Designers / Industry

Renowned Jewelry Artist Daniel Brush Dies


Daniel Brush, a widely feted jeweler whose work has been featured in museums around the world, died on Nov. 26, according to posts from the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) and the Noguchi Museum. He was 75.

Brush was born in Cleveland in 1947. His parents owned a children’s clothing store. In a 2012 interview with MAD, he recalled being inspired by the Saturday classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

“I went there for years, loving to draw the armor,” he said. “I loved playing with little plastic jousting figures. And maybe because of the French impressionism there, it kind of stuck in my body.”

He credited his wife, Olivia, whom he met while attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, for inspiring him to go into jewelry and other craft work.

“I’m a painter. Painting is extremely pressurized and emotional for me,” he said in the MAD discussion. “When the referential context in my work was so overwhelming to me, I needed a diversion. And the diversion started when I met Olivia. I bought an ounce of gold for $35, and I made her wedding ring. And it was a perfect diversion.”

Brush continued to paint and became a professor of art at Georgetown University. But he also became well-known for his jewelry, and his work was featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and embraced by high-end retailers like Van Cleef & Arpels.

In 2020, The New York Times wrote that “Brush is widely considered by industry experts to be among the most exceptional jewelry artists working today.”

Profiles of him inevitably mentioned his “monkishness.”

“He meditates, he seeks,” wrote The Washington Post in 1998. “Brush has long worked in seclusion, attending to his exercises spiritual and technical with diligent devotion.”

It noted that he started each day by spending several hours sweeping the floor.

Still, no one doubted how seriously he took his work.

In 2020, he told Gem X, a group of young jewelers: “I’ve thought about the power of a jewel for 50 years. I’m sure all of you know that in the early writings—meaning the writings from the Talmud, or the writings you find in Arab cultures—it was the closest thing you could have to something bigger than yourself.”

Summing up his work in a 2019 podcast, he said: “If I get the chance to show something or share something, let the viewer make it themselves, with their eyes and their heart. My signature on it doesn’t mean anything to me. If there’s some sort of great dialogue that happens, how cool is that? To just be able to speak to somebody else, to really get a little deeper than the surface. That’s a big deal.”

JCK’s Amy Elliott featured his work in 2019.

Daniel Brush and wife Olivia had a son, Silla. No further information on survivors was available at the time of publication.

Photo: Nathan Crooker/courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

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By: Rob Bates

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