Jewelry and Its Place Among the Decorative Arts

A three-day conference titled “Expressions of the Modern: Jewelry in the Context of the Decorative Arts 1910-1945,” discussed the relationship of style in jewelry and style in architecture, fashion and interior and industrial design. The conference was held in June in New York City and was directed by Joyce Jonas, president of the American Society of Jewelry Historians and adjunct assistant professor of arts at New York University, and Lisa Koenigsberg, adjunct associate professor of arts at NYU.

Twenty speakers lectured on all aspects of the modern movement in the decorative arts between the end of the Edwardian Age and the end of World War II. The foundation for the conference was laid in the following presentations: “Paris in 1925: Defining the Art Deco Style” by Martin Eidelberg; “American Architecture and Design, 1929-1945” by R. Craig Miller; “Defining Origins of Modernism” by David Revere McFadden; and “Culture and Context: American Design and Decorative Arts, 1930-1945” by W. Scott Braznell.

Other speakers included June Weir, who presented “European and American Fashion, 1920-1945,” and Patricia Mears, who spoke on “The Impact of Surrealism on Fashion and Jewelry: Schiaparelli and Her Contemporaries.”

The central focus of the conference was on jewelry, however, and this was manifested by lectures in three categories: major jewelry companies, period styles and jewelry business. Three major jewelry companies from 1910 to 1945 were discussed by Eric Nussbaum on Cartier, Henri Barguirdjian on Van Cleef & Arpels and John Loring on Tiffany & Co. Period styles were covered by Joyce Jonas with

A seminal lecture on “Recognizing Transitional Jewelry of 1910 to 1920.” Audrey Friedman spoke about “Geometry and Cubism of Art Deco Jewelry and Decorative Arts.” Penny Proddow and Marion Fasel presented “The Age of Glamour: Hollywood Jewels of the 1930s.” Toni Greenbaum lectured on “Jewelry from the Studio: Constructionism vs. Biomorphism.” Barbara Raleigh spoke on costume jewelry of the 1930s and ’40s with an emphasis on Trifari. And Ettagale Blauer described “Jewelry at the 1939 World’s Fair.”

Different perspectives on the business of jewelry were presented by Karen Lucic on “Marketing Modern Decorative Arts in the U.S. in the 1920s,” Joseph Samuel on “Jewelry Business 1925-1945,” André Chervin on “Crafting Fine Jewelry, Then and Now” and Annella Brown on “A Connoisseur’s Eye: Collecting Jewelry from the 1920s-1940s.”

Each evening brought special events for the participants: a private reception at Cartier with a short address by Chairman Ralph Destino, a reception and private preview of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Sale at Sotheby’s with a lecture on “Exoticism and Opulence in Art Deco” by J. Alastair Duncan and a reception at the American Craft Museum featuring the exhibit “Messengers of Modernism: American Studio Jewelry, 1940-1960.”

Jewelry historians depend on this seminar and others like it for the integration and dissemination of information. The reason, they say, is that though the literature for jewelry history has burgeoned in the past several years, it is still difficult to find in most bookstores and libraries.