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Betty Cooke – Modernist Artisan

betty cooke

I have been collecting Betty Cooke jewelry since the early 1980s and have always been attracted to the elegance and simplicity of her designs, which gives her jewelry a timeless quality.

Betty has been designing jewelry since she graduated from the Maryland Institute in 1946.  Back then she and her husband, Bill Steinmetz, renovated a house on Tyson Street in Baltimore, Maryland and built a studio for the selling of her designs.  Her first important recognition came when the Walker Art Center included some of her pieces in their “Good Design” show in the mid 40’s.

I was lucky enough to meet Betty Cooke in the early 1990s.  She was full of energy and very much on top of her game.  I  purchased many pieces from her over the next 20 years.

In June of 1995, there was a major restrospective show of Betty’s work at the Meyerhoff Gallery of the Maryland Institute, College of the Arts.  It was a stunning exhibition.

I went to the opening night of the show by myself.  Upon entering the show, Betty came over to me, took my arm and we walked the show talking about her pieces, while she introduced me to many of the patrons who attended the event.  I had only known Betty, for maybe a year at that point, and felt very honored.

I still collect Betty’s work.  A few pieces from my collection are shown below.  I especially love her earlier jewelry, the concepts and construction are incredible, the soldering, seamless.

Betty has won many awards over her career and is considered one of America’s top leading designers of modernist jewelry for the past almost 65 years.

An excellent source for vintage Betty Cooke can be found at

Here are some examples of her work.

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Antique Jewelry of Java, Indonesia – Ethnic Jewlery


On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I came across a fascinating and unique display of antique ethnic gold jewelry from the Island of Java in Indonesia. All of the pieces in the exhibition originated from the 8th to the early 10th century and they provide a fascinating glimpse into the art of jewelry that existed in that locale at that time. Necklaces, hair ornaments, earrings, rings and bracelets were cast, embossed and decorated with a fine precision that has been lost through the centuries.

In eight century  Indonesia, gold was not simply a precious metal but was revered as sacred. Skilled goldsmiths employed techniques such as granulation, filigree, sheet work, casting, weaving and repousse. Gold was treated with alum and salt to redden it until the 19th century when craftsmen turned to nitric acid to produce the desired effect.

Many of these  early forms and variants of decorative techniques have survived through the ages and we can see styles and techniques that have influenced the jewelry of today.

Please enjoy viewing pictures from the Eilenberg – Rosen exhibit that I’ve included below…………………..

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Francisco Rebajes – Master Modernist Jewelry Artisan


A native of The Dominican Republic, Francisco Rebajes emigrated to the US in the early 1920’s. In the early 1930’s, while the nation was in the grips of the great depression, Rebajes was selling his small hand made metal sculptures on the streets of  New York  just to survive. Then one day, at the famous Washington Square Outdoor Art Show, Juliana Force, director of the Whitney Museum of Art, spotted his work and bought his entire inventory. With this seed money he was able to open his first shop on West 4th street in New York’s Greenwich Village.

As time moved on Rebajes opened several other stores in the Village gradually becoming a part of the overall artisan culture that was thriving there during the 1940’s and early 50’s.  Sam Kramer, the famed surrealist jeweler, and Rebajes were friends and you can see Kramer’s influence in some of Rebajes’ designs from this period. Kramer’s influence is evident in the biomorphic brooch pictured below.

Rebajes eventually became very successful and in the early 1950’s opened a gorgeous upscale shop on 5th Avenue. By this time Rebajes’ copper and silver jewelry was very popular and was being marketed to shops all over the country. It took a workshop of 100 people to churn out these mass produced designs.

Rebajes was a true master artisan. I especially appreciate his earlier works. The hand crafted pieces that were made before his jewelry went national and  mass produced are truly masterful.

Here are some examples of earlier hand made and rarer cast items…………………..

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Lisa and Scott Cylinder – Jewelry Artisans


After searching major craft shows for years, I finally made my find.

While most contemporary craft jewelry is fairly similar in style, Lisa & Scott Cylinder’s jewelry is exciting and innovative, which touched my soul.  Their jewelry from beginning to end finishes well, like a good book.  From their creativity & techniques, the materials and vintage found objects, down to their handmade pin backs, the art jewelry pieces are true gems.

The Cylinders have been creating jewelry since 1988, directly upon graduation from major university jewelry programs.  In the last 10 years, they’ve ventured into creating more serious and substantial one of a kind pieces that has truly expanded their focus and will be the reason they will soon be recognized as major American jewelry artisans.

A few years back, my local paper featured Lisa & Scott Cylinder’s art jewelry in the weekend section for an upcoming, upscale local craft show.  I wanted the piece that was pictured on the front cover.  It was love at first sight.  I planned on being first in line opening day and couldn’t sleep the night before.  I rushed to their booth and to my disappointment found out the piece I desired was sold weeks before.  My heart dropped, but soon I felt better when I found another great piece that was for sale.  I bought my first piece of their jewelry and have been collecting their works ever since.

Lisa & Scott Cylinder creates a very limited number of art jewelry items.  All the jewelry is one of a kind.  They have been working on an exhibition – “Transpositions” – this past year, which will be opening at Velvet Da Vinci Gallery, in San Francisco, Ca., Aug. 11 – Sept. 17, 2010.

If you are lucky enough to be in San Francisco at this time, you must stop by the show and feast your eyes on some incredible creations.  A better idea would be to purchase a piece of their art jewelry, (a great investment).  See the Cylinder’s work soon in a museum near you.

Here are a few examples of the Cylinder’s jewelry…………………

Find more examples of Lisa and Scott Cylinder’s jewelry at

Written by km.

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Vintage Hair Combs – Hair Jewelry

Vintage Hair Combs

Hair combs have been around for centuries and have been used in all parts of the world. The earliest hair combs were made of bone, ivory and wood. Eventually materials such as silver, tin and brass were also used.

Later in time, during the 19th century, tortoise shell and bone hair combs came into favor. Besides their inherent beauty, they were also easy materials to heat and could be bent into any desired shape.

Then, in the late 1860’s, a new material was discovered. The material was called Celluloid and was essentially one of the first man made plastics. This discovery changed the whole dynamic of the hair comb industry. Celluloid was cheaper and easier to use then horn, ivory or tortoise shell. It could also be made to look like any of the fore mentioned natural materials. A happy day indeed for the beleaguered turtle and elephant populations.

During the 1920’s and 30’s the celluloid hair comb experienced its golden age. Fanciful designs in faux ivory or tortoise were adorned with all manner of gem stones and rhinestones. These beautiful objects were the height of fashion and a few survive to this day thanks to the efforts of diligent collectors who have taken it upon themselves to care for these delicate objects.

Recently, I was lucky enough to purchase a partial collection of vintage hair combs. They date from the 1920’s and 30’s and are wonderful examples of the style and design of that period.

Here are some images…………..please enjoy viewing them and let me know what you think.

Make sure to click on the picture to view the enlargement.

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Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin

With a career that spans 6 decades Pierre Cardin has to be considered one of the most inventive and influential fashion designers of the 20th century.
In 1945 he was working at the house of Madame Paquin, later leaving it to join Marcelle Chaumont, who was Madame Vionnet’s assistant. In the following years he worked with Schiaparelli, and Jean Cocteau.
Then, starting in 1947, he spent 3 years with Christian Dior.
What a rich and wonderful start to a career that would eventually lead to the opening of his own couture house in 1950.

My favorite period of Cardin’s design has to be the 1960’s – 1970’s. His fresh designs embraced the themes of science-fiction and travel to outer space. The space age 3-D shift, the astronaut men’s look and the “white breasts” dress. Materials never before used in fashion such as vinyl and metal rings were adorned with brooches made of carpenters nails, and diamonds. Tight leather trousers, knit cat suits, close-fitting helmets and bat wing jumpsuits were all part of his collections.

For decades he has amazed the world with his innovations. As a fashion designer, he has been continually experimenting with the ideas of abstraction, exaggeration and technology.
One could call him an architect designer.

The merging of fashion and architecture is fully evident in the following video where the 2008-2009 collection is revealed.

You have to check out the Pierre Cardin official website. As innovative as his clothing designs this site is a visual masterpiece while also displaying his oeuvre of past and present projects and designs.

Pierre Cardin Website
Pierre Cardin Website

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Cloche Encounters – Radical Fashion Statement of the 1920’s


It’s the roaring 20’s, the Jazz Age. The world is going through a momentous change. WW1 has just ended, the middle class is on the rise and women are beginning to assert a new found independence. Fashion gets swept along with all this change and starts going through a revolution of its own. The old Victorian and Edwardian fashions just do not work in this new world. Looser and freer styles which present new choices come into being.

Straight dropped waist dresses featuring rising hemlines, bold colors, and rich fabrics are enthusiastically embraced by the new woman and not only did 1920s fashions look totally different the young women wearing them felt and acted differently.

Amidst all this change a new type of hat was created which would become the iconic head covering for the entire decade. This particular hat was called the Cloche. Cloche means bell in French and indeed the basic shape of the cloche is that of a bell. Eventually, the term “Cloche” came to designate all of the streamlined, tight-fitting hats that were created in the 1920s.

Worn low and straight on the forehead, nearly obscuring the eyebrows, the cloche accentuated the streamlined silhouette of the flapper era.

While the cloche hat never really went totally out of style it had a strong resurgence in the 1960’s. Many hats from that time were blatant copies of their earlier cousins from the 1920’s, albeit using newer fabrics and updated construction techniques. If one is seriously interested in purchasing an authentic 1920’s cloche some home work on fabric and construction techniques are in order since many sellers use the term “cloche” or “flapper style” to describe a whole host of bell hats from many different periods.

Here are some examples of authentic 1920’s cloche hats ——

Straw Cloche - 1920's

From the Slapmefabulous collection

1920's Felt Cloche

Available at svintage

1920's Straw Cloche

Can be found at marvita13

There aren’t many nice 20’s cloches to be found online but fell free to comment about these few classics I’ve managed to find.

As an added treat check out this video.

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American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity is the first Costume Institute exhibition drawn from the newly established Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Met. It explores developing perceptions of the modern American woman from 1890 to 1940 and how they have affected the way American women are seen today. Focusing on archetypes of American femininity through dress, the exhibition reveals how the American woman initiated style revolutions that mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation. “Gibson Girls,” “Bohemians,” “Flappers” and “Screen Sirens,” among others, helped lay the foundation for today’s American woman.

The lavish garments are presented on mannequins in imaginative period vignettes.

This beautiful exhibit runs from May 5, 2010 to August 15, 2010. If you are in New York it’s well worth a visit and if not then please take a few minutes to enjoy this wonderful video presentation.

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Summer Necklaces


The Memorial Day holiday has just passed ushering in the true summer season. Light weight and simple clothing is generally the norm for this time of year. How great to be able to liven up your wardrobe with a unique statement necklace. The trends are all over the place this season but I’ve picked out a few interesting and moderately priced pieces for your consideration that just might make summer even more fun.

Check out Elle online for the Michael Kor’s summer lucite fashion necklace.

Or check out Etsy for a more affordable alternative.

Lucite Bubble Necklace

Available at MissUFO

Below are some other fun summer necklace options:

Summer Rings

Find this necklace at nygstyle

Turquoise, Aquamarine,Crystal Quartz Necklace

From GiGi B Designs

Sterling Silver Swirls


Art Glass Necklace

At 2 Sisters Jewels

And lastly a blatant attempt at self promotion……………… Direct from slapmefabulous:

Art Deco Lucite Disc Necklace
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Vintage Swim Wear Again


I just found a great Jantzen wool bathing suit from the 1930’s and for some reason, maybe because of the warmer weather, I can’t get swim wear out of my mind. Even though I did a brief tour of swim wear in my last post I thought it might be fun to surf around Etsy and other sites for more vintage men’s and women’s  bathing suits for sale right now.

Make sure to visit this link on beefcake swimwear for a great history of men’s beach fashion.

Oh, and check out the 2010  ad campaign for Jantzen.  The video has a fun retro style.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Here is a small selection of the most interesting suits out there starting with my latest Jantzen find.

Vintage Jantzen Swim Suit
Vintage Jantzen Swim Suit

60's Neon Pink Psychedelic Bikini Halter Top Sexy Beach Hippie Swimsuit1960’s Neon Pink Psychedelic Bikini Halter Top  from lightyearsvintage

Vintage 1950s DeWeese Pin-Up Vintage 1950s DeWeese Pin-Up from PINKYAGOGO

Catalina Polka Dot Bathing Suit 14Catalina Polka Dot Bathing Suit 14 from AphroditeEternal

MONOKINI vintage SwimsuitMONOKINI vintage Swimsuit from TractorDog

1960’s Yellow Hollywood Wiggle Swimsuit from FASHIONRERUN