I see no difference between working in precious and nonprecious materials. The reason for using nickel alloy to make the Orbit pieces related entirely to its strength and color and to its suitability to the design.

Wendy Ramshaw

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).

Wendy Ramshaw

Beginning with her colorful folded-paper jewelry of the 1960s, Wendy Ramshaw became a pioneer of bringing “self-assembly,” an idea which had caught-on in many areas of post-war design, to jewelry. Ramshaw created works that are made of parts and sections, “so that the owner can share in the way the piece is worn”.

Ramshaw was born in 1939 in Sunderland, United Kingdom and studied textile design and illustration at Newcastle-upon-Tyne College of Art and Industrial Design and went on to attend the University of Reading, where she met her future husband and collaborator, artist and musician David Watkins.

Much of Ramshaw's jewelry, as well as her many large-scale architectural commissions, use motifs relating to cosmology, the movement of objects in space and the challenge of finding elegant order in complexity. Her Orbit series features necklaces that, over the years, built up and then took away elements. Ramshaw’s ringsets, which she began creating in the early 1970s, have become the emblem of her ever-evolving output. She is also known for her 1980s series Picasso's Ladies, which were jewelry works inspired by the women featured in Picasso's paintings.

Ramshaw passed away in 2018. She was the recipient of the Designer Council Award for Innovation in 1972 and her works are held in such prestigious collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.

Auction Results Wendy Ramshaw