A true goldsmith is someone who combines the two great human possibilities—Thought and Action—in one creative profession. They are a unified, un-split person, and in this unity they find the meaning and harmony of existence.

Hermann Jünger

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).

Hermann Junger

Hermann Jünger was born in Hanau in 1928 and became one of Germany’s most accomplished and innovative goldsmiths, incorporating contemporary intellectual and philosophical leanings into the ancient medium. Though classically trained and a master in an array of techniques, Jünger embraced irregular surfaces, chance and randomness and took a collage-like approach to building up surfaces with both found and precious materials. This approach was largely inspired by his studies with the goldsmith and philosopher Franz Rickert in the early 1950s; Rickert encouraged his students to pursue individualism and experimentation, rather than strive for perfection in technique.

Jünger's brooches of the 1960s, which incorporate enamling, semi-precious gemstones and have a painterly expressiveness, reflect his progressive approach to materials and form. His pendant boxes of the 1980s are perhaps his most enduring contribution to jewelry design, as they emphasize the personal, ritualistic relationship of jewelry to its wearer and the universal desire to “make”. Jünger served as the director of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich for several decades, until his death in 2005.

Auction Results Hermann Junger