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).

Peter Chang

Peter Chang was born in 1944 and grew up in Liverpool. His bright, fantastical works are informed by his studies in sculpture and graphic design at the Liverpool College of Art in the 1980s. Even while at its lowest economic ebb, Liverpool was a cultural hub for underground music and fashion and the creative, raw atmosphere; Chang began making jewelry using plastic from the discarded signs of closed shops, manipulating the materials in technically exciting ways. Chang’s work is equally inspired by the modern aesthetics of East and West (he is of Chinese and British heritage) and his biomorphic forms of imagined flora and fauna create realms that are both refined and vulgar—an end and also a beginning. In 2003 he received the Herbert Hofmann Prize, Munich and his work is held in collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim.

Auction Results Peter Chang