The Mahnaz Collection in New York, dealer in international post-war jewellery, is championing what it has christened the ‘London Originals’ – the crop of designers and makers that resuscitated the moribund British jewellery world in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Six years in the making, the selling exhibition London Originals: The Jeweler’s Art in Radical Times opened in Manhattan earlier this month and runs until May 11.
Accompanied by a scholarly catalogue penned by proprietor Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and British jewellery historian Joanna Hardy, it includes 150 jewels made in the wake of the influential 1961 Goldsmiths’ Company exhibition. It was, says Bartos, an era of “imaginative and original design, innovative technologies, superb craftsmanship in a time of mass production, experimentation with gold and the unusual use of gemstones, minerals and nonprecious materials”.
The exhibition – assembled from auctions and dealers in the UK as well as through purchases from private collections and items acquired in the US – includes the works of Andrew Grima, John Donald, George Weil, Charles de Temple, Gerda Flockinger, Alan Gard, Tom Scott, Kutchinsky, Barbara Cartlidge, David Thomas, Wendy Ramshaw, and David Watkins.
These are increasingly mainstream names in the UK jewellery trade, but this show aims to spread the word further afield. A number of US museum curators have requested the catalogue which features pieces between a price range of $5000-200,000.
Bartos says collectors of jewellery from cool Britannia are scattered across the US – some of them the product of a series of promotional tours conducted at the time by The Goldsmiths’ Company.
“Ramshaw is well-known to a small group of collectors. Grima, who had some important American clients [and space at the Georg Jensen shop in Manhattan], is also a name collectors know.”
Bartos expects the array of pieces by the doyen of British modern jewellery design to leave an impression.
“When you put all this material out together, the Grima workshop does have something special – a unique and powerful vision that is very powerful to me”.
The project has also been an opportunity to look beyond the established hierarchy of names to some of the lesser lights, although the makers of some worthy pieces remain frustratingly obscure.
One name Bartos was unable to embellish was EJ Shewry, a jeweller who operated from Carnaby Street, Soho. She would like to know more…