Last updated on February 27th, 2023 at 12:10 pm
Last Updated on February 27, 2023 Posted by Colonial Acres Coins
Some jewellery-making traditions are timeless, likely to continue forever. For example, gold and silver jewellery will probably always be popular, not only because of the value of the materials but for their attractive sparkle. Nevertheless, jewellery goes through fashion trends along with clothing. Because the prevailing ideas and philosophies of the day tend to influence artists, these are often reflected in jewellery trends. As a result, a critical examination of jewellery from a particular era may reveal something about the historical period in which it was created.
Modernism occurred roughly during the 1930s through 1970s. Jewellery pieces from this era tend to have unique characteristics that set them apart from those that came before.
What Is the Philosophy Behind Modernist Jewellery?
Like many other art movements, Modernism started as a repudiation of the styles that had come before it. The movements immediately preceding Modernism, Art Deco and Art Nouveau, had each been pushing back against the ornamental Victorian style. Modernism was opposed to Victorian style as well but also pushed back against Art Deco and Art Nouveau, finding the former austere and uncompromising and the latter too rigidly naturalistic.
Modernist jewellers saw each piece as a wearable work of art. They considered themselves to be the peers of Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Willem de Kooning, and other great artists and painters of the age. Jewellery pieces based on Modernist designs and philosophies are still being made today. In a sense, it can be said that the era of Modernist jewellery never ended.
What Are the Characteristics of Modernist Jewellery?
Because each piece of Modernist jewellery is considered an individual work of art, the visual effect produced by the materials is far more significant than their intrinsic value. While you will often see gold jewellery in a Modernist style, you also typically see Modernist pieces made of less precious materials such as copper. Gemstones may be left uncut, or crystals combined with precious stones. Modernist jewellery also often involves non-traditional materials, such as fabric or wood. Any of these materials may be used all in the same piece without regard for their intrinsic value.
The interest that Modernist jewellery holds comes from the juxtaposition of different finishes, colours, and forms. Therefore, it is likely to be more abstract than representational, defying expectations with asymmetry of design. A good example is the work of Betty Cooke, a Baltimore-based jewellery artist who would use unfinished stones, blocks of wood, or pearls as a deliberate disruption of the strong sense of order created by the geometric shapes of her jewellery designs.
Who Were Some of the Most Significant Jewellery Artists Behind the Movement?
Many art movements start in metropolitan centres such as New York City, and Modernism is no exception. As it relates to the jewellery scene, two of the leaders were Sam Kramer and Art Smith, who were neighbours in Greenwich Village. Smith is best known for wrist cuffs made of copper and other large pieces. However, most of his work consisted of earrings, cufflinks, and small pieces of that nature. Large and small, his work often featured African motifs. Kramer’s pieces were often biomorphic, i.e., suggesting nature or animals without depicting them explicitly or accurately. To underscore this theme, he sometimes used organic found objects, such as fossils or moose teeth, in his designs, which could also be surreal in nature.
What Are the Advantages of Collecting Modernist Jewellery?
Part of the appeal of Modernist jewellery is the fact that each piece is beautiful and unique. Owning a piece is like owning an original work of art. Another advantage of Modernist jewellery is that, since many of the pieces are made of materials with moderate to low intrinsic value, they do not require a significant investment to collect.
Colonial Acres Coins carries a wide variety of jewellery styles to choose from. Shop here for vintage and antique jewellery, silver jewellery, gold necklaces or rings and even estate lots. If you are looking to sell any of your personal jewellery pieces please contact us and we will be happy to help.