The breadth of studio jewellery as a design medium has rarely been explored as freely as in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s latest exhibition, ‘Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts from the Susan Grant Lewin Collection’, which opened earlier this month.

Lewin, who runs her eponymous communications firm, focussing on the fields of architecture, art and design, has collected studio jewellery for decades. Ranging from the modern to the contemporary, with pieces originating from Holland, Japan, Israel and elsewhere, the 150-strong exhibition highlights the experimental capabilities that jewellery design can possess.

‘The Susan Grant Lewin Collection… encompasses the inventive approach of the studio jewellery movement and the impact of later groundbreaking conceptual and materials-driven contemporary jewellery design,’ says museum director Caroline Baumann.

With brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings dating from the mid-twentieth-century to the present day, the exhibition charts the milestones that studio jewellery design has made during the course of those years. From innovation advancements to the use of industrial materials instead of gold or silver, the variety of the pieces on display is vivid and artful, to say the least.

Among some of the highlights are an architectural kinetic ring by Friedrich Becker that rotates axially to follow the gestures of the hand wearing it; and a graphic pressed gold ring by Giampaolo Babetto, inspired by the proportions of the Palladian villas of Venice. 

Lewin says: ‘Collecting studio jewellery only becomes more exciting as the field of conceptual jewellery design continues to flourish. I like to find the leaders and innovators – the most experimental designers.’