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Designing Britain 1945 - 1975 > The New Jewellery > Momentum 1975-1977
 
THE NEW JEWELLERY (1975 - 1987): A DOCUMENTATIONAL ACCOUNT
Momentum 1975-1977


 
Cover of the first edition of The New Jewelry : Trends + Traditions  published by Thames & Hudson  (1985) TNJ00830 Cover of the first edition of The New Jewelry : Trends + Traditions published by Thames & Hudson (1985)

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It is right and proper to begin this documentational overview of ‘The New Jewellery’(9) with the published account which surveyed this exciting international movement at its height and gave it a textual – if not stylistic - identity. Most practitioners and commentators on the subject agree that it was with the publication and circulation of this extremely important account that the phrase ‘The New Jewellery’ came to be the appellation by which this particular body of work from the mid-70s to late 80s became known. It is interesting to relate that this entire movement might have been known as ‘body sculpture’ or ‘wearable art’ or any of the other taxonomic mutations which were bandied about at editorial meetings between the authors and the publishers. It was felt by Thames and Hudson that ‘The New Jewellery’ was an unsellable and unpromising title for the book but, fortunately for posterity, the authors Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner held their ground.(10)

It is also fitting that the two most prominent British writers/promoters/ curators of this work make an appearance at the outset of this account. Their promotional energies, commitment and critical advocacy were vital, especially that of Ralph Turner who, in his position as Head of Exhibitions at the Crafts Council, was a major player in focusing the attention of the international community on this movement-in-progress.

In this book, Ralph Turner wrote the introductory overview, "A New Signature" and collected the vast body of illustrations while Peter Dormer wrote the chapters: "Expression and Design (Mainstream Abstract Jewelry)"; "Jewelry as Image (Mainstream Figurative Work)"; "Jewelry as Theatre (Radical Departures)". The cover featured an image of a neckpiece by David Watkins who had (and has) made significant contributions to jewellery art for decades. This book and its useful artists’ biographies became an essential bible for curators as well; one of the various ways through which many of the same artists had their work mediated. It is worth noting here that a paperback edition of the book was published in 1986 (reprinted again in 1991) and that a revised paperback edition appeared - such was its importance – in 1994 with a new cover and the added chapter "Jewlery and Dissent (Recent Directions)" authored by Turner. This latter account noted some of the changes in culture which had brought about an end to what might be dubbed the ‘High New Jewelleryism’ of the previous decade and a half.
 
IMAGE 2 :  Cover of the first edition of Contemporary Jewelry : A Critical Assessment 1945 – 1975  published by Studio Vista  (1976) TNJ00831 IMAGE 2 : Cover of the first edition of Contemporary Jewelry : A Critical Assessment 1945 – 1975 published by Studio Vista (1976)

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It would be remiss not to make reference to this important survey of some of the precursors and antecedents of The New Jewellery movement. Any student of contemporary international jewellery should acquaint themselves with the overview presented here which surveys the exciting period of jewellery-making of the 60s to mid 70s. Indeed, the book may be considered a companion volume to The New Jewelry Trends+Traditions since there is a clear chronological flow between the two. Early appearances of some who would go on to contribute to the New Jewellery field in the 80s – for example Susanna Heron and Caroline Broadhead - are instructive to study. It demonstrates how keen was the author, Ralph Turner, to promote and expose this work. As he states on page 104,
 
But with so much activity in jewelry…I feel sure that this neglected art will be considered one of the most active and challenging media to have re-emerged during this century.
 
The next decade and a half would prove him to be correct in his assessment. The book is now long out of print and is considered a rare and collectable tome.
 
IMAGE 3 : Electrum Gallery TNJ00832 IMAGE 3 : Electrum Gallery

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IMAGE 4 : Barbara Cartlidge  Jewellery Promoter, Author, Owner of Electrum Gallery TNJ00833 IMAGE 4 : Barbara Cartlidge Jewellery Promoter, Author, Owner of Electrum Gallery

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IMAGE 5 : Susanna Heron Exhibition Announcement  Electrum Gallery  16 October – 16 November  1974 TNJ00834 IMAGE 5 : Susanna Heron Exhibition Announcement Electrum Gallery 16 October – 16 November 1974

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IMAGE 6 : David Poston Exhibition Announcement
Electrum Gallery 29 April – 24 May  1975
TNJ00835 IMAGE 6 : David Poston Exhibition Announcement
Electrum Gallery 29 April – 24 May 1975

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These four interrelated images are included here as essential phenomena to pre-New Jewellery understanding. These antecedents and precursors to the New Jewellery movement as understood in this account are beyond its present scope, but useful texts to consult can be found in the bibliography. By way of being a jeweller herself and having met up with Ralph Turner via Ewan Philips Gallery, Barbara Cartlidge opened Electrum Gallery in London making Ralph Turner "responsible for gallery policy and promotion of younger artists"(11) in June 1971. Electrum was located at 21 South Molton Street – where it remains very active today(12). By the time of the David Poston exhibition, Electrum had championed much contemporary international jewellery of the time. It had held two exhibitions of the work of Susanna Heron in the early stages of her career; the image here is from her second exhibition held from 16 October – 16 November, 1974. Poston’s was the 24th exhibition that the gallery held and he is one of the innovators who straddles the pre-New Jewellery period and continued to produce work throughout the 70s and 80s. As Susanna Heron wrote in an account of 1983,
 
For a few years the atmosphere at Electrum was a vital and stimulating influence. Particularly memorable are Julia Manheim’s strong sculptural ebony and silver bangles (1974) and David Poston’s Twist it Yourself necklace in brightly coloured whipped cotton (1974) – a forerunner to Mecky van den Brink long knitted armpiece (1979).(13)
 
IMAGE 7 : Catalogue cover of the first Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall  24 June – 12 July , 1975 TNJ00836 IMAGE 7 : Catalogue cover of the first Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall 24 June – 12 July , 1975

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IMAGE 8 : Catalogue cover of the second Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall  9 July – 31 July 1976 TNJ00837 IMAGE 8 : Catalogue cover of the second Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall 9 July – 31 July 1976

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IMAGE 9 : Catalogue cover of the fourth Loot/Super Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall  9 July – 28 July 1979 TNJ00838 IMAGE 9 : Catalogue cover of the fourth Loot/Super Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall 9 July – 28 July 1979

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IMAGE 10 : Catalogue cover of the fifth Loot 80 exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall  12 November – 3 December 1980 TNJ00839 IMAGE 10 : Catalogue cover of the fifth Loot 80 exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall 12 November – 3 December 1980

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IMAGE 11 : Catalogue cover of the seventh Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall  2 November – 21 November 1981 TNJ00840 IMAGE 11 : Catalogue cover of the seventh Loot exhibition held at Goldsmiths Hall 2 November – 21 November 1981

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This first Loot Exhibition took place at the Goldsmiths Hall in Foster Lane, London from the 24th June 1975 to the 12 July 1975. It was the first in a series of Loot exhibitions organised under the directorship of Graham Hughes. They were designed to fulfil a perceived need, providing a commercial forum for the increasing number of small independent studio jewellers who were emerging onto the British scene. These useful catalogues, almost all of which provide interesting historical material including price lists, are ripe for further investigation into the development of contemporary British jewellery. (They are certainly much less useful as examples of interesting graphic design and typography of the period, however.) In the introductory essay to Loot (1975) Hughes declares that the purposes of the exhibition are to "prove that good modern work need not be financially frightening" (a price limit of £50 was put on work), to introduce a broader range of jewellers (and lesser known ones), and to promote the work of individual studio jewellers. If there is any doubt as to the claim that a new generation of jewellers were steering well clear of precious metals(14) and seeking alternative materials for expressive jewellery possibilities(15) , Hughes worryingly draws attention to, "John Donald, one of the sadly few exhibitors brave enough to venture into gold…"(16). And in what many would consider a very typically condescending and culturally conservative attitude of that Company we read this curious comment,
 
…good modern work can be cheap. The City of London has a huge daytime population who use typewriters more that tiaras. Loot is aimed at them.(17)
 
Little consciousness-raising had been done by 1981, when the catalogue introduction asserts (with no sense of irony),
 
The first Loot was expressly ‘for all those sad secretaries who thought they could never find a well-designed piece of jewellery for less than £50’ and though dismissed by some traditionalists as only a bizarre bazaar, it cheered up a great many secretaries…(18)
 
Amongst the 2,000 pieces of work were a set of ivory, silver and gold bangles by one Caroline Broadhead (illustrated on page 29) who would soon feature prominently in the history of ‘The New Jewellery’.

By the time of the seventh Loot exhibition (1981) it was evident that the Loot shows were tired and rather out of step with the times. This Loot exhibition was organised by Brian Beaumont-Nesbitt and the change of hands from Graham Hughes showed in the poor catalogue of the event – with its naff line drawings by Lynne Riding - and the rather curious exhibited categories of ‘Platinum Jewellery’, ‘Gold Jewellery’, ‘Silver’, ‘Mixed Media Jewellery’, ‘Objects’, and ‘Silver Jewellery’. By this time jewellery of all sorts – and especially the New Jewellery – was being exhibited internationally and there was much attention being paid to it. New venues for showing and selling work were opening and artists like Caroline Broadhead, Susanna Heron, and Pierre Degen who had contributed to previous Loot exhibitions had now moved beyond concepts and materials that the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths could hope to support – or sympathise with. Interestingly though, the major British New Jeweller, Julia Manheim, was still present and accounted for in this exhibition(19). Loot VII was, unsurprisingly, the final exhibition in the Loot series.
 
IMAGE 12 : Catalogue cover of Jewellery in Europe 1975 TNJ00841 IMAGE 12 : Catalogue cover of Jewellery in Europe 1975

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Selected by the ex-Director of Electrum Gallery Ralph Turner - who had made studio visits across Europe in 1974 in order to
 
... see new work and to talk to artists about their ideas and intentions(20)
 
- this travelling exhibition organised by the Scottish Arts Council and the Crafts Advisory Committee was a stimulating and provocative show which influenced many aspiring jewellery students and helped to introduce a new British audience to very recent developments in contemporary international jewellery. Turner writes:
 
…it is a determined effort to give a broad view of contemporary jewellery in the hope that it will stimulate a reappraisal of a subject long undermined by neglect, or worse, by a patronising condescension.(21)
 
It is worth noting here that three years earlier, in 1972 (28 April – 19 May) another important collection of new European work had been exhibited in Scotland at the Aberdeen Art Gallery called Aspects of Jewellery. This had been organised by Electrum Gallery.
 
IMAGE 13 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976. TNJ00842 IMAGE 13 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976.

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IMAGE 14 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976. TNJ00843 IMAGE 14 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976.

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IMAGE 15 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976. TNJ00844 IMAGE 15 : ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’ Article in Design magazine of March 1976.

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It was only on a very occasional and ad-hoc basis that the Design Council felt it was within its remit to promote and present British jewellery. Apart from taxonomic issues, ‘crafts’ were considered a concern of the Crafts Advisory Committee (established 1971 and later to become the Crafts Council) or perhaps a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry or even the British Council. As such there is not a great deal of material in the Design Council Archive. However an exploration of what material there is will reveal that there were at least six attempts at highlighting jewellery in the Council exhibition spaces: there was a ‘Display of Fine Jewellery’ held 30 April – 18 May 1968; ‘Shopping in Britain’ 14 July – 23 August 1969; a display of ‘Fashion Jewellery’ 26 July – 4 September 1971; ‘Simply Silver’ 10 November – 2 January 1971; ‘Hand and Machine’ 1 October – 28 October 1973; and finally ‘Presenting Seven’ 4 March – 5 May 1975, selected by the members of the Design Council Advisory Board for the gold, silver and jewellery industries. And as shall be seen, Design magazine, the official journal of the Council, would occasionally highlight individual works or, very rarely, feature articles on jewellery if it was thought (presumably) that something of importance in the larger design culture was taking place. Here we see the cover of Design from March 1976 which promotes the article within, ‘Jewellery: personal statements or private ornaments’, although the actual article is titled ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’. It is a quasi-critical account of approaches and innovations in the work shown in the Jewellery in Europe travelling exhibition and is authored by the informed Sarah Osborn – an advocate of contemporary jewellery in her work at Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. But as she warns,
 
Some jewellers’ work demands more than any wearer can give, and these pieces are doomed to a celibate life.(22)
 
IMAGE 16 :  Passing Out  Catalogue cover  1976 TNJ00845 IMAGE 16 : Passing Out Catalogue cover 1976

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Passing Out was held at Goldsmiths Hall, London from 23 November until 3 December 1976. It was held in recognition of the
 
The number of good metalwork schools in this country [which] have expanded from perhaps half a dozen 30 years ago, to the present impressive total (all of whom are exhibiting) of 19.(23)
 
This was the first Passing Out in what was to be an annual showing of the best of graduating metal students which carried on for several years and was soon co-sponsored by the National Association of Silversmiths and Jewellers in Design Education (NASJDE) and moved from exhibitions at the Goldsmiths Hall to exhibitions at art college venues around the country. Many important future contributors to jewellery had their first exposure at the Passing Out shows. It signals the recognition by the Company of the burgeoning field of activity that was occurring at the time and of the need to support a new generation of makers.
 
IMAGE 17 :  Explosion  Catalogue cover 1977 TNJ00846 IMAGE 17 : Explosion Catalogue cover 1977

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To celebrate its 650th Birthday in 1977, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths held a massive exhibition with an emphasis on the recent past and the present, rather than a huge historical survey of their copious collections. Among themed displays such as: ‘The Silver 650th Birthday Commissions’, ‘Promise c.1960’, ‘Achievement Today’ in the silversmithing sections and ‘Beginnings c. 1960’, ‘Gold Smallwork’, ‘Promise c.1965’ and ‘Achievement Today’ in the jewellery sections wherein could be seen recent works by Caroline Broadhead (silver, ivory and cotton), Susanna Heron (works in silver and acrylic resin) and the ubiquitous David Watkins and Wendy Ramshaw. Within the next couple of years it would be impossible to envision the new directions of Broadhead and Heron being supported, or exhibited at the Hall. As the catalogue states,
 
This exhibition tells a startling story: the sudden upsurge of modern British metalwork. Crafts are generally supposed to be peaceful. Our title, "Explosion" could be justified only in a few places, and at a few periods of history. Post war British silver and jewelry is one of them. The number of small craft workshops using their own name has increased from perhaps a dozen in 1947 to the present total of many hundreds. About five new makers(24) are registered every day at Goldsmiths Hall Assay Office alone.(25)
 
Evidence, if any was needed, as to the recognition of expansion in the field at the time.
 
IMAGE 18 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978 TNJ00847 IMAGE 18 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978

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IMAGE 19 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978 TNJ00848 IMAGE 19 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978

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IMAGE 20 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978 TNJ00849 IMAGE 20 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978

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IMAGE 21 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978 TNJ00850 IMAGE 21 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978

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IMAGE 22 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978 TNJ00851 IMAGE 22 : Fourways Exhibition Poster/Catalogue and Postcard Images 1977-1978

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Sponsored by the Crafts Advisory Committee – with photography by Susanna Heron’s then-husband David Ward who was to play a key role in the photographic and representational presentation of much ‘New Jewellery’ – this seminal touring exhibition of the work of Caroline Broadhead, Julia Manheim, Susanna Heron and Nuala Jamison was an early and developmental stage in the New Jewellery movement, illustrating the co-operation and linking together of these four artists. It was Broadhead, Manheim and Heron who went on to become – along with Pierre Degen – the leading names associated with the British contribution to The New Jewellery. As Susanna Heron tells it in Crafts No. 61 March/April 1983,
 
In 1978 three exhibitions of British work in Holland made a strong impression on the Dutch jewellers: …and Fourways, also at Galerie Ra(26) was one of them. At that time, neither titanium nor textiles were used in Holland and they were excited by the bold use of colour, the vitality and the spontaneity of the British work. Above all , Caroline Broadhead’s cotton pieces made a lasting impression.(27)
 
This has, incidentally, been a small bone of historical contention among Dutch and British jewellers ever since – who incorporated textiles into contemporary jewellery work first? My vote goes to Britain - David Poston had been incorporating wrapped coloured cotton into his jewellery work since at least 1974.

It is also very important to observe that the summer of punk and its immediate impact on street and popular culture was at its most influential at this time and has been credited as a formative influence in many first-hand accounts of jewellery from this time. Heron in the same article quoted earlier wrote:
 
The impact of punk, on dress, was so important because it affected both those who make clothing and jewellery and the people who wear it. Attitudes have not been the same since 1977, even though, for many, punk registered only as a ripple over personal taste or as a high street curiousity.(28)
 
Some of the spirit of punk may still be discerned today in the unique work of Timothy Carson(29).
 
IMAGE 23 : Tom Saddington  exhibition invite/card  May 4 – May 28 1977 TNJ00852 IMAGE 23 : Tom Saddington exhibition invite/card May 4 – May 28 1977

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IMAGE 24 : Tom Saddington  exhibition invite/card  May 4 – May 28 1977 TNJ00853 IMAGE 24 : Tom Saddington exhibition invite/card May 4 – May 28 1977

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One of the lesser known contributors to the corpus of The New Jewellery and one who posited jewellery as art, gesture and performance (see Image 24/25) was Tom Saddington, the Birmingham born graduate of Sir John Cass (now London Guildhall University). At this lively exhibition at Electrum Gallery in 1977 he addressed notions of graffiti, found objects and the ephemeral in his work which were very typical New Jewellery concerns. He certainly did not intend to create ‘precious’ jewellery. In his artist’s statement he wrote,
 
craft is when you follow the rules ; art is when you make the rules
 
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