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Art jewelry is created with a variety of materials, not just precious metals and gems, and forms a counterbalance to the use of "precious materials" in regular (fine) jewelry. Art jewelry should be compared to expressions of art in other media such as glass, wood, plastics and clay.
An example of a current trend in art jewelry is the use of modern synthetic materials such as polypropylene, nylon, and acrylic. Art jewelers have developed techniques for using these materials to dramatic effect.
History of 20th century jewelry
In the late 19th century, René Lalique revolutionized jewelry design through his emphasis on imagination and technical virtuosity over precious materials and the imitation of past styles. Additionally, he experimented with industrial techniques, plastic and glass.
Though many consider art jewelry still part of crafts as opposed to real "arts" (with its appropriate art critics), attitudes are changing, particularly in Germany. In the 1960s and 1970s the German government and commercial jewelry industry decided to foster and heavily support modern jewelry designers, thus creating a new marketplace. They focused in particular on combining contemporary design with their traditions of goldsmithing and jewelry making. The first gallery for art jewelry only, "Orfevre", opened in Duesseldorf, Germany, in 1965. At present, art jewelry is no longer a niche market, and many designers are sold in regular jewelry stores.
The acceptance of jewelry as art was fostered in the United States very quickly after World War II by major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, each of which held major shows of art jewelry in the 1940s. The Museum of Arts and Design formerly The American Craft Museum, started their collection in 1958 with pieces dating from the 1940s. Other museums whose collections include work by contemporary (American) jewelry designers include: the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Corning Museum of Glass, the Mint Museum of Craft & Design in Charlotte, NC, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian museum.
Some famous artists who created art jewelry in the past were Calder, Picasso, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Dalí and Nevelson. Some of which represented at Sculpture to Wear Gallery in New York City which closed in 1977.
Artwear Gallery owned by Robert Lee Morris continued in this endeavor to showcase jewelry as an art form.
List of jewelry artists
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Listed in the decade in which they were first recognized:
- Claire Falkenstein, United States, 1908–1998
- Gijs Bakker, The Netherlands, 1942-
- Stanley Lechtzin, United States, 1936-
- Charles Loloma, United States, 1921–1991
- Olaf Skoogfors, Sweden, 1930–1975
- William Claude Harper, United States, 1944-
- Mazlo, Lebanon 1949- France
- Robert Lee Morris, Germany 1947- United States
- Peter Chang, England, 1944-, Scotland
- Bruce Metcalf, United States, 1949-
- Beatrice Wood, United States, 1893–1998
- Ramljak, Suzanne, United in Beauty: The Jewelry and Collectors of Linda MacNeil, Schiffer Publishing, 2002, p 15 ISBN 978-0764317125
- Ilse-Neuman, Ursula. Inspired Jewelry. Museum of Arts and Design and ACC Editions, 2009 ISBN 978-1851495788
- Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, France - Art Deco and Avant-Garde Jewelry - March 19th, 2009 to July 12th, 2009
- Margaret de Patta exhibit in Oakland Museum, California
- Art Smith jewelry exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum