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 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...
Image features a cuff bracelet of roughly circular form composed of two intertwined curved strands of silver containing a central irregular triangular panel. The silver surface has passages of dark patination. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Art in Metal: The Modernist Jewelry of Greenwich Village’s Art Smith
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on the jewelry of Art Smith, one of the designers featured in Jewelry of Ideas.