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ASJRA conference recap

Hello friends, I hope your week is off to a rousing start! Today, I’d like to share with you a recap of my first ever jewelry conference.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the website of   the Association for the Study of Jewelry and the Related Arts or ASJRA.  According to its website, it is an organization devoted, (as its name implies), to the “advancement of jewelry studies as well as the dissemination of knowledge to anyone interested in the history of jewelry”.  I was intrigued by such a group and signed up to join right away. Then to my great delight, I learned that the group’s annual conference was on  Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry, which in turn is the subject of  Maker and Muse, the fantastic jewelry exhibit currently running at the Driehaus Museum (read all about my visit to that exhibit here and here).  I was especially excited because I loved the exhibit and two of the speakers–Elyse Karlin and Yvonne Markowitz, had written jewelry books I really enjoyed.

Upon arrival, I got my first surprise of the day, I got to meet two fellow Instagrammers —Gem Gossip and Bell Flower Bay.  These two ladies have an amazing feed and it was such a pleasure to meet them!

I’m happy to report that the conference was as interesting and absorbing as I could have hoped for.  The speakers were clearly all experts in their respective fields and I certainly came away with a more in depth knowledge of the topic. Of course I took this opportunity to ask some of them to sign my books. Pictured below is Yvonne Markowitz, the first ever curator of the fabulous jewelry department of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.



What was even more cool about the conference was seeing all the fantabulous jewelry being more by the attendees. And since it was a jewelry conference, it was perfectly acceptable to admire the jewelry and ask to take pictures of them. Fortunately for me, everyone I asked agreed and now I can share them with you all.

I started with these fabulous rings from Daniele of Gem Gossip and Jenn of Bell Flower Bay. Aren’t these rings lovely?

This next lady is actually a descendant of Edmund Bokor, one of the silversmiths of the famed Chicago Art shop whic had its heyday during the early years of the 20th century. The jewelry she’s wearing were made by him.   

I loved the matching bracelet with its massive amethyst. 


This next lady had on a fabulous Art Nouveau horn pendant made by Elizabeth Bonté, whose delicate work is also featured in the Maker and Muse exhibit. She was very much inspired by Lalique and was one of the few jewelers specializing in the use of horn. These pieces of Elizabeth are quite rare now and it is very difficult to authenticate her signature. 

Another lady came all the way from Australia to attend the conference. She and her husband are passionate collectors of jewelry and collectibles from the British Arts and Crafts movement. Of course her necklace of choice was  a pretty silver and amethyst necklace from that period.



This pretty pearl piece is from the Boston School of Arts and Crafts and was made in 1910 by Josephine Hartwell Shaw. Pearls featured greatly in the Arts and Crafts movement but those chosen were chosen more for their aesthetic value rather than their intrinsic value. As such those that were asymmetric or irregularly shaped found their way to the jewelry of this period.


Another lady’s necklace featured the curved lines and enamel work that was very characteristic of the Art nouveau movement.  This piece dates back to 1890.

But I’ve saved the best for last. One lady had on a fabulous Henri Vever pendant. Vever was one of the prominent jewelers in Paris during the turn of the century and he wrote what is probably the definitive work on 19th century French jewelry. He was also a collector of art, notably of Japanese art and prints. I’ve only ever seen his work in pictures or museums so it was a real treat to see one up close. Alas, I dared not ask to hold it. But I did manage to take a photo.  It was a superb piece.


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Maker and Muse Part II

Hello friends, its been pretty quiet on the blog front but I wanted to make up for it with this second post on the Maker and Muse exhibit. Part I featured jewelry from the British Arts and Crafts and the French Art Nouveau movement.

Today, I wanted to feature the Jugendstil movement from  Germany and Vienna, the jewelry of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Arts and Crafts jewelry from Chicago.

Jugendstil or Youth style drew their inspiration from the movement that was sweeping Britain and France.  Its goal was to integrate the different disciplines of architecture, fine and decorative arts into a cohesive and elegant whole.  Similarly to their French counterparts, women could not establish themselves as artists and designers as successfully as the male designers.  German and Austrian societies were still very much patriarchal ones.  And because industrialization didn’t hit Germany and Austria as quickly as it did in Britain, the adoption of the Arts and Crafts principles were more on the aesthetics rather than its guiding philosophy.

Creations from this movement are characterized by their clean, pure lines.  There is hardly any superfluous or unnecessary detailing.

Some of the examples on view include the following:

A gorgeous collection of brooches made variously with silver, enamel and rhodocrosite. The big silver and green object to the right is actually a spoon, literally a silver spoon!

DSCN4505  I particularly liked this pretty necklace circa 1914 by Hans Bolek (and manufactured by Oskar Dietrich) made with yellow gold and gemstones.


I don’t wear brooches but given the number of really beautiful brooches on display, it’d be hard not to wear them! Just look at this wonderful mermaid brooch made with gilded silver, coral and pearl.  This one by Karl Rothmuller and dates back to 1900.


From Germany, the exhibit makes its way to the shores of the new World. We start with Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany and Co.  Louis, didn’t start out with jewelry. In fact, he started making jewelry, 20 years after he had already established his own reputation in the decorative arts. After his father’s death,  he finally joined the firm and he found a well developed studio system of design and manufacture.  There were a good number of women workers and designers employed by the firm.  Even though they were never formally or publicly credited with any of the jewelry, they were recognized as integral to the success of the company. Julia Munson, was appointed head of the new jewelry design department when Tiffany finally came on board.  Tiffany had one rule when it came to the women designers–they could stay as long as they stayed single.  Julia Munson, who was his chief designer for many years finally had to leave when she got married and Meta Overbeck another lady took over her post. Together, Munson and Overbeck designed  some of the most spectacular Tiffany pieces.

The first thing you see when you walk into the room is this stunning gold cross which Tiffany designed for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  It was commissioned by Tomas R. Keator in memory of his wife who was a member of the congregation of the all Angles Church in New York City.  Hidden at the back of the base of the cross is a small secret compartment containing a photo of the late Emily Keator to whom the cross is lovingly dedicated to.


This glass cabinet contained what is easily, three of the most spectacular pieces of Tiffany  & Co.  The gold filigree necklace designed by Julia Munson uses 18 k gold, pink sapphire for the clasps and plique-a-jour enamel. It is magnificent!


This fabulous 1908 green and gold necklace makes use of jade, pearls and of course high karat gold.  It is both striking and elegant.

Then of course there is this stunner of a necklace composed of the bluest blue Zircon I’ve ever seen, platinum, diamond, demantoid or green garnet, chrysoberyl and amethyst.



From New York, the exhibit takes us to Chicago where there was a thriving community of women jewelers.  In 1906, Chicago was at the peak of the Arts and Crafts movement.  At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, there were more women than men. More importantly, the decorative arts were considered as suitable employment for women.  The four  most celebrated pioneers of the movement were Madeline Yale Wynn, Leonide C. Lavaron, Bessie Bennett and Jessie M. Preston. Another woman,  Elinor Evans Klapp was the only female artist who exhibited at the Paris Exhibition under her own name.  She went on to found a successful and lucrative jewelry business.

In 1900, the Kalo Shop was founded in Chicago by 6 recent graduates  of the Art Institute with the goal of creating objects that were Beautiful, Useful and Enduring.   It was so successful that it allowed several silversmiths of the Kalo shop to open their own shops.  What was striking about the work produced by the Kalo Shop, indeed of the Chicago movement was their determined used of materials that were previously not considered rare or expensive.  Materials like pearls and semi-precious stones were considered for their aesthetic value rather than intrinsic value.

An example of such a piece is this necklace composed of gold and Baroque pearls.


And while there was a good number of pieces that used innovative materials like the Baroque pearl necklace pictured above, other pieces used more traditional fine materials like this beautiful gold and coral brooch.


Other stand out pieces included this fabulous gold and black opal necklaces by Frances M. Glessner who made jewelry but never sold them.  Instead she gave away her pieces to friends and family.

Another piece of Ms. Glessner is this fabulous gold and yellow stone necklace which is now housed in the Chicago History Museum.