Top 10 jewelry designers on the Loupe in 2013

What I learned compiling the year’s most-read designer profiles (which come from Google’s own Analytics):

• Most of your favorite designers are, or were, expats – including three still living and working in Paris, Bali and the Caribbean.

• On this blog, contemporary studio jewelers vie with 20th-century artistic legends and internationally-famous jewelry houses for your attention. As readers, you appreciate beautiful and unique jewelry with a good back story, period. I love that about you.

• Any time I write about jewelry and tropical islands in the same post, I score a hit. Do you think this is the universe telling me to spend more time traveling to tropical islands? Yes, I thought so too.

Without further ado then, this year’s top 10. Click on their names to bring up the most popular designers on the Loupe this year, listed here in descending order, starting with this year’s prom king.

#1: JAR. This has been the Year of JAR here in the U.S., with the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiling a major retrospective of jewelry designed by Joel Arthur Rosenthal in November. Here’s the backstory on the exhibition, here’s my review of the show, and here’s my take on the new jewelry & watches by JAR being sold exclusively at the Met. This brooch is one of 400+ pieces in the exhibit:

Poppy brooch of diamond, tourmalines, and gold by JAR, 1982 (private collection/photo courtesy Christie’s Images)

Poppy brooch of diamond, tourmalines, and gold by JAR, 1982 (private collection/photo courtesy Christie’s Images)

Most-read profile on this site, however, is still my original piece on the self-taught, Bronx-born Rosenthal. Second place goes to Lily Safra’s 18 JAR jewels sold at Christie’s last year (including that poppy above) and third to my story on that Ellen Barkin sale that inspired the auction scene in the first Sex & the City movie. Plenty more JAR on this site. What can I say? He’s a fascinating phenomenon and the eye candy doesn’t get any better.

Brass pin by Alexander Calder, 1939

Brass pin by Alexander Calder, 1939

#2 : Salvador Dalí. Dalí, who’s had a firm hold on #1 here since 2010, got nosed out this year by some guy from the Bronx. But I think Dalí – who had a king’s taste in gemstones and specialized in eccentric, elegant, over-the-top jewels – would approve of his successor.

#3 : Alexander Calder. Whatever you think of the mobile or jewelry made from hammered brass, you have to admit (after you read the back story) that Calder’s jewelry – some 1,800 pieces by his own hand – deserves more serious attention than that of other famous 20th-century artists. This year, Boston auction house Skinner proved, once again, what a hot commodity Calder’s jewelry has become, when a simple twisted brass-wire brooch sold for $92,000, triple the estimate. Here’s a look at that one and some other interesting Calder pieces sold through Skinner over the years.

#4: Picasso, Braque, Ernst, Lichtenstein. I know. They dabbled. But they make such a great story! My stats show a lot of love for parts 1 & 3 of Picasso: secret stash of Dora Maar as well. And you guys love to pin the jewelry of Georges Braque and Man Ray because, really, who wouldn’t?

Ady, Marie Cuttoli and husband, Man Ray, Picasso and Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray in the South of France, 1937

Ady, Marie Cuttoli and husband, Man Ray, Picasso and Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray in the South of France, 1937

#5: Art Smith & Sam Kramer. These guys struggled in obscurity in Greenwich Village during WWII and the post-war years while the artistes were getting the limelight uptown, but they pioneered the way for the Craft Movement of the ’60s & ’70s, as did Margret Craver.


Bali-based designer Carolyn Tyler

#6: Elsa Schiaparelli. Yes, Schiap designed clothes but accessories too, including jewelry. A bonafide member of the avant grade, collaborator with the most interesting ex-pat artists of Paris café society, and an artist in her own right.

#7: Carolyn Tyler. Your second favorite contemporary designer is this California-girl-turned-Bali-entrepreneur. I’m a fan myself. I wore a pair of her granulated gold hoops on a two-month world tour only to lose one of them while playing catch with my nephews. I still mourn.

#8: Evelien Sipkes. I met this wildly creative and talented studio artist on the island of Curaçao last year, and this year she has edged up to #8 here – more popular than Cartier and Van Cleef. Score one for populism! She makes porcelain objets and jewelry and teaches workshops, if you’re interested in learning ceramic jewelry-making in between snorkeling.

porcelain necklace

Porcelain necklace by Evelien Sipkes of Curaçao

#9: Jeanne Toussaint. One of Cartier’s most influential designers, creator of the jeweled panther craze, lover of exotic birds and gems, Toussaint ranks with Schiaparelli on your fascination barometer – two 20th-century fashion visionaries and forces of nature. They are part of my ongoing Women Who Paved the Way series, along with Margaret de Patta, Suzanne Belperron, Jeanne Poiret Boivin, and Margret Craver.

Fish Dreamer pin/pendant by Ricky Frank

Fish Dreamer pin/pendant by Ricky Frank

#10: Ricky Frank, Anne Bess Shepherd, Michael RomanikAs a fan of contemporary studio jewelry, I’m pleased to see this roundup of talented enamelists edging out Van Cleef & Arpels and right behind Cartier this year. Jewelry connoisseurs have spoken: One of the trickier and certainly the most painterly of the jewelry arts is alive, thriving and attracting eyeballs on the Loupe. Look for more on enamel jewelry here in the future.

Your desires have been noted. Here’s to another year of uncovering, together, fabulous jewels and the stories behind them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for following me here, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, JewelryMakingDaily, Interweave, and everywhere else I pop up and find you. May 2014 be dazzling and full of discovery for all lovers of beauty and wearable art!

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3 comments for “Top 10 jewelry designers on the Loupe in 2013

  1. December 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for recognizing Jeanne Toussaint! You never see much mention of her by the present day Cartier. Even in their touring jewelry exhibitions, there is little mention of her contributions. She led a fascinating life as a mistress of Louis Cartier, head of Cartier’s design sensibility, best friend of Coco Chanel, mouthpiece for the most sophisticated women of the time.

    Toussaint’s touch was such that it created a new standard of taste that was dubbed “goût Toussaint”. It was under her infallible instincts that flora and fauna became representative of a fantastic world and testimony to a new sensibility for nature that was altogether unlike the geometric stylization of Art Deco. She took the House of Cartier to a whole new stratospheric level.

    And yet the male ego centric and misogynistic House of Cartier dismisses her by no present recognition of her contributions then or even now. Le Panthére endures in their collections…but not in ANY recognition of Tousssaint’s enduring contributions. Shame on Cartier.

  2. December 30, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Love the beautiful and luxurious jewelry in the first image.

  3. January 21, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Not sure if you’re interested (or if you even cover Canadian designers), but I would love to be profiled on your site if you ever have time and are looking for content. So much of the work you feature on here is just stunning!

    I found your site as I am currently listening to your Interweave webinar on designing a wordpress site; I am in the middle of updating mine, so I hoped to find some pointers. I’m really enjoying it, thanks so much. :)

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