It’s often hard to believe that the term â€œmid-century modernâ€? applies to the post-World War II years between the 1940s and 1970s, yet some of the best designs we know today emerged from that era. Though the period is most celebrated for its innovations in architecture and home furnishings, the clean, sleek aesthetic perfected by artists such as Eames, Bertoia, and Saarinen even influenced the small-scale designs of jewelry.
When applied to jewelry, the mid-century modern movement, which rejected ornamentation, contradicts itself. However the fact that the jewelry adheres so faithfully to the intentions of the mid-century artists who pushed for simplicity enables me to look the other way and resist all temptation to point out the glaring oxymoron in the room.
The jewelry that developed in the middle of the 20th century managed to manifest the technological innovations of the time, one of which was space travel. As Kennedy introduced America to the moon, and television introduced us to Star Trek and Lost in Space, the existing designers took cues from science and created designs to reflect that ambiguous time known to be the ‘Space Age.’ Rocketry, satellites, and orbits launched into our homes in the form of lamps and coffee tables, while these designs landed on our bodies as highly modern jewelry, like Lapponia’s â€œLost in Spaceâ€? brooch.
If the â€œLost in Spaceâ€? brooch is too sculptural, perhaps Tuttle’s boomerang is more suiting. This simple, stunning, sterling brooch maintains the sharp lines representative of modernist design, while the pearl resting on the cusp offers the hint of geometrical symmetry to add balance to the asymmetrical shape of the boomerang.
Mobius’ wire-wrapped cuff allows one to display a fondness for pre-fab architecture as its sterling wires fence around the wrist, twisting in the center to liven an otherwise linear design.
If you prefer orbits to fences, then the New York modernist sterling cuff is the perfect accessory to flaunt your pension for all things galactic. The asymmetrical and soft lines shooting in disparate directions offer a stylized interpretation Saturn’s rings.
The gold vermeil over sterling earrings dangle comet tails from ears while the Scandinavian modernist ring enables one to wear an entire solar system on her finger.
Whether you’re a Trekkie, art collector, or just plain lover of all things modern, one thing is for sure: mid-century modern jewelry will remain forever fashionable thanks to its amazing ability to tap into both our imaginations and our unrelenting desires to simplify our overly-ornamented lives.
1. â€œLost in Spaceâ€? brooch by Weckstrom for Lapponia, c. 1973, $975.
2. Boomerangâ€? brooch by Tuttle, c. 1950, $225.
3. Wire-Wraped Cuff, Mobius, c. 1980, $350.
4. New York Modernist Bracelet, c. 1950, $695..
5. Modernist Studio Gold Vermeil over Sterling Earrings, c. 1950, $150.
6. Scandinavian Modernist Sterling Ring, c.1960, $125.
Jewelry available from trocadero.com/20thobsession.