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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 Auerbachmaffia.com

Here are some examples of her work.

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Ethnic Jewelry as Fashion

Ethnic Jewelry

Not a new trend, by any means, the wearing of ethnic jewelry has always added a unique perspective to all aspects of fashion. The appreciation of artistry from different cultures, in my humble opinion, shows a high level of sophistication and an understanding of the value that fine traditional crafts have for many around the globe. By adorning yourself with ethnic jewelry you are embracing the culture and traditions of the various regions of the world. You are also recognizing the artists that created it as well as defining you own unique personal style.

I have a few exceptional examples of antique and vintage ethnic jewelry that I would like to share with you.

The first two pieces pictured are Turkoman pendants. These necklaces were crafted by the nomadic peoples of central Asia and date from the 19th century. Notice the elegant and intricate designs made with gilded silver and adorned with Carnelian cabochons.

[Click on image to enlarge]

The next picture presents a vintage or antique necklace from Yemen. This necklace displays gorgeous and richly detailed silver work adorned with carnelian stones and small glass beads on the prayer box. An interesting note about silver jewelry from Yemen is that much of it was made by Jewish artisans from a community that was established there at the time of King Solomon.

The following item is truly amazing and refined. This bracelet is done in fine silver on wool and every small puzzle piece in the bracelet is held by the wool. Most definitely of middle eastern origin.

The last item is a cuff bracelet from Yemen which features an inlaid silver design with set carnelian stones.

We’ve only scratched the surface of ethnic and tribal jewelry but maybe you’ve been a little inspired to collect a piece or two along the way.

Let me know what you think.

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Organic Artisan Jewelry at The Philadelphia International Flower Show

Flower Show

Nowadays it seems to be the fashion to go “green”. What could be more in keeping with this trend than making sure your jewelry is organic and all natural. If this concept piques your interest you would have been delighted to view the exhibition at The Philadelphia International Flower Show this past weekend.

The jewelry design competition is featured each year at the show. Floral and jewelry designers create fantastic necklaces, bracelets, brooches and tiaras, with international themes. All are made using natural flora and plant materials. I look forward to viewing the designs each year and this year, through this blog thingy, I can share them with you.

Please enjoy the picture gallery where I’ve listed the jewelry pieces with their component elements below.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and please feel free to leave your comments.

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ED WIENER MODERNIST JEWELRY NECKLACE – PREVIEW

Ed Wiener

Here’s a preview of one item I’ll be listing tomorrow on Slapmefabulous, Etsy.

Executed in the early 1950’s, this pendant/necklace, hand crafted by one of the icons of the modernist jewelry movement, Ed Wiener, is truly a statement piece. Although deceptively simple in design this well crafted and solid form perfectly captures the prevailing artistic elements of the American mid century. Highly influenced by the drawings and mobiles of Alexander Calder, Wiener successfully translated those inspirations into a new aesthetic for jewelry and ornament.

The pendant is composed of brass, copper and silver and measures 2 1/2″ round. It comes with a brass chain but I imagine it originally with a suede or leather cord.

ED WIENER NECKLACE - 1950
ED WIENER NECKLACE - 1950

Check out the listing at Slapmefabulous on Etsy.com if you get a chance.