Rings from the Goldsmiths' Company Collection 1961–2021: Introduction to the exhibition from Dr Dora Thornton

Rings from the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection 1961–2021:

Finger rings were at the forefront of the development of jewellery as modern art. The eye-catching cocktail rings of Andrew Grima; John Donald’s iconic ‘Drum’ ring; and the massive uncut crystals in Desmond Clen-Murphy’s statement rings all embody the new energy and experimentation in materials and techniques so characteristic of studio jewellery from the 1960s and 1970s. The driving force behind the Collection was Graham Hughes, the Company’s Art Director from 1951–1980. Hughes curated the ‘International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890–1961’ at Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1961, which promoted contemporary art jewellery. He was an early supporter of makers like John Donald, Andrew Grima, Gerda Flöckinger and Wendy Ramshaw who went on to become important figures in London’s vibrant cultural scene. He also supported innovative international makers such as Friedrich Becker and Bruno Martinazzi, Arthur King and William Haendel. Their freedom of experimentation had a lasting impact on the ring form, as seen in the Company’s most recent ring acquisitions. Sarah Stafford’s ‘Signature Ring’ combines 3D printing with handwork. Mark Nuell’s rings set with ethically sourced, freeform faceted Australian sapphires display complete mastery of cutting and setting. Makers explore a visual language that is closer to contemporary art than to traditional jewellery. In the words of Graham Hughes: “boasting is out, beauty is in.”

“From the starting point of a hoop around the finger, contemporary jewellers have opened up a world of invention…”

— Rachel Church, Rings, 2017 p.120

Gilian Packard, Wedding and Engagement Ring, 1964, The Goldsmiths’ Company Collection

Mark Nuell, 2 rings, 2019, The Goldsmiths’ Company Collection

“It is impossible not to slip a ring on, as clearly J.R.R. Tolkien understood.”

— Kevin Coates, A Notebook of Pins, 1983, p.9


‘A World of Invention: Rings from the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection 1961–2021’ is the work of the Goldsmiths’ Company Curatorial Department, led by Dr Dora Thornton
Dr Frances Parton, Deputy Curator
Manuela Holfert, Exhibition Designer
Hannah Causton, Collections Assistant
Charlie Spurrier, Silver Steward

The Curatorial Department  are grateful to all the makers, representatives of makers’ estates, and the following for their invaluable help, enthusiasm and support: 
Eleni Bide
Matthew Burgess
Dr Beatriz Chadour Sampson
Clarissa Bruce
Rachel Church
Hugh Curthoys
Charlotte Dew
Richard Edgcumbe
Helen W. Drutt English
Will Evans and the Assay Office Team
Amanda Game
Francesca and Jo Grima
Joanna Hardy
Corinne Julius
Jacqueline Mina OBE
Diana Scarisbrick
Tom Scott
Carla van de Puttelaar