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).

Eleanor Moty

Eleanor Moty works in the modern formalist tradition of Margaret De Patta, using the interplay of light, planes and topography to create brooches (her sole focus) that are self-contained landscapes. While still a student at Tyler School of Art and Architecture (where she studied under Stanley Lechtzin and was a classmate of Albert Paley's), she significantly advanced the techniques of photoetching and electroplating. She graduated with a masters from Tyler in 1971. Early in her career, she embraced emerging movements in contemporary jewelry, such as fantasy-cut gemstones and the use of semi-precious stones and industrially-produced materials. Moty builds up her brooches through a collage-like process around a particular stone to highlight its inherent qualities and the lapidary’s artistic choices, often using pearls, slate, Micarta, and broad, satin-finished silver planes to accentuate the stone; she names the work only after it has been finished, according to the feeling, story or place it evokes.

Auction Results Eleanor Moty