Learning Center

Jewelry History

From archeological finds to museum galleries, explore jewelry and fabrication methods from many eras in our Jewelry History section.

54 ARTICLES
Article
China’s Treasure Island

Golden, white, and rose-colored pearls of dubious quality dangle from her outstretched arms. At least 20 more strands are draped around her neck. They can be purchased for about $3 a strand. At the other end of the pearl spectrum is Haiyu Pearl…

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The Once and Future Sapphire

Andranondambo countryside, southern Madagascar, 1994 Imagine a gently hilled plain, covered with a beautiful baobab forest, surrounded by an arc of mountains under a pure blue sky. There, a young zebu cattle keeper is watching his animals.…

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European Notebook 1994 Spring

For your European correspondent it was Christmas in Brighton and then New Years in Paris – which is not the worst way to see in the New Year. Having Purchased several bottles of French champagne – at a special price of 49 francs a bottle (yes,…

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European Notebook 1993 Fall

The time of seasonal migration is upon the Continent. I am speaking of course of the mass movement of many hundreds of graduates from the myriad number of art and design colleges throughout Europe. Over one thousand will graduate from the United…

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Tibet Monasteries are Opening Treasure Chambers

In the middle of March, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, described the Chinese response to the revolt by students and monks in his homeland as “cultural genocide.” This drew the attention of the whole world to the very

Article
Egypt’s Sunken Treasures

Underwater archaeology reigns supreme. Until now mainly disregarded as treasure seekers, modern methods have enabled diving researchers to delve into historical contexts to an increasingly precise degree. For example, the now renowned

Article
Historic Kitsch

The unfettered joy of an eccentric mix of styles from historical epochs – with no consideration of rules of combination – forms the foundation for the sweet-kitsch topic. Some aspects draw on the golden pomp of the baroque era, while…

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The Art Treasures of the Thracians

To date, Orpheus and Spartacus are probably the best-known representatives of a people whose traces have been lost in history. The mythic singer and inventor of the kithara as well as the celebrated leader of the slave revolt against Rome are

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A Merchant Ship Full of Treasures

The merchant ship that sank off the coast of Turkey over 3,300 years ago and that divers salvaged in 10 years of work from 1984 to 1994 was carrying jewelry, weapons, vessels and other trade goods on board. For archaeologists, this load is of inestimable

Article
Ancient High Cultures: Jewelry, Talisman and Status Symbol

People have gazed at adorned ears for many millennia. Discoveries in tombs and old legends tel of how ears were decorated in previous cultures. The rings or pegs worn in the ears were not simply intended as ornaments. They were also regarded

Article
Jewelry Gemstone Engraving Over the Passage of Time

The art of gem cutting (glyptics in Greek) is one of the oldest testimonies to how installed, fascinating miniatures can transform gemstones into tiny works of art with immense charisma and magical significane. Decoration, symbols and magic

Article
Scandinavian Design: A Myth is Unraveled

The message was a revolution. While the wounds of the Second World War were eased in Europe using conciliatory kitsch and a new sense of comfort, a totally different message was heard from the far reaches of the North. It kicked up a true storm

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Pocket Watch in the Year 2025

The history of the pocket watch started in the 15th century. Until then, blacksmith had fashioned the iron clockwork; however, copper, bronze or brass gradually started to replace iron. The forms of watches in the Gothic period initially

Article
White Treasure with Rarity Value

Platinum, in many regards an extraordinary precious metal, was given its name by Spanish conquistadors in about 1580: “platina,” which means as much as “small silver.” Today platinum enjoys a popularity that is anything but small;

Article
Venezuelan Enamel History and Projection

Among the representatives of this speciality who dedicated their lives to the enamel, is the author of this article. She began her studies in the “Escuela de Artes Plásticas” School in 1986. She continued in the “Pedagógico”…

Article
Eastern Europe, Sorrow

*On the hard ground of Birkenau a tiny button sparkles, reflecting the unshed tears in my eye. I kneel down and hold my breath in disbelief. The whole area near the cage is covered with buttons. It has rained violently the night before and the torrents…

Article
Late Twentieth-Century American Jewelry

Signals: Late Twentieth-Century American Jewelry opened at Cranbrook Art Museum in November 1996 – a contemporary counterpart to Messengers in Modernism, organized by the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts from its permanent collection.

Article
Beyond Tradition

Bernadette Rodriguez-Caraveo confounds expectation. Just when it seems her work can be pigeonholed – as typically Hispanic devotional art, as updated versions of Victorian memorial lockets, as neoclassic Southwestern silver – a…

Article
Forging Modernist

“The only work that counts,” she added with her quick smile, “is, of course, that which affords the opportunity for complete and satisfying self-expression.” Such was the record of one interviewer of Janet Payne Bowles recalling…

Article
Moche Metalwork

All that glitters attracts both the museum visitor and the archaeologist. Whether one is looking at tastefully displayed objects in museum galleries of ancient American art or assisting on an archaeological dig in north coastal Peru, the…

Article
The Great Pectoral from Tolstaya Mogila

In 1971, excavations in a kurgan (grave mound) named Tolstaya Mogila – big barrow – in the city of Ordzonikidzhe in the southern Ukraine brought to light a spectacular golden pectoral in the underground grave of a warrior, dating to c. 300…

Article
Gerda Flöckinger: First Lady of British Jewelry

Starting in the early 1950s, Gerda Flöckinger worked to change the face of British jewelry. Others joined her fledgling crusade, only to drift off to other fields, or to other countries, where the contemporary jewelry movement was more established.…

Article
William Spratling: Creator of Modern Taxco Silver

For the past 60 years, tourists visiting Mexico have sought distinctive silver jewelry and holloware, crafted by native artisans. Although the designs they find are, for the most part, adapted from pre-Columbian clay seals and executed…

Article
Metalsmith ’89 Summer: Book Reviews

This article is a book review published in the 1989 Summer issue of the Metalsmith Magazine including “Power and Gold: Jewelry from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Power and Gold: Jewelry

Article
Japanese Esthetics on American Crafts

Undeniably, American crafts of the 20th century have been influenced by Japanese esthetics. From raku to mokumé, American crafts would not be what they are today without the Japanese connection. So, when I moved to Japan two years ago, I was…

Article
Funk Art Jewelry

In Objects: USA, the chapter on jewelry bears witness to the hallowed names of modern history. The collective effort of such luminaries as Eikerman, Craver, Fike, Roach, Radakovich, Winston, Renk established a canon for work of the 40s, 50s…

Article
The Art of the Celtic Metalsmith

This research paper was presented at the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference at Cranbrook Academy of Art in June, 1987. All photographs and illustrations are by the author, unless otherwise noted. “The island is well people,…

Article
Art and Technics: Learning from History

This article is one of a series of articles from Metalsmith Magazine “Art and Technics” talking about techniques in craftsmanship and design. For this 1987 Spring issue, Tim McCreight talks about learning from history and using it to…

Article
In Memory of Olaf Skoogfors, 1930-1975

Olaf Skooglors died at the age of 45 on December 20, 1975. In memory of Olaf Skoogfors these excerpts were taken from the 1979 retrospective exhibit, held at the Philadelphia College of Art and the Renwick Gallery and curated by Helen Williams…

Article
Peruvian Jewelry Art and Metalwork

Peru, Land of the Inca, the Sun Worshippers, Land of Gold (the “Sweat of the Sun”), Land of Silver (the “Tears of the Moon”), a land where precious metals were in abundance, used not only for ritual but for everyday…

Article
A Metalsmith’s Guide to Rome

Rome. Truly the eternal city, where every monument reflects simultaneously the past and the present. As Goethe so aptly states in his Italian Journey, “The very site of the city takes one back to the time of its foundation.” As…

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The School for American Craftsmen (SAC)

The history of the School for American Craftsmen (SAC) can be seen as a microcosm of the history of the post World War II craft movement. Because of this a study of the former can help illuminate the latter. This is especially true of SAC’s…

Article
History of Contemporary Canadian Jewellery

The history of contemporary Canadian jewellery, like that of Canada itself, has struggled with the assimilation of foreign influences, economies and cultures as well as the insecurities of the Canadian temperament in its search for a national…

Article
A Metalsmith’s Guide to Germany

My trips to Germany in 1980 and 1982 were the most satisfying experiences in relation to my metalwork. They were the most rewarding in my growth as an artist/designer and the expansion of my business. Therefore I would like to share some of my…

Article
The Artemis Medallion

In northern Greece, sometime after the death of Alexander the Great, a master goldsmith fashioned this unusual medallion with its bust of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The medallion projects Artemis in high relief encircled by a rich frame…

Article
Gallery Directors’ Role on Metalsmithing

In the world of fine art, galleries wield enormous power. Galleries such as Castelli, Knoedler and Marlborough, through the artists they choose to show, dictate which artists and styles are “in” or “out,” which…

Article
The Arts and Crafts Movement

“It is allowing machines to be our masters and not our servants that so insures the beauty of life nowadays.” Ironically, this quote does not come from a contemporary philosopher decrying the computer age, but rather, from William…

Article
6 Key Jewelry Trends 2014

It’s true that fashion is cyclical, as emerging trends are often reminiscent of days gone by. There is also a counterbalance that occurs when one extreme hits the scene to right another. That said, when it comes to fine jewelry, many trends…

Article
Book Review – One of a Kind

If you like art jewelry, innovative work, future jewelry directions and opening up new markets for the jewelry industry you need this book.
It is a very solid contribution to the developing world of art jewelry. (Capitalist types look…

Article
Cloisonne Primer – History of Cloisonne Technique

In the late 20s, a small enamel tray, made in China, introduced us to the word cloisonne. The material looked like the granite ware in our kitchen. Obviously the wires were used to keep the colors separated. Then, cloisonne was enamel with wires…

Article
The Earliest Cloisonne Enamels

An island in the eastern Mediterranean, with a history of more than 8000 years, Cyprus was one of the earliest producers of copper in the world, had a flourishing metal industry and during the “Golden Age” of Cyprus, the island enjoyed a high…

Article
Introduction to Basic Concrete Jewelry

Concrete is a wonderful, hard, neutral, unprecious material with a real presence. And it can be successfully adapted to jewellery. This is an introduction to basic processes and materials. Uncured concrete is difficult to handle. It usually…

Article
Modern Native American Jewelry

Long recognized for the ubiquitous turquoise and silver squash-blossom necklaces and concho belts, the traditional metalwork of the Southwest has been in flux for well over half a century Jewelry and metal objects have been produced for…

Article
Book Review – Ethnic Jewellery

For those of us who get our sustenance from books about jewelry, Ethnic Jewellery is an excellent feed. Its 170 photos of delectable jewelry, commentaries, and maps quickly wafted this reader into daydreams about the bejeweled tribes that…

Article
Book Review – 20th Century Jewelry

John Peacock is a fashion designer’s best friend. Over the years, this former BBC costume designer has published a dozen easy-to-use sourcebooks covering 40 centuries of fashion, making them the most comprehensive record of fashion and…

Article
Galalith – Jewelry Milk Stone

In 1898, Wilhelm Krische, owner of a factory that made history books and a stone printing shop, patented one of the first plastics. But he had no way of knowing that thirty years later, Coco Chanel would take the “milk stone” Krische had developed…

Article
The Czar’s Gold Masterpieces

The Kremlin Armory houses unique collections of precious items that mirror the artistic wealth of the country and the relations with other peoples and regions. They include the fantastic testimonies to Russian goldsmith art from the 12th…

Article
Georgian Cloisonne Enamel

In the conditions of world globalization, a big part of modern mankind realized how important human ties are to their roots. Once neglected traditions today acquire vital importance. People search for and go back to old traditions, create…

Article
Is There a Jewelry Avant-garde?

The term avant-garde is freighted with baggage from its source in military language. Consider the implications of applying the idea of an armed vanguard to the arts: The term assumes a condition in which a smaller group leads the way for a larger…

Article
20th Century Swiss Jewelry Designs

A representative cross-section of jewelry design in Switzerland in the last century, entitled “The Art of Jewelry in Switzerland in the 20th Century,” was shown from June through August 2003 at the Museo Vela in Ligornetto. Thereafter, the…

Article
The Cheapside Hoard

A cache of treasures that had lain hidden for some 300 years was unearthed in 1912, during excavation work in the Cheapside area of London. This was therefore known as the Cheapside Hoard and it is a collection of considerable historical importance.…

Article
History of Gemstone Engravings

The art of gem cutting (glyptics in Greek) is one of the oldest testimonies to how installed, fascinating miniatures can transform gemstones into tiny works of art with immense charisma and magical significance. Decoration, symbols and…

Article
Emergence of Modern Jewelry

The Jewelry Museum of Pforzheim possesses one of the most remarkable collections of modern jewelry. This exhibition of works, which is divided into four decades, offers a captivating view of the emergence and development of an entirely new…

Article
Gold of Africa: Jewellery and Ornaments from Ghana

Now this is a truly attractive book. One of those coffee table type books dripping with gorgeous National Geographic quality photos, or maybe Smithsonian quality – and all about metal and gold objects. Besides being a beautiful book full of…

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