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.

highlights

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.

Supporters

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.

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.
Image of Thomas Gentille, Bruce Metcalf, Iris Eichenberg speak during Cooper Hewitt Symposium of ideas 2017
Jewelry of Ideas Symposium | Morning Session
Watch a keynote address by Iris Eichenberg, plus a discussion with Bruce Metcalf and Thomas Gentille.
The Universality of the Immigrant Experience
This brooch from Esther Knobel’s Immigrant series expresses the artist’s playful side. The brooch features colorful figures, a circus performer and an ancient emperor, both cut from tin boxes of Chinese tea that Knobel found in an old shop on Jaffe Street in Jerusalem. The figures themselves serve as a metaphor for an immigrant, arriving...