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  Part IV
  American Mid 20th Century Cufflinks

Links to All About Cufflinks:

Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V

  (L to R)
  back row: Esther Lewittes, Maxwell Chayat
  front row: Carolyn Rosene, Ed Levin



Margaret De Patta (1903-1965) was an incredibly talented artist who created "masterworks" in jewelry during her relatively short career.  In the 1940s, her studies with Maholy-Nagy at the New Bauhaus in Chicago were responsible for her very successful experiments with light as it reflected from or passed through stones.  She was one of the first to incorporate previously unused materials into her work, such as stainless steel screening, plastics, jeweler's bronze, and beach stones.  De Patta is probably the most seminal figure ever to work within the modernist tradition of jewelry design during the mid 20th century. The Oakland Museum and the Museum of Art and Design have mounted "Space-Light-Structure," the first large-scale solo exhibition of the work of a jeweler from that era.

See "Space-Light-Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta," MODERN SILVER magazine, Spring/Summer, 2012.



Art Smith (1917-1982) was a New York silversmith whose African American heritage influenced his sculptural jewelry forms.  More than any other modernist jeweler of his day, Art Smith was concerned with ornamenting the human form.  His primitive-inspired, biomorphic constructions can only be truly understood in relation to the body. "A piece of jewelry," he said, "is a whatisit? until you relate it to the body...Like line, form and color, the body is a material to work with. It is one of the basic inspirations in creating form..."  Art Smith's work is featured at the Brooklyn Museum in a permanent exhibit and is in the collections of many major museums and collections.

See Village to Vogue, the Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.


Ed Wiener (1918-1991) was one of the most well-loved and respected modernist jewelers of his day. Though almost entirely self-taught, he possessed a magnificent appreciation of form, line, and color together with an amazing ability to uniquely apply the ideas and principles of modernism to his life's work.

See American Modernist Jewelry 1940 - 1970, by Marbeth Schon, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.










Sam Kramer (1913-1964) is best-known for his unconventional modernist jewelry, much of it biomorphic or anthropomorphic in design. He studied jewelry making at the University of Southern California in the 1930s.  He studied gemology at New York University in 1939 and, that same year opened his own shop in Greenwich Village, later moving to West Eighth Street.  His jewelry is unique and truly sculptural.  It continues to be sought after by collectors of mid 20th Century handmade modernist jewelry.

See  American Modernist Jewelry 1940 - 1970, by Marbeth Schon, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.


Rumanian-born, American studio jeweler Paul Lobel (1899 - 1983) was also a sculptor and designer of glass, furniture and silver hollowware. He had a studio/shop in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1940s and 50s. His work has been included in many museum exhibitions and he was at the forefront of the American Modernist studio jewelry movement. 

See American Modernist Jewelry 1940 - 1970, by Marbeth Schon, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.

Mid 20th century, California jeweler, Arnold Frew's jewelry is beautifully and simply modern in form.  He was inspired by organic shapes like tree forms, natural rock formations, patterns produced by "rain in the sand," and, obviously, fish.  He did not enter craft shows or show his jewelry in exhibitions, but had a steady clientele that included many California celebrities.

Ruth Roach (1913-1979) was an extraordinary, multitalented artist/craftsman who made a significant impact on the art world during her relatively short career. She studied painting in Chicago, both at the Chicago Art Institute and with William Henry Watson. She later took all the available art courses at the State College of Iowa. She became a potter, but later, in 1954, decided to concentrate on jewelry after studying with Robert von Neumann.  Roach had her first one-man show at the Des Moines Art Center in 1954, participated in the Third National Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelers at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1955, and, for the next fourteen years, exhibited widely across the United States.  Since everything she created was intricate in nature and completely one-of-a-kind, her pieces are not readily available. 

Please see: Ruth Roach, Uncommon Jeweler, MODERN SILVER magazine, Aug/Sept, 2002.


Esther Lewittes was a Los Angeles, California studio jeweler who worked in the mid 20th Century modernist style. Her work was included in the exhibition: "Structure and Ornament, American Modernist Jewelry 1940-1960" at the Fifty-50 Gallery, New York, 1984. 

See American Modernist Jewelry 1940 - 1970, by Marbeth Schon, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.


Ronald Hayes Pearson (d. 1977) is known for his clean modernist designs in silver, bronze and gold.  He studied metalsmithing at the School for American Craftsmen under Philip Morton in the late 1940s.  In the 1950s, along with silversmith Jack Prip and woodworker Tage Frid, Pearson opened Shop One.  Though Pearson never "joined academia" he taught classes at schools such as Haystack and Black Mountain College.  Pearson supported himself, his entire life, as a full time craftsman.  His work was included in many prestigious exhibits and won many grants, prizes and awards throughout his lifetime.

Peter Nass Silver and Jewelry Shop existed in New York City in the 1950s.  "Peter" was E. Peter Peterson, a woman silversmith who created exceptional modernist designs in silver.


Josephine and Antoinette Catanzaro were sisters from a large Sicilian family from Buffalo, New York.  In the 1950s, through a course in jewelry making, the sisters discovered a lifetime passion for metalworking. In 1959, they opened a shop called The house of Crafts in Buffalo where they had an onsite studio for creating their own pieces in silver and gold.  they exhibited their work, widely, in the U.S. and sold through retail craft outlets in New York and Boston.

California silversmith, Allan Adler (1916-2002) was a master craftsman who created both hollowware and jewelry in clean, modernist designs. He had a shop on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and later opened stores in La Jolla, Corona del Mar, and San Francisco.

Scottsdale, Arizona jeweler, H. Fred Skaggs opened a shop in the Lloyd Kiva Craft Center in 1956, a collection of shops that included prominent Native American artists such as Charles Loloma.  His jewelry designs were of both silver and gold, usually incorporating gemstones.  His modernist designed inspired an "entire generation of celebrated and highly collectible silver artists." Skaggs died in 1982.

Noble Smith was the pen name of Shirley Smith, a talented mid 20th century American silversmith who attended the Boston Museum School in the early 1950s.  Her work was modernist and abstract.

New Mexico artist, Howard Schleeter (1903-1976) worked as a painter and engraver as well as a jeweler. He worked primarily in abstraction, but did create realistic works for the WPA during the late 1930s and early 1940s. His jewelry is modern, but also whimsical, sometimes using Native American motifs.


Irvin and Bonnie Burkee were a husband and wife team who created jewelry in the modernist tradition beginning in the 1940s. Both studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.  After marriage, Irvin taught art classes at the University of Colorado and also Stephens College in Missouri where he introduced lithography and jewelry-making to the curriculum. 

In the late 1940s, the couple moved to Colorado where they established a studio and workshop and founded Burkee Jewelry Studio.  In order to support themselves at their craft, they developed limited-production techniques, but their work retained it's uniqueness and individuality.  Their work is modern in design, mostly done in silver, sometimes with wood, stone, ivory, or bone.

Irvin died in 2007.  Bonnie continues to work, but mostly in graphic arts and photography.

See American Modernist Jewelry 1940 - 1970, by Marbeth Schon, MODERN SILVER magazine, 2008.


Winifred Clark Shaw attended Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where, in 1953, she received a Master of Fine Arts degree with a major in metalsmithing and a minor in weaving.  Her large body of work demonstrates her refined sense of color and material in both linear and three-dimensional design.  Of particular interest are her pieces that combine original weavings with metals. 

Shaw participated in many important national mid-20th century exhibits including Midwest Designer Craftsmen (1954), The Chicago Art Institute; American Jewelry Today (1963), Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Craftsmen of the Eastern States (1963), Worcester, Massachusetts; Jewelry 64 (1964), State University College, Plattsburgh, New York;  Decorative Arts Exhibition (1964), Wichita, Kansas; as well as many juried exhibitions in New Hampshire and a retrospective exhibit at the University of New Hampshire in 1987.

Her work was also included in the League of New Hampshire exhibit at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Winifred Clark Shaw taught jewelry making and weaving at the University of New Hampshire for thirty-three years beginning in 1954. 

Source: Win's Best: The Jewelry and Weaving of Winifred Clark Shaw, The University of New Hampshire, 1987


Robert and Audrey Engstrom are known for their unique, handmade jewelry both in silver and in enamel on copper. They worked independently, but it is difficult to know which partner (they were husband and wife) created the pieces on my website, though the enamel work was probably mostly done by Audrey.  Their work was included in the exhibit "American Modernist Jewelry, 1940 - 1970" at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, 2008.

See American Modernist Jewelry, 1940 - 1970, MODERN SILVER magazine, Winter, 2008-2009.


Links to All About Cufflinks:

Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V

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Article by Patrick Kapty, “Patrick Kapty California Dreamin Retro Modern” [760] 671-4879  & Marbeth Schon,

Photographs courtesy of  Patrick Kapty & Marbeth Schon

Web Design by Marbeth Schon

Your comments are invited. 

© copyright MODERN SILVER magazine, 2013