Betty Cooke

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Betty Cooke
Betty Cooke 2004 20180714131310-2.jpg
Catherine Elizabeth Cooke

(1924-05-05) May 5, 1924 (age 95)
Alma materMaryland Institute, Johns Hopkins University
Known forBetty Cooke Jewelry, The Store Ltd., Village of Cross Keys, MD; 'Cooke.Steinmetz' Designers and Consultants
MovementAmerican Modernist
Spouse(s)William O. Steinmetz (1927- 2016)
External audio
“Conversations Podcast 1: Betty Cooke”, Cara Ober, BMoreArt

Betty Cooke (born May 5, 1924-) is an American designer whose career has lasted more than 73 years.[1] She is principally known for her jewelry.[2][3][4][5][6] She has been called "an icon within the tradition of modernist jewelry"[7] and "a seminal figure in American Modernist studio jewelry".[8] Her pieces have been shown nationally and internationally and are included in a number of museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. She is regarded as an important role model for other artists and craftspeople.[9]


Catherine Elizabeth "Betty" Cooke was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 5, 1924.[10] She was an enthusiastic member of the Girl Scouts, attending Camp Whippoorwill.[11]


After taking art classes in high school, she went to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she studied from 1942 to 1946.[10] She received a BFA in education, the only way to get an art degree there at that time.[7][8] During her last year at the Institute, she began to learn jewelry making as part of an apprenticeship, which started her on a career in jewelry design.[12]

Teaching career[edit]

After graduating from MICA in 1946,[13] Cooke taught there for 22 years.[8][10] In addition to teaching jewelry design, she developed a class in "Design and Materials" for furniture design with wood, metal, fabric, and leather. One of the students who took that class was artist Bill Steinmetz. They later began dating, and eventually married.[2][14]

Design Career[edit]

Gold necklace designed by Betty Cooke, circa 1960
Bill Steinmetz, in 2004

Early in her career, Cooke designed furniture and household articles as well handbags, belts and jewelry. Her first store-front was a small house on Tyson Street in Mount Vernon in Baltimore, where she lived.[2] In 1946, Cooke bought the old rowhouse for $3,000 and began to restore it.[4] She and her partner Bill Steinmetz restored it for use as a house and shop and established a design consultancy there.[4]

In 1955, Cooke and Bill Steinmetz were married. The couple worked together as designers "Cooke and Steinmetz". Their projects included a restaurant, a bowling alley, and a church.[2] Cooke explains her style as applying to large and small media: "I think in terms of jewelry, but jewelry is also sculpture that can be done on a large scale."[15]

They later established The Store Ltd at the Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore in 1965.[16][4]

Jewelry design[edit]

Although she is widely read in the areas of art and design, Betty Cooke is largely self-trained. Her jewelry style is influenced by Bauhaus and modernism. It is very simple and pure,[2] both geometric and minimalist.[13]

Given her early aspiration to become a sculptor,[7] it may not be surprising that she thinks of her jewelry as "sculpture in motion". Wearing her jewelry has been compared to having a miniature Calder mobile around your neck.[13]

Her pieces have been sold through museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and contemporary designers such as Keegs in Seattle, Washington. Cooke has designed jewelry for Kirk Stieff and for Geoffrey Beene's shows in New York and Milan.[2][8]

“There is an enduring timelessness about her work, and today, as she did 50 years ago, she continues to create work that is extraordinary in its clean, spare architectural line and stunning simplicity.” Fred Lazarus IV, president of Maryland Institute College of Art[17]

Cooke's work is discussed in Modernist jewelry 1930-1960 : the wearable art movement,[18] Form & function : American modernist jewelry, 1940-1970,[19] and exhibition catalogs including Messengers of Modernism: American Studio Jewelry 1940-1960.[20]

Much of Cooke's work incorporates diamonds, gold, and pearls, and she has won awards for her diamond pieces in competitions sponsored by the De Beers Consolidated Mines, now the De Beers Group.[15]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


Betty Cooke's work is found in museum collections, including:


  • Design, Jewelry, Betty Cooke : June 2-25 1995. (Catalog of an exhibition held at the Meyerhoff Gallery). Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art. 1995.

Awards and Honors[edit]


  1. ^ Cooke, Betty (June 2–25, 1995). Design, Jewelry, Betty Cooke : June 2-25 1995. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art; Meyerhoff Gallery.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Oral history interview with Betty Cooke, 2004 July 1-2". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  3. ^ Sugarman, Joe (2015). "Town Jewel Betty Cooke's The Store Ltd just turned 50 years old. And at 90, she's not slowing down". Baltimore Magazine. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Kelly, Jacques (February 6, 2015). "Designers make lifelong impact on Baltimore's arts scene". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  5. ^ "A Visit with Betty Cooke Designer, Silversmith". Silver Salon Forums. SM Publications. September 2, 2006.
  6. ^ Kirkham, Pat (2000). Women designers in the USA, 1900-2000 : diversity and difference : Jacqueline M. Atkins ... [et al.]. New York: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts. p. 207. ISBN 9780300093315. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Schon, Marbeth (June 13, 2001). "An interview with Betty Cooke". Modern Silver.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Betty Cooke Biography - Short". Goya Contemporary. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  9. ^ Wolf, Toni Lesser (1989). "Betty Cooke: Total Design in Jewelry". Metalsmith Magazine. Spring. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Yager, Jan (July 1, 2004). "Oral history interview with Betty Cooke, 2004 July 1-2". Archives of American Art, Smithsonian.
  11. ^ Powder, Jackie (October 1, 1995). "Badges of friendship S'more good times: 60 years later, a group of Girl Scouts reunites at Camp Whippoorwill". THE BALTIMORE SUN. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  12. ^ Wharton, Carol (December 4, 1979). "Pathfinder in jewlery". The Baltimore Sun. p. 71.
  13. ^ a b c d e Giuliano, Mike (June 6, 1995). "Cooke's jewelry is a model of restraint". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  14. ^ Kelly, Jacques (November 25, 2016). "William Steinmetz, designer and Maryland Institute College of Art alumnus". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  15. ^ a b Wise, Gabrielle (July 24, 1979). "Designer finds a pot of gold and pebbles". The Baltimore Sun. p. B3.
  16. ^ Sugarman, Joe (April 2015). "Town Jewel". Baltimore Magazine. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  17. ^ a b May, Stephen (June 14, 2013). "Betty Cooke: Modern Jewelry Pioneer". Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  18. ^ Schon, Marbeth (2004). Modernist jewelry 1930-1960 : the wearable art movement. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer. ISBN 9780764320200.
  19. ^ Schon, Marbeth (2008). Form & function : American modernist jewelry, 1940-1970. Atglen, PA: Schiffer. ISBN 9780764329760.
  20. ^ Greenbaum, Toni (1996). Eidelberg, Martin (ed.). Messengers of Modernism : American studio jewelry 1940-1960 (Catalogue for exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, 1997 ed.). Paris: Flammarian. ISBN 9782080135933.
  21. ^ "Betty Cooke: Selections in Baltimore". Eventful. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  22. ^ a b Shaykett, Jessica (September 19, 2011). "Betty Cooke: Art + Work". American Craft Magazine. American Craft Council.
  23. ^ Ober, Cara. "Conversations Podcast 1: Betty Cooke". BMoreArt. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  24. ^ "American Craft Council College of Fellows". American Craft Council. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Donor-Funded Scholarships: A-C". Retrieved 14 April 2018.

External links[edit]