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).

Arnaldo Pomodoro

Arnaldo was born in 1926 in Morciano, Emilia Romagna, Italy, and he first worked as a restorer on public buildings. Giò was born in 1930 in Orciano di Pesaro, Italy, and he initially trained to become a land surveyor. They both trained in goldsmithing, but Arnaldo left the craft to work as a set designer before entering the world of sculpture. This experience introduced Arnaldo to concepts of “ideology, myth and form,” leading to an emotional sense of baroque drama in his sculptures. Arnaldo honed his craft in metalwork exclusively, while Giò explored multiple mediums including fiberglass, colored marbles, clay, and wood in his sculptures. In 1956, Giò was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, and in 1959 his work was on display at Kassel in Germany. Three years after Giò, Arnaldo was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 1962. Moving to the United States in 1966, Arnaldo became a professor of sculpture, teaching first at Stanford University and later at University of California, Berkeley. The work of both brothers is held in the permanent collections of museums across the world. Giò’s sculptural creations are on view at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museo d’Arte Moderna in Mexico. Arnaldo’s works are on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and Princeton University Art Gallery, among many others.

Auction Results Arnaldo Pomodoro