Gerda Flöckinger (b. 1927)



Gerda Flöckinger, CBE, is indisputably “one of the key pioneers of the revival of jewellery making in this country”, in the words of Sir Roy Strong. Her work can be instantly identified as hers on account of her sophisticated eye for form and her subtle sense of colour and texture. Flöckinger was to make her mark not just through her jewellery, made always with her own hands, but through her innovative teaching of generations of students (including Charlotte De Syllas) at Hornsey College of Art. She herself had studied with the artists Mary Kessell and Richard Hamilton at the Central School. Graham Hughes encouraged her by acquiring her early pieces for the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection from 1958. Hughes supported her in the early to mid- 1960s as she developed her experimental signature technique of fusing precious metals. She would watch the metals interact and melt almost like an alchemist, working spontaneously to create organic textured pieces. Her jewels are pitted and pockmarked like moonscapes, or flow like bubbling lava streams strewn with baroque pearls. As her fellow goldsmith, David Thomas, explains: “Using jewellery as an art-form, she evolved new techniques which included controlled fusion with precious metals, to obtain fine textures, broken surfaces, and fluid lines … Her overall concepts are a subtle blend of abstract form and Eastern splendour, with a distant echo of the flowing elements in Art Nouveau.”

Flöckinger’s close relationship with Hughes is documented in the quality of her pieces in the Collection up to 1971, the year in which she was honoured by a single-artist exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She had a second exhibition there in 1986. Her jewels, which are to be found in many public collections throughout the world, belong to the great tradition of European goldsmiths’ work.

Rings below, reading clockwise from left:
Ring, 1970
Cast 18 carat gold turned hoop with fused wire scrolls and granules, ragged edges and openwork, a collet set with a blue-green opal cut by Flöckinger to one of her unusual cabochon shapes, with initials G.F and later hallmarks on a small disc on the inside of the hoop
RIng, c1967
Oxidised silver with tiny gold grains on the front and one on the back of the bezel, set with opal and turquoise inlay, unmarked but with her ‘tulip mark’ and G.F incised inside the hoop. The flat polished surface is typical of her early style before she started experimenting with metal fusion techniques combined with baroque pearls and precious stones of unusual cut.
Ring, 1971
Wide fused hoop of silver open circlets and wires set with a large ball of oxidised silver, both hoop and bezel set with five cultured pearls and 18 carat gold grains, with initials G.F. inside the hoop

Rings below, reading clockwise from left:
Ring, 1971
Fused 18 carat gold textured hoop wired to fused 18 carat gold tail with a cultured pearl, stained to a silvery grey, with initials G.F and later hallmarks on tiny disc on inside of hoop.
This ring demonstrates Flöckinger’s mastery of the fusion technique as she broke away from traditional forms, alongside her interest in adding movement to her pieces. The ‘tail’, as she calls the pendant element, takes the form of a long gold rod wrapped with nearly-melted gold trails to add texture and a sense of flow. This ring is the last piece in the important series of early jewels, showing her development as an artist, which was acquired for the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection by Graham Hughes.
Two rings, c1962
Gold (unmarked) beaded wire wrapped, silver with three applied gold strips (unmarked) with initials G.F
Ring, c1963
A broad band of silver (unmarked), with G.F inside the hoop, set with a cabochon tourmaline and in the pierced high neck with another quartz stone
A strong statement piece.
Ring, c1965
Silver with initials G.F on small disc inside the hoop, (unmarked), oxidised and set with one pearl

The organic textures of Flöckinger’s rings from the late 1960s are beautifully demonstrated in a ring from 1969 in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is constructed around a fragmentary turquoise intaglio from Iran, which has been skillfully set in a crown of oxidised silver with applied gold pellets and swirling wires which seem to grow organically around the stone.

The Company’s fused gold ring with fused gold tail has a more elaborate and sumptuous parallel in the Victoria and Albert Museum dating from 1969, which was acquired from the artist after her solo exhibition at the Museum in 1971.