight into when certain techniques were developed and why, I stumbled upon some designs by several mid-century American jewelry designers known then and renowned now for unembellished designs of form & function using less than “precious” metals & stones... designs influenced by the fine art scene of the day… the schools of Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Cubism. A group of artists that rejected the use of machinery and the principles of mass production, focused on handmade designs in which the artist’s hand was inherent and evident. Being enamored by the Arts & Crafts movement and the craftsmen of that era, this post WWII modernist jewelry movement, which is based on many of the same principles, has captured my interest and bears further discovery.

These artists have come to be known as the “Messengers of Modernism” derived from the name of the internationally touring exhibition produced by the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, traveling the world since 1996, titled “Messengers of Modernism: American Studio Jewelry 1940-1960”. The exhibition included 91 pieces from the museum’s collection and was accompanied by a 168 page catalogue with an essay by the exhibition curator and jewelry historian Toni Greenbaum. The catalogue is a highly sought after reference book on the jewelry and artists of this movement.

Here are some examples from just a few of the most well known and collected artists.

Art Smith, circa 1948
Modern Cuff Bracelet

Alexander Calder, circa 1945
Sterling Silver Necklace

Betty Cooke, Pre 1980
Sterling Onyx & Gold Bracelet

Margaret de Patta, circa 1950’s
Constructivist Sterling Ring

Ed Wiener, circa 1958
Modern Brooch

Harry Bertoia, circa 1940
Kinetic Pendant

Sam Kramer, circa 1950’s
Turquoise & Moonstone Bio-morphic Earrings

The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at


Cat said...

Very cool pieces - thanks for the information!

galadryl said...

Very interesting article, thank you. I wasn't aware that already in the forties such "modern" jewelry was designed. Amazing.

Bonhomie Jewelry said...

Fabulous and so inspirational! Just what I needed today!

Marie Cristine said...

I love it all!

N Valentine Studio said...

My favorite blog article to date! Very cool!

angie said...

I'm late on this comment, but I have to say how inspiring it is!