Arts and Crafts, Vienna Style

The philosophy of the turn of the twentieth century Arts and Crafts movement feels relevant again today: that design and craftsmanship make jewelry exceptional rather than the value of the metal and gems.

From 1903 to the early 1920s, the Wiener Werkstätte firm in Vienna created masterpieces of art jewelry. The firm, whose name means Vienna Workshops, subscribed to the Arts and Crafts ideal of well-made objects designed by artists and made by skilled craftsmen.

The first exhibition devoted to Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry, now open at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue in New York, includes 40 pieces, many made by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, founders of the firm.  Hoffmann’s brooches, square grids filled with colorful cabochon gemstones like the one shown below, are a particular delight. Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry is open until June 30, 2008.  By happy coincidence, the Neue Galerie is also hosting a show of Gustav Klimt paintings and drawings: Klimt was a collector of Wiener Werkstatte Jewelry too.

While reflecting turn of the century philosophy, the jewelry also has resonance for designers today, who are using more unusual material like agates and what used to be called “semi-precious” and ornamental gemstones.  Hoffmann’s rigorous geometry, hammered textures, and the nature-inspired leaves and branches of the moonstone bracelet by Carl Otto Czeschka below, wouldn’t be out of place at a booth at the Couture show today.
Hoffman brooch
Czeschka Bracelet

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