By Ursula Ilse-Neuman

The Jewelry of Ideas is published in conjunction with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s exhibition celebrating gifts from the Susan Grant Lewin Collection of contemporary jewelry. This renowned collection, built by the New York–based Lewin over several decades and recently donated to Cooper Hewitt, captures the diversity and achievements of art, or studio, jewelry with nearly 150 significant works by designers from the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The brooches, necklaces and rings—the majority of which were made in the last 15 years—reveal how these contemporary jewelers have revolutionized the medium. Many take their cues from age-old jewelry conventions but transform them into expressions of our time. Others confront social, political or highly personal concerns using unconventional materials and techniques that range from traditional metalsmithing to computer-aided design.

Among the more than 100 featured designers are Giampaolo Babetto, Gijs Bakker, Friedrich Becker, David Bielander, Iris Eichenberg, Eva Eisler, Sandra Enterline, Arline Fisch, Thomas Gentille, Herman Hermsen, John Iversen, Daniel Jocz, Herman Jünger, Jiro Kamata, Otto Künzli, Bruno Martinazzi, Bruce Metcalf, Dorothea Prühl, Wendy Ramshaw, Joyce Scott, Kiff Slemmons and Art Smith.

Descriptions of specific works demonstrate that while the mastery of materials and techniques is critical to the creative process, it is not an end in itself, but only the means to accomplish an aesthetic vision. Process statements from each designer and a full gallery of the jewelry accompany the narrative sequence of extraordinary, stirring, uncommon pieces from this consummate collection.