When jewelry historian and collector Kimberly Klosterman began collecting jewelry from the 1960s and 1970s, works from major talents of the day were easy to come by, and relatively cheap. “In the 90s, everyone thought the jewelry was hideous,” she said with a laugh during an online event last week where she previewed Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s, a traveling exhibition of roughly 120 pieces from her mid-century trove, currently installed at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Klosterman’s unique cache is one of the finest assemblages of jewelry from the era, featuring creations from both established and under-the-radar independent jewelers including Andrew Grima, Gilbert Albert, Arthur King, Jean Vendome and Barbara Anton, along with works from artist-jewelers who created pieces for Bulgari, Cartier, Boucheron and other major jewelry houses.
Collectively, the jewels represent a pioneering and decidedly forward-looking era in jewelry design. “Jewelry of the 1960s and 1970s was as groundbreaking as the era itself,” Cincinnati-based Klosterman wrote in the show notes. “The space race, rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles, the Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassinations, the Civil Rights movement, Pop Art, the Women’s Movement, the widespread use of drugs, the Pill and the concept of Free Love were all facets of cultural change associated with these two decades.” Those happenings and movements, “set the stage for what jewelers had to offer.”
It makes sense that the period’s jewelry output was freewheeling and often exploratory. “The individual makers represented in Simply Brilliant referred to themselves as artists first, jewelers second,” Klosterman noted. “They approached their work as a modern art form. Largely utilizing yellow gold and incorporating both precious and semi-precious gems, these artists were inspired by nature. They focused on organic forms, favored abstract shapes and concepts related to space-age trends.”
They also used unconventional materials including coral, shell, geodes and moldavite, “and were unrivaled in the texture they brought to the jewelry,” she added. “Theirs was a style that was appreciated by individuals who were looking for something different in an era when ‘different’ was best.”
Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s, is on display through Feb. 6, 2022, in the Vance Waddell and Mayerson Galleries at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The Ohio/Kentucky chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association and the Cincinnati AGS/GIA Alum are co-hosting a tour and talk with Klosterman on Jan. 30 (1 p.m. – 5 p.m.) at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Register for the event live or over Zoom here. —Emili Vesilind
Top photo: Arthur King brooch with hardstone, gold and colored diamonds, formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol (all photos by Tony Walsh, courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum and Kimberly Klosterman)