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Czech Jewelry - 2.part

Blog post
Published: 16.02.2009

The trends prevalent in the early 1960s, such as structuralism, manifested themselves in jewelry in a original way. The possibilities opened up through free-casting in silver, the lost-wax method and sand-casting thus creating irregular structures, together with the oxidation of smooth surfaces by various acids, of corrugating silver and of cooperplating, provided an inexhaustible number of technological options for creating striking aesthetic forms. However, neither the subjectivity of the “informel”, nor the attempts to record objects through prints resulting from their structures, was typical of jewelry-making in its philosophical essence. Jewelry was rather a miniaturized space in which material structure could transform itself into pure aesthetic qualities.
The steady abandonment of the element of randomness, the endeavor to organize structures and to seek inner order between individual elements, led not only painters and sculptors, but also jewelers to the burgeoning drive to structure space, to rigid composition and consequently, as a logical outcome, to the constructivist tendencies that influenced jewelry from the mid-1960s to the end of century. In any retrospective evaluation of the jewelry of recent decades, the connection between applied and free arts with jewelry and sculpture moves expressively into the foreground. Identical principles in similar renderings of sculpture and jewelry contributed to the expression of parallel opinions. Jewelry, unlike sculpture was, however, limited by its scope and function, and therefore a number of jewelers devoted themselves to free arts at the same time , where they could give freer rein to their ideas.
Sculptor jewelry is quite a logical category in this branch of visual arts, not only because a large amount of jewelry is created especially by sculptors. It is an essential principle, in which jewelry is not only assembled from individual parts by a jeweler‘s technique, but it is modeled by the addition or subtraction of material, it is shaped for casting into silver, hammered from a metal bar or soldered from gold or silver plates. What is essential is not only the technique, but the artist‘s view of a piece of jewelry as a small sculpture that is meant to be looked at from different angles, and which is not exclusively connected with human body, but which can exist and function independently just like any other small sculpture. Wearing such jewelry is an “extra” function , although the artist usually counts with it.
Individual jewelry was not associated only with precious metals; it also used various other materials. This led to sharp and unusual growth in the numbers of jewelers without any specialist goldsmith training. One of the areas most in demand, especially for presentation abroad, was glass jewelry, as an outstanding Czech speciality. In the Czech context, this was not really a new phenomenon, since it continued an ancient tradition of glyptic (“carved”) and North Bohemian glass costume jewelry. Glass jewelry makers exploited all the advantageous properties of the medium – they combined transparent with matt, they used various colors, and created other effects with bubbles or the insertion of metal objects.
Czech jewelry had another local speciality that employed the rich textile tradition of needle-lace, bobbin lace-work and diverse folk techniques. Textile is connected with clothing to a greater extend than any other; in some cases it is directly part of it and so has often been regarded as a clothing accessory. Textile techniques are used by some artists, when they substitute metal wire for textile fiber. The creation of textile jewelry is attractive to several generations, a fact that makes it more difficult to come up with new attitudes that diverge from results achieved to date, to avoid stereotypes, superficiality and sometimes even aesthetic purism evoked by the natural materials themselves.
The technological and engineering approach to jewelry, devoid of sentiment, decorative value and ornamentation facilitated the birth of jewelry attractive to the young generations, prone as they are to distrust and aversion for established values. The constructive character of jewelry, its frequent variability, kinetic elements, conspicuousness and eccentricity correspond with a definite trend in modern jewelry, from the 1970s until the present. Developments over the past two decades have shown that, despite the considerable attractiveness of postmodern jewelry full of colors and wit, constructive jewelry remains topical both in this country and abroad. Its resources – in combining materials, modifying shapes and especially in subject matter that can still introduce something new – have not yet been exhausted. Artists have been dealing with the relationship between jewelry and the human body ever since jewelry ceased to be a conventional decoration with a passive role. In the new approach, jewelry should not be a neutral pendant on a chain or a string of universal dimension, but an original work of art that influences its owner in a certain way. By being made “to measure” as it were, it is respects the body specifics of the one who is wearing it, but at the same time it forces her or him, in some cases, to submit to a certain discomfort arising from the unusual size of the piece or close bonding with the body.

to be continued in next weeks

Abridged text by Alena Krizova, from the book Metarphoses of Czech Jewelry at the End of the 20th Century. Academia, Prague, 2002.
Translation: Jana Fortova


Vaclav Cigler *1929
Pendant 1967, brass
Collection of the Moravian Gallery, Brno

1951-1957 Study on Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, prof. Josef Kaplicky
1968 Silver medal - International Schmuck in Munich
1965-1979 was Head of the studio of glass in architecture on Academy of Fine Arts, in Bratislava, Slovakia


Vaclav Cigler *1929
Pendant 1968, optical glass, metal



Anton Cepka *1936
Brooch 1967, silver, ink

1957-1963 study on Academy of Applied Arts in Prague,
prof. Bohuslav Stefan, doc. Jan Nusl, lecturer Alena Novakova

1964 Gold medal and Bavarian Prize - International Schmuck in Munich
1967 honorable award - Expo 67 Montreal
1977 Gold medal - International Jewelry Exhibition, Jablonec nad Nisou
1980 Silver medal - International Jewelry Exhibition, Jablonec nad Nisou
1990 Ehrenrinträger – Association of Goldsmith art Hanau

1993-2000 was docent and lead the studio jewelry and metal
on Academy of Fine Arts, in Bratislava, Slovakia
from 2001 Doctor Honoris Causa on Academy of Fine Arts, Bratislava



Anton Cepka *1936
Brooch 1969, silver, onyx



Prof. Jozef Soukup *1919
Necklace 1968, gold, gemstones
Collection of the Moravian Gallery, Brno

Assistant of head department 1950-1959
Docent from 1971, head of studio till 1977
1978-1985 Head professor of jewelry and metalwork on Academy of Applied Arts in Prague



About the author

Jirí Šibor, 1966 Brno, Czechoslovakia. Since 1990 exhibited abroad and home, occupy mind by theme "Cold Connected Constructions" in jewelry; occasionally graphic designer, sculptor, curator of exhibitions and correspondent.

About this blog

Czech Jewelry : past and present of innovative jewelry.