American Jewelry has a rich history ranging from Native American handcrafted work to the present day's use of untraditional materials and construction methods.
A Short History of American Jewelry
As early as 12,000 years ago, native tribes used rawhide, stones, and shells to create adornments unique to each geographical area. This jewelry told stories, recorded history, and represented spiritual and cultural aspects of each tribe. With the introduction of silver and glass beads, Native adornments entered a new area of creativity.
America benefited from the arrival of talented immigrants in the early 1900s, The Heyman and Tiffany families among them. The introduction of platinum, new stone setting techniques, and unusual gemstones like morganite and kunzite added to the excitement. The discovery of gold, sapphires, tourmalines, turquoise and pearls in America provided a rich resource for artisans.
Geometric shapes and clean lines denoted the Deco era. The thirties saw Hollywood stars buying and wearing diamond jewelry in particular. Jeweler Harry Winston acquired large gemstones, among them the Hope diamond. WWII changed the scene with the use of South American aquamarines and tourmalines. The 50's and 60's emphasized big gems, color, and whimsy.
Jewelers widely used rock crystal, wood, onyx, and coral during the next two decades with a minimalist approach in the '90s.
The interest in Handmade in America in recent years has given new life to this country's jewelry artists.
Contemporary American Jewelry
Today, the USA's hand crafted work encompasses various materials and styles with influences from many cultures. As this country is a melting pot of races and people, handcrafts made here exhibit an international flavor. A wide variety of metals such as brass, copper, silver, gold, and platinum appear. 3-D plastic, titanium, and stainless steel also are used to create modern shapes. A broad spectrum of gemstones, opaque and translucent, adorn rings, earrings, bracelets, pins, and necklaces.
American Crafts by Robbie Dein presents contemporary USA artisans who employ various materials and techniques.
Many take their inspiration from our abundant natural resources and beauty. Intricate leaf patterns in brass and copper decorate earrings handcrafted by Vermont's Silver Forest Studio. Rhode Island artist, Nancy Reid Carr, uses photographs of flowers, golden beaches, and birds heat transferred to wide aluminum cuffs. Delicate ferns, butterflies, and bees are laser-cut from Aspen, Mahogany, and Walnut woods by the crafters at Georgia's Forestique studio.
Michael Michaud of New York State turned a love of nature into cast dogwood blossom pins, pussy willow pendants, and pea pod earrings filled with pearl "peas."
Innovative Techniques in American Jewelry
High-tech meets fine art when colorful resin, crystal, and glass beads set in stainless steel take the form of trees, geckos, birds, or Judaic symbols from New York City's Seeka studio.
The exuberant use of color and pioneering work with the metal Niobium is the hallmark of California-based Holly Hosterman's designs. Her Holly Yashi line includes hummingbird, maple, ginkgo, and oak leaf earrings with timeless appeal.
American Jewelry has Shimmer and Shine
Artists designing in this country use plenty of sparkle too. New York-based Anna Koplick Designs combine hand-enameling with Swarovski Elements, semi-precious stones, and antique glass beads. The result is a vintage-inspired look for the contemporary woman.
With Snooty studio, Boston area artist Janine Taylor takes a more straightforward approach to sparkle with her signature crystal earrings in a rainbow of delectable shades.
And Chicago artist Patricia Locke creates exquisite adornments with distinctive colors, shimmer, and design.
American Jewelry in Glass
Glass, especially dichroic glass, is used extensively in many artists creations. Dichroic means "two colors," or the ability to show multiple colors at once.
Intricately patterned fused glass mixed with hand-painted enamels form the basis of MOMO Designs from Massachusettes. Delores Barrett creates luminous "orbs'' lined with dichroic glass to wear as earrings or pendants in her California studio. Stefani Wolf resources "Picasso Tile'' glass beads from Bohemia to fashion a fresh, modern take on wrappable necklaces in many hues.
Gold and Silver American Jewelry
Classic yet innovative designs in gold and silver are also found in America. Two examples are Ann Lewis and Florida-based B & R Jewelers. Clean, flowing lines, superb craftsmanship, and affordability distinguish both of these designers.
- Maley uses silver and 18K vermeil in her signature "Mobius" line adding textured surfaces to contrast with the metal's shine.
Sonoma Artworks combines the beauty and allure of gemstones with sterling silver and 14K vermeil elegantly and timelessly.
Contemporary American Jewelry
The artisan jeweler is flourishing in the USA using new fabrication techniques, a rich source of traditional and 21st-century materials, plus an ever-expanding field of inspiration.