Modern Handmade Jewelry

Toni Greenbaum

Jewelry is one of the most graphic indicators of personal identity. In sync with the body, it helps to define the individuals who wear it. Jewelry is also among the most revealing examples of material culture. The necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and brooches worn by people throughout the ages contain powerful clues about the eras, traditions, habitations, and societies in which they lived.

To this day, jewelry continues to act as an important signifier. The twentieth century, along with the first two decades of the twenty-first, is particularly rich in what we refer to as “studio jewelry.” Studio jewelry, which is invariably handmade, can simply celebrate process and provide an alternative to fine or costume jewelry, but it can also harbor deeper meanings—concepts far beyond jewelry’s usual function as decoration, commemoration, or talisman. Studio jewelry exists at the nexus of art, craft, and design, often reflecting aesthetic concerns, theoretical doctrines, political agendas, or popular trends. Most studio jewelry is either unique or produced in limited edition. It can be fabricated from precious metals and gemstones, or created from materials outside the norm, or both. Studio jewelry may be easy to wear, or present tactical challenges. All in all, it is a most compelling adornment—whether we regard it technically, stylistically, artistically, or even existentially.

Work by Otto Künzli (left). His iconic Gold Makes You Blind bracelet, is featured in this sale. ES1 Ring by Ettore Sottsass (right).

My initial exposure to the cool elegant work of Eva Eisler was at the Brooklyn Museum in 2009. A small group of complementary jewelry from the Museum’s collection was displayed with the exhibition From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith.  The perfect balance and exacting technical execution of her brooch from 1988 in silver spoke to me strong sense of order.

Mark McDonald

Eva Eisler

Eva Eisler, born in Prague in 1952, was raised in Communist-era Czechoslovakia, and her jewelry is concerned with the philosophical and intellectual implications of the tensions and harmonies possible in material, form and space. Highly rational and ordered, Eisler’s works reflect her built environment as well as the awesome and fearsome dominance of technology in our lives. Eisler uses the visual purity of minimalism to create works that are elegant and refined and, despite their modest size, have an internal scale that makes them feel immense and full of gravitas. Eisler studied at the School of Building Technology and Architecture and relocated to New York City with her architect-husband in 1983, where she studied and taught at Parsons School of Design. She currently lives in Prague, is the head of the jewelry department at the Academy of Arts and continues designing jewelry as well as clothing, furniture and sculpture.

Auction Results Eva Eisler