I collect things, pile them up, listen to them talk to one another, striking up conversations. I introduce strangers to each other, urge them to meet, giving them a space in which to get to know each other. I rearrange them, and change the direction of their conversations. I collect and order, trying to find the key to what is hidden in objects and materials.

Iris Eichenberg

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).

Iris Eichenberg

As the current head of the metals department at the revered Cranbrook Academy of Art, Iris Eichenberg creates jewelry and objects that belie the notion of adornment having to simply be beautiful or pleasing. Using found materials in unexpected combinations, Eichenberg’s jewelry evokes hidden narratives, sense memories and deeply felt experiences and invites the viewer to build upon and inhabit these stories. Speaking on her work, Eichenberg states: "Beautiful, harmonious materials bore me."

Born in Germany in 1965, Eichenberg studied jewelry design and goldsmithing at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. She graduated in 1994 and taught there from 2000 to 2007, until she received the appointment at Cranbrook. Eichenberg received the prestigious Herbert Hodmann Preis in 2001 and her work is held in collections including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Auction Results Iris Eichenberg