Vintage Jewelry Spotlight: Daniel Brush’s Jellybean Suite



There’s lots of jewelry you might describe as eye candy, but this here is on a different level. A different dimension, you could even say, one where the lines between jewelry and art are blurred and pure imagination reigns supreme.

Jellybean suite bracelet and earrings

Jellybean Suite bracelet and earrings with rubies and diamonds in artistic pink Bakelite, pure gold, and 18k gold, 1991; Daniel Brush, available at Siegelson

This enchanting bracelet and earring suite represents the fine work of Daniel Brush, a New York–based painter and sculptor who began experimenting with jewelry 35 years ago. His artwork and jewels have been featured in several exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and “Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light” at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.

Inspired by ancient jewelry and objets, Brush is best known for his self-taught gold granulation techniques and use of unconventional materials such as steel, aluminum, and synthetic components. Here, the juxtaposition of Bakelite with gemstones, transformed into wearable art, is testament to the artist’s vision of creating imaginative jewelry that’s more about design than intrinsic value. During the 1930s and 1940s, Bakelite became a replacement for base metal in costume jewelry, but Brush elevated Bakelite jewelry to an art form, according to Siegelson, the New York City–based dealer of museum-quality vintage and estate jewels and a leading source for rare collectible Daniel Brush art jewelry.

Brush’s masterful granulation is on display here, but is perhaps overshadowed by the design’s leading ladies: the impossibly glossy Burmese ruby cabochons. Casting such rare gemstones in the role of luscious cherry- or watermelon-flavored jelly beans requires a certain insouciance and ingenuity. Ditto pairing them with sculpted Bakelite instead of a more luxurious precious metal or carved gemstone.

High jewelry wrought with unconventional materials is a concept that many contemporary jewelry designers have explored via horn, concrete, ebony, teak, even meteorite—in rather gloomy white/black/brown color stories. But as Siegelson points out, in pastel pink and cerise, Brush’s chosen palette is more colorful. More luscious, more joyful.… And to collectors of exceptional ’90s-era fine jewelry? Irresistible.

Top: Image courtesy of Siegelson

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All That Glitters writer

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