The Brooch Unpinned: Growing the Collection

Growing the Collection: Gifts and Purchases

The Modern Jewellery Collection is a unique and consistent collection of innovative studio jewellery by creative individuals expressing their artistry in precious metals. As Art Director of the Goldsmiths’ Company from 1951 to 1981, Graham Hughes supported the London-based designer jewellers who came to the fore in the 1960s throughout their careers. He did the same with many other designer jewellers, who started with experimental pieces in relatively inexpensive materials and developed into highly influential and successful studio jewellers. It was an exciting time to scout for new talent. The increasing number of specialist courses in British art schools in the 1960s, led by the Royal College of Art, attracted international talent and channelled creative energies. Sparkling shops such as those opened by Andrew Grima in Belgravia and John Donald on Cheapside cultivated new clients, while specialist galleries such as Electrum (1971), and later Lesley Craze (1984) and Gill Wing (1985) provided the kind of platform which had previously been reserved for fine art, ceramics and sculpture. In the face of economic recession, Hughes launched the Loot series of annual exhibitions from 1975, marketing new work with a catchy title and competitive pricing aimed at the young. The emphasis was on design and innovative use of material rather than on precious metal. Loot ran for seven years before being replaced in 1982 by the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair, a trade fair which now runs over two weeks and allows jewellers and silversmiths to sell their work directly to the public. Acquisitions for the Collection through purchases, many of them from the Fair, is still a major way of nurturing excellence in the craft, promoting business and supporting makers, as demonstrated by the contemporary brooches in this online display. 

‘Primavera’ brooch, 2018, Jacqueline Ryan

From 1981 to present day acquisitions have been overseen by the Contemporary Craft Committee, guided by the curatorial staff, in conjunction with an expert and nationally-renowned modern jewellery advisor. Such advisors have included David Thomas, John Donald, Jacqueline Mina, Charlotte De Syllas and Daphne Krinos, all of whose work is represented in the Collection. 

Brooch, 2007, Daphne Krinos

“The jewels will inspire future generations – not only with their iconic beauty, but equally with their creator’s message of empowerment.”

Object photography by Clarissa Bruce and Richard Valencia.

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