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  by Sheila Pamfiloff

  Jack Nutting as a young man

Jack Nutting's creations are a melding of stone and space in motion.

Sterling and Turquoise


Forged Sterling Wire with Cultured Pearl

14k Gold and Diamond Ring


Jack primarily used sterling silver in the years before he opened his shop. During the years when he owned his shop, most of the jewelry was constructed  with yellow gold, and he used white gold upon request. All of his jewelry was handmade as he preferred to manipulate the metal himself. The majority of his work was constructed from forged metals with small exceptions, primarily in wedding rings, where he used lost wax casting. He preferred natural stones with intriguing interior motifs, or uniquely cut precious and semiprecious stones, made by the famous lapidarists Henry Hunt and San Francisco's Francis Sperisen.

Sterling and Walrus Ivory

 Pendant (diptych)
Fancy Cut Mexican Opal, Flowing 14k Gold Wire setting

 Pendant (diptych)
 Natural Polished Opal, Inventive 14k Gold Wire setting

Most of his work was one-of-a-kind, with some cherished designs recurring over time. One clever design, a convertible ring with spherical gems, shows up in articles and other advertising venues throughout his career. The stones were individually cut by Sperisen. They fit snugly into a delicate cup and can be traded by slipping desired stones in from the back. 

Interchangeable Ring
 White Gold, Jadite, Pearl, and Smoky Quartz

San Francisco Examiner Newspaper Article, c. 1960, with Convertible Ring

Rutilated Quartz Ring (diptych)
 White Gold

Ring  (triptych)
 Champagne Tourmaline, Gold with an inventive setting and surprising spaces

Unique stone settings and stone presentations were an intrinsic part of his designs. Stones were often embraced in arced wire, rather than placed in a traditional setting, sometimes suspended in the center as if floating in a cozy recess or perched delicately on the end of spiraling, thick to thin wires. Positive and negative spatial relationships were of concern in the motif; he preferred asymmetrical balance in the component parts, with subtle ingenious engineering subplots, his surprises. These surprises often took form in enigmatic constructions, creating unexpected spaces and intriguing motion. Did the stone dictate the engineering or did he select for a desired performance? His jewelry demonstrates both.

Ring (triptych)
Silver and Turquoise

Silver and Agate

Silver and Agate

Silver and Agate

Silver and Topaz

Silver and Lapis

 Ring (diptych)
 Silver and Cultured Grey Baroque Pearl
  Early Work

Hair Comb
 Forged Silver Wire and Cultured Pearl
 Early Work

Forged Silver, Baroque Pearl

Toward the end of his long productive life, he suffered a brain illness that compromised his ability to continue creating  jewelry and sculptures in his normal manner.  Shortly after the onset of his illness, he left his home and went to live in San Diego to be near his daughter. Nicole says these were difficult years for her dad; he found it disheartening to be unable to produce his work in the ways he once had. However, in this last part of his career, he took some of his jewelry sensibilities into his  tabletop sculptures. Like delightful air puzzles, these miniature sculptures are made with surprisingly little materials; forged copper, brass, and silver wire, wrapping, bending, weaving in a continuous motion through the air, holding the negative spaces in place with multiple viewing opportunities from many angles; they possess a seasoned sophistication in space relationships.

Sculpture (diptych)
 Forged Brass Wire

 Sculpture (triptych)
 Wood Base, Forged Copper Wire

From the beginning of his career to the end, spanning over four decades, his work reflects a certainty and strength in design, scaled down to its essentials with few embellishments to distract from theme; just simple and beautiful.


I would like to thank Nicole Nutting, for allowing her father's story and collection, to be shared with Modernist jewelry enthusiasts. Too often we lose, for posterity, information about a notable artist's contributions to the Mid-Century Modern Art Jewelry Movement through the loss of documentation and disappearance of the art. Also, I would like to thank Lois Tibbetts, a close Nutting family friend and former employee, for her colorful input. Finally, special thanks to artists Richard Gompf and Jean Deam for sharing their recollections.

Click here for A Classic Man in a Modern Idiom, Part I


Article by Sheila Pamfiloff

Photographs by Sheila Pamfiloff

Web Design by Marbeth Schon

Your comments are invited. 


copyright MODERN SILVER magazine, 2013