What's in a name? A whole lot. A name tells us who we are, what groups we belong to and may buy us social status and other benefits. A name defines the qualities of a type of jewelry.
When it comes to Modern Jewelry, there is often a misunderstanding of what the term actually implies.
True, the word ‘Modern’ means 'relating to recent times'. Confusingly, this is not true when we are referring to Modern Jewelry. It does not refer to jewelry made currently. Ironically, despite its name, modernist jewelry is not to be confused with jewelry simply made today. We have bypassed the modernist era. Jewelry made today is not modernist, even if it is fashionable.
In fact, there is a very specific period and nuance to Modernism, when it comes to design in all fields, not only jewelry. We are all familiar with the red-hot furniture from the mid-20th century, known as Mid Century Modern. It is the period post 1950's that Modernism really came into its own.
While a lot of jewelry produced in this period is a poor copy of fine jewelry made for years and centuries gone bye, there is some fabulous jewelry made during this time that defies comparison with anything made before or after.
Absolutely Fabulous sums it up. Big Bold Beautiful. Daring Design. Tremendous shapes and inventive use of materials, many jewels incorporating natural materials with modern metals. The Modern jewelry designers thought of themselves more as artists than as craftsmen. The artistic aesthetic was more important to them than the intrinsic value of the gems and metals. Thus silver was often used instead of gold or platinum. A number of Modern jewelry artists lived and worked in New York. It was a time of tremendously exciting creativity.
This jewelry is exceedingly difficult to find and when you do find it, for many of us mere mortals, the prices are just beyond our pockets.
Here are a few typical characteristics of Modern Jewelry:
- Often sculptural in design;
- Wonderful craftsmanship;
- large size;
- ethnic influence is common;
- plays with positive and negative shapes;
- organic shapes;
- modified, geometric shapes (not quite as cubist as previous eras).
Thus, we have something of a contradiction in terms and a confusing situation. However, once you are familiar with modernist jewelry, you will never mistake it for anything else.