Examining the underside of this signed bracelet reveals two things: the year it was created, 1986, and the maker: Cummings. That’s Angela Cummings, a name known to jewelry historians, curators and collectors as one of the most important jewelry designers in recent history.
In addition to excelling at her craft — creating sculptural, sinuous and sometimes spherical jewels that marry geometry with forms and patterns found in nature — Cummings is numbered among the few women who have risen to acclaim in the jewelry space, like Suzanne Belperron and Elsa Peretti. She produced some of her most visionary work from the 1960s through the 1980s, when “there were few admired female jewelers,” notes Tiina Smith, owner of Tiina Smith Vintage & Exceptional Jewels, in Boston. “And Angela was among the first.”
The pieces that immediately announce themselves as the work of Cummings are large in scale and inlaid with stones like lapis, black jade, onyx and opal or materials like coral, mother of pearl and exotic hardwoods. But those in the know will tell you that she was first and foremost a goldsmith, one trained in Italy and Germany.
“You can see the artful quality of her work in this bangle,” says Smith, referring to the meticulously rendered fish-scale details. “It’s a piece that sits at the very core of her training, expertise and evolution as a jeweler.”
Cummings, who was born in Austria and immigrated to the United States at the age of 3, was employed at Tiffany & Co. from 1967 through 1983, launching her first full collection in 1975. The fish-scale bangle, Smith notes, was made not while Cummings was at Tiffany but later, when she was designing and producing an eponymous collection sold at Bergdorf Goodman, in New York City.
“Her work had evolved over the years since she was at Tiffany, and she was creating pieces in her own style,” says Smith. “This piece exhibits her new playfulness in the spatial tilt of the bangle and its fish-scale decoration.”
The subtle twist of the bracelet, she adds, “is indicative of a jeweler who created what she loved at this point in her career.” And it’s a delight to wear, warming up the skin to beguiling effect. “This is the weight one would wish for while wearing an 18-karat gold bangle,” says Smith. “It dances on the wrist.”