Female jewelers, goldsmiths, and artists have worked diligently for centuries to make names for themselves within the jewelry world, but it is rare to see their works collectively. Now, a new exhibition centers on their jewelry specifically and how women have shaped the industry.
The exhibit, Women of Vision: 70 Years of Shaping the Jewelry World 1950–Present, will be on view through May 12 at the Mahnaz Collection gallery in New York. The exhibit features more than 250 pieces of fine jewelry by women whose works are now priceless collectibles as well as women whose work is just beginning to lift off, organizers say.
Mahnaz Collection founder Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos says women’s history in jewelry was built over time. But it includes a wide array of experiences, including female makers who were famously successful in their time and are largely unknown today, and contemporary designers, whose work has sometimes enjoyed more support and success in today’s environment.
“I wanted to highlight 70 years of women transforming jewelry because often people don’t have a historical context that women have been making jewelry—very important jewelry—for a long time,” Bartos says.
While the gallery does not focus on sex or gender, race, or diversity—“I’ve just looked for excellence in design and excellence in craftsmanship”—she also found that putting this first-of-its-kind exhibit together has been educational as well as exhilarating.
What these women have in common is not only their talent and design eye but also their innate understanding of femininity, what women want to wear, and how jewelry should feel on the female body, Bartos says.
Bartos says she wanted to surprise and delight viewers by bringing together influential and emerging contemporary makers.
The exhibit includes some of her longtime favorites, such as Gerda Flöckinger. Bartos describes her as “a revolutionary jeweler in terms of technique. She showed so many people how to fuse metals at such a high point that they almost disintegrated. Then, she scattered the gems through that metal. You should see her gems—they’re luminous.”
There’s Vivianna Torun, a woman whose personal beauty rivaled her jewelry. “Her work was simple, but she had a way of really figuring out how a torque could sit, really sit, on a collarbone. She understood a woman’s body.… She really understood the female form.”
There also will be a large collection of Noma Copley; right now, you can buy some of her work in a Christie’s auction highlighting surrealist art. “She was photographed endlessly by Man Ray, but she herself was an artist,” Bartos says. “She did this sewing kit where all of the pieces are jewelry, from the buttons to the scissors to the spools. It’s utilitarian, but it also looks lavish. She should be much better known for her work.”
Bartos also hopes the exhibit will support today’s female jewelers who are making classics, including artists such as Solange Azagury-Partridge. Bartos says the jeweler “sent a beautiful collection of newer and historical work, showing her trajectory. She’s the grand dame of independent jewelers.”
Artists highlighted in the exhibition include Alice Cicolini, Melanie Eddy, Cora Sheibani, Tess Sholom, Van Gelder Jewellery, and sculptor Sophia Vari. Additional exhibitors are Barbara Cartlidge, Angela Cummings, Nanna Ditzel, Claire Falkenstein, Leonor Fini, Zaha Hadid, Theresia Hvorslev, Claude Lalanne, E.R. Nele, Marianne Ostier, Alicia Penalba, Elsa Peretti, Wendy Ramshaw, Eveli Sabatie, Verma Nequatewa (Sonwai), among others.
Top: With color that takes your breath away, this Cora Sheibani malachite ring is among the many pieces featured in Women of Vision: 70 Years of Shaping the Jewelry World 1950–Present at the Mahnaz Collection gallery in New York.@jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine