Helen Woodhull, 65, designer of jewelry in ancient styles, dies

Helen Woodhull, a prominent New York jewelry designer whose work echoed ancient and antique themes in silver, gold and precious stones, died on Jan. 29 at her home in the West Village in Manhattan, The New York Times reports. She was 65.

The death was announced on her Web site, www.woodhulljewelry.com. Andrea Goodman of Lenox, Mass., a friend, reportedly said she appeared to have suffered a stroke, and no autopsy was performed.

In the course of nearly 40 years, Ms. Woodhull operated three stores on the Upper East Side, furnished designs for sale at Tiffany, Cartier, and Georg Jensen, and for the last 10 years was associated exclusively with James Robinson Inc., a Park Avenue firm dealing mostly in antique jewelry, silver and porcelain. She created more than 300 distinctive pieces of jewelry patterned after Egyptian amulets, Chinese jade, or intricate Greek and Roman intaglios carved, incised and engraved into stone or metal, the Times reports. Her work became part of private collections throughout the world.

A native of Morristown, N. J., Helen Woodhull studied at the Parsons School of Design but did not graduate. Instead, according to Goodman and Joan Boening, the president of James Robinson, she came into her career as much by happenstance as by choice.

After Parsons, she traveled widely and returned awed by history and historical designs, bringing back a trove of collector’s pieces that she sold at her first shop, The Leogryph, which she opened near the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1965, the Times reports.

Soon, customers would ask her to mount a newly bought amulet to wear, the Times reports. At first she was reluctant to tamper with ancient objects, but she said she realized that they had been created to adorn an ancient’s body in the first place and started creating suitable settings for them.

Eventually she decided to create her own jewelry, assisted for the last 30 years by a master jeweler, John Chirinian, who will continue to work with her designs, Boening reportedly said.

Ms. Woodhull closed the first store in 1968 and designed jewelry for Georg Jensen. She was one of the few young designers working under their own names for Tiffany and Cartier. In the late 1970’s she opened her second store on Madison Avenue at 65th Street, and she moved it to Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in 1988.

She closed that store in 1994 but continued to design.

Ms. Woodhull is survived by three sisters, Anne Woodhull of Westfield, N.J., and Charlotte and Katherine Woodhull of Morristown.

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine