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Czech Jewelry - 1.part

Blog post
Published: 29.01.2009

Metarphoses of Czech Jewelry

Hand made jewelry was late to appear on the Czech artistic scene. Not until after the Second World War did it begin to establish its position within the disciplines of creative production. Individual works by prominent personalities helped jewelry to extricate itself from the narrow and closely defined limits of a craft marred by mass production as from the very beginning of the 19th century. Thus jewelry-making emerged as an independent part of the visual arts, comparable with the creation of artefacts in other of applied and free art. Considering the freedom of materials available to those who make jewelry, artists in this field are not limited by knowledge of technology and techniques. However, once they have mastered the demands of the goldsmith’s craft, they may approach jewelry in the same way as they might any other work of visual art and create only jewelry but also small objects and sculptures. Thus jewelry acquires new qualities – it becomes not only decoration or ornamentation, a functional, applied or decorative object making a fashion and lifestyle statement, but also a piece of art in many different guises.
Looking back over the last few decades, it is possible to evaluate Czech jewelry in a wider historical and international context, including opportunities taken and denied in the light of the social situation in Czechoslovakia, and to assess its importance and contribution to Czech art in the second half of the 20th century. The aim of this publication is to concentrate on jewelry as individual art, to follow its development after the Second World War through examples that influenced its evolution and, above all to place its development in a social context and connect it with other branches of the apllied arts. This work endeavours from the outset to evaluate relevant social aspects and institutions and emphasise context and relationships; it draws critically upon
Czech articles devoted to the arts and crafts, to the applied arts and to design in the 20th century.
In the first half of the 20th century most jewelry originated in private, mainly family-run goldsmithęs business. These were systematically nationalised after 1948, and so the natural environment for making jewelry ceased to exist. This shortfall proved impossible to make up, despite the efforts involved in the creation of new co-operatives of arts and crafts with leading designers from the Academy of Applied Arts. The begining of the 1960s was marked by a separation between artists and industry and a tendency towards studio work that did not subordinate itself to limited production facilities. In the branch of jewelry making, this resulted in a strict division between mass-produced costume jewelry – although it was made of precious metals – and original, unique jewelry created in artistic studios.

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


Doc. Jan Nusl *1900 - †1986
Brooch 1946, silver
Collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague

1945 -1969 teach metalwork and jewelry on Academy of Applied Arts in Prague



Doc. Jan Nusl *1900 - †1986
Pendant 1958, gold, Bohemian garnets
Collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague



Prof. Josef Symon *1932,
Necklace 1961, silver, gold, shell
Collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague

1952-1958 study on Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, doc. Bedrich Stefan

1963 award - Gold medal on International Schmuck, Munich
1967 honorable award on Expo 67 Montreal
1974 Herbert Hofmann Prize on International Schmuck, Munich

1968 emigrate to Austria, professor, teach metalwork and jewelry on University of Applied Arts (Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst) in Vienna
1972-1980 teach on Sommerakademie, Salzburg



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.