Attention, Jewelry Collectors: Daniel Brush’s Big Moment

Jewelry designer Daniel Brush, whose work has been featured on this blog, is an American jewelry artist and sculptor whose name may be unfamiliar to you, even though in-the-know jewelry specialists and collectors recognize him as one of the greatest living contemporary American jewelers. He’s on a level with JAR, you could say, though their aesthetics and personalities are quite different.

Notoriously publicity averse, Brush tends to fly under the radar—his choice—except among his longtime admirers and the elite group of private collectors who appreciate his intellectual, multidisciplinary approach and magician-like technical skills, both of which render his jewelry somewhere between adornment and high art.

You may have seen his work on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and at shows such as TEFAF (Brush is represented exclusively by New York rare jewels and art dealer Siegelson).

Despite the extreme exclusivity and scarcity of Daniel Brush’s product, the spotlight is shining on him at this precise moment.

Phillips is hosting an exhibition of Brush’s famous Actresses series at its Park Avenue location as part of NYC Jewelry Week 2019 (on view through Nov. 24), a rare opportunity to see this showcase of steel and diamond ID bracelets, each engraved with the names of the most iconic actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood (pictured below).

And leading the “Brush buzz” (a term the artist would no doubt abhor) is Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture ($65), a new title published last month by Rizzoli Electa. It’s the definitive compendium of the artist’s body of work over the last 50 years (inclusive of Actresses—head straight to page 136) and offers the reader an intimate glimpse into his creative process.

Written by renown jewelry author Vivienne Becker, the book is enlivened with compelling photography by Takaaki Matsumoto, principal and president of award-winning Matsumoto Inc., who shot and designed the book in close collaboration with Brush.

Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos penned the book’s foreword; the acclaimed French jeweler has partnered with Brush on several collections, so Bos’ remarks come from both a place of deep knowledge and appreciation. “He has a certain excessiveness, but at the same time, his projects are serene and thoughtful,” Bos writes. “Part of the richness of Daniel’s objects and jewels lies in his fabulous talent for storytelling.”

The book introduces the uninitiated jewelry lover to Brush’s bold, expressive voice and his enduring signatures: sculptural cuffs and other adornments that reference antiquity but absolutely feel of this era, or even of the future, and an affinity for unconventional materials in jewelry. Aluminum is a metal dear to his DNA, but, as the book notes, he has also worked with aerospace rare earth magnets, Bakelite, Greek mosaic face beads, lava, mogul diamonds, swan’s down, and tungsten carbide.

It’s an altogether essential primer on one of the great American jewelry artists familiar only to the in-crowd. That is, until now.

So if you have the means and desire to acquire a Daniel Brush creation for your collection, get yourself something now before everyone else catches on.

Below are a few images from the book, with notes personally provided to JCK from Brush’s wife, Olivia, in the captions.

Daniel Brush Empress Dowager necklaces
Necklaces for the Empress Dowager 2000–2015. “Daniel worked on Necklaces for the Empress Dowager for close to 30 years. The necklaces are only to be worn when seated. Pictured are two. The one with pearls…is a sliding lariat with an aluminum slider set with natural colored diamonds. The second is aluminum and hand engraved, set with chalcedony, rose quartz, onyx, Colombian emeralds, and Sardinian coral, all interspersed with Moghul emerald beads. It’s close to 48 inches, all hand formed. Daniel cast nothing.”
Daniel Brush Poppies series
From Poppies in stainless steel, hand cut from billet, engraved, and set with rose-cut diamonds, 2002–2006
Daniel Brush cuffs
Cuffs in stainless steel with Burmese rubies and Burmese sapphires and rose-cut diamonds, 2006–2012
Daniel Brush aluminum bracelets
“These are aluminum hand-formed and -engraved handheld sculptures. One could stretch and say they are bracelets, but they are of such delicacy that that would jeopardize the work if they were worn. It is about capturing the light…to make the work feel ethereally transparent. They are all set with single-cut, full-cut, and rose-cut diamonds.”
Daniel Brush Actresses
Steel cuff bangles from the Actresses series, 2010–2016. “These are not to be viewed as individual bracelets, but more as a collection that identifies actresses. It is about reversing the role of jewelry as accessory and using these ID bracelets to begin remembrance. It is about the women, their work, and the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is not about steel cuffs, engraving, and diamonds [as] one might wear [them]. Daniel thought about this for over 30 years.”
Daniel Brush Van Cleef Arpels pieces
Clips and brooch made for Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1985. “The clips are pink ivory wood, 22k gold granulation, and Colombian emeralds. Pink ivory wood is the rarest wood in the world. The brooch is mastodon ivory, 22k gold granulation, and stainless steel. At the time, Daniel had a close relationship with Van Cleef & Arpels. This piece, along with four others to our knowledge, is the only time in the history of VCA that the engraving on the back is cosigned between VCA and Daniel Brush.”

Top: The cover of Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture by Vivienne Becker (all photos: Takaaki Matsumoto © Rizzoli Electa, 2019)


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Amy Elliott

JCK Contributing Editor

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