Previously On View: November 17, 2017 through May 28, 2018

See exhibitions currently on view.

About the exhibition

“…challenging, geographically diverse, and, above all else, avant-garde…”—Vogue

Featuring nearly 150 brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and rings created by seminal designers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America, Jewelry of Ideas illuminates the radical conceptual and material developments in jewelry design that have transformed the field. Beginning with mid-20th-century American and European pioneers who pushed the boundaries of form and material, the exhibition traces the evolution of jewelry up to the avant-garde developments of the 1980s and through to the most recent innovations.

The works on view show how jewelry has moved far beyond its aesthetic considerations to stake out new creative territories through a mastery of materials, innovative techniques, and conceptual inquiry. In the collection are many of the field’s most experimental designers, including Joyce Scott, Friedrich Becker, Ted Noten, Kiff Slemmons, Otto Künzli, Ramona Solberg, Arline Fisch, Thomas Gentille, Attai Chen, and Jamie Bennett.


exhibition catalog

Illustrated with full-color photographs of the nearly 150 pieces of jewelry, this hardcover book also includes essays by curator and educator Ursula Ilse-Neuman on the evolution of contemporary jewelry from the mid-century to the present day. Process statements from the more than 100 jewelers represented in the collection further illuminate the groundbreaking materials and techniques, as well as conceptual scope, of these diverse jewelers’ achievements. Available from SHOP Cooper Hewitt.


Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts from the Susan Grant Lewin Collection is made possible in part by the Rotasa Fund, the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), Gallery Loupe, Sienna Patti, William P. Short III, in memory of Nancy Jean Fulop Short, Helen W. Drutt English, Kim and Al Eiber, and Ornamentum Gallery.

Image features a circular silver form covered in bright green flocking with decoration of pink, red, and orange balls of various sizes scattered on its surface. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Pops of Color and Texture
In celebration of The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, this Object of the Day post takes a multisensory approach to an object in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection. This whimsical bracelet from Daniel Jocz’s Candy Wear series reminds us that one of the most important aspects of jewelry is the joy it brings to both the wearer...
Image of Toni Greenbaum speaking to an audience at Cooper Hewitt
MAG to SNAG: American Studio Jewelry 1940-1970
The development of American studio jewelry is crucial to the understanding of contemporary jewelry as it is currently practiced internationally. Art historian Toni Greenbaum discusses cogent issues affecting the evolution of studio jewelry in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. As part of a broader cultural movement that grew following the end of World...
Simple Materials and a Prickly Texture Raise the Question, “What is it”?
This “pin” brooch, made in 1992 by jeweler Beppe Kessler, was part of a larger collection of “pin” brooches, each piece one of a kind. The series itself was derived from an installation by Kessler, also in 1992, which involved hanging large rounded, pin cushions on a wall. The brooches are an outgrowth of this...
Lush Color and Texture Bring Life to Geometric Form
Folded into an open rhombus, and richly adorned with pigment, this brooch boldly uses color (achieved with the application of cobalt blue pigment) and texture (achieved by stippling the gold) to enhance its form. One look at this brooch by Giampaolo Babetto provides evidence of the mastery of gold present in his work. Babetto’s pieces cleverly...
Designed for Comfort: The Allure of Resin “Gemstones”
During the last decade, Gaetano Pesce, long known for his varied designs and sense of experimentation, turned his attention to the creation of jewelry. Throughout his career Pesce has used resin to create such diverse objects as furniture, vases and shoes. Experimenting further, Pesce sought to create jewelry with this highly adaptable medium. To date,...
New Expressions of Antiquity
Ceramic beads have been used in jewelry for millennia. Recognizing the utilitarian quality of this material, Peter Hoogeboom chooses it as the primary material for his neckpieces. Hoogeboom had noted historical ceramic jewelry in museums yet did not often see clay used in contemporary jewelry. Through experimentation he found that the slip casting technique allowed him...
Ready, Set, Lift-off…..The Joy of Sculptural Jewelry
Felieke van der Leest’s Grey Heron Airplane ring is full of the whimsy which is an integral component of the artist’s imaginative and sophisticated design process, which incorporates techniques such as bead weaving and crocheting. This ring, like much of Van der Leest’s work, focuses on the use of mass produced toy animals, highlighted by...
Jamie Bennett, Doug Bucci discuss materials and methods with Lindsay Pollock.
Jewelry of Ideas Symposium | Second Afternoon Session
Jewelry-makers Jamie Bennett and Doug Bucci discuss their art and craft with journalist and collector Lindsay Pollock.
Image of Myra Mimlitsch-Gray and Helen Drutt educator, and curatorial consultant, discuss communicating ideas through jewelry, moderated by Kiff Slemmons (far left)
Jewelry of Ideas Symposium | First Afternoon Session
Jeweler Myra Mimlitsch-Gray and educator Helen Drutt discuss communicating ideas through jewelry, moderated by Kiff Slemmons, jeweler and metalsmith.