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Art Smith Jewelry

American, Cuban, 1923-1982

Fusing eclectic influences such as Surrealism and African art, Art Smith was a leading mid-century modernist jeweler and one of the few African American designers to break into the field. His oversize geometric pieces with their innovative use of wire, silver forms, brass, aluminum, stone and glass elements were boldly sculptural yet lightweight, becoming popular in the 1940s and ’50s as expressive statements of adornment.

Born in Cuba to Jamaican parents, Smith moved as a child to Brooklyn, New York, in 1920. After showing an early aptitude for art, he earned a scholarship to study at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan. He was especially inspired by the pioneering African American jeweler Winifred Mason, who hired Smith to work at her studio. There he witnessed how she engaged with West Indian folk art through bronze and copper.

After graduating, Smith opened his first shop in 1946 on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village. Facing discrimination in the predominantly Italian area, he relocated to West Fourth Street where he would work until 1979. Smith developed relationships with stores like Bloomingdale’s as well as New York City’s vibrant Black cultural scene, from which his clients included Lena Horne and Duke Ellington. He also designed work for avant-garde Black dance companies such as those led by choreographers Talley Beatty and Pearl Primus and a brooch for Eleanor Roosevelt.

“The body is a component in design just as air and space are,” Smith once stated. Employing biomorphic shapes, he created works such as the Patina necklace that referenced Alexander Calder’s mobiles with its dangling silver cutouts as well as the Lava bracelet involving two layers of metal that undulate around the wrist.

Smith often used unconventional materials for fine jewelry that made it affordable to people beyond the elite, and he was a vocal advocate for Black and gay civil rights. In 2008, the Brooklyn Museum opened a retrospective of his work. His jewelry is included in the collections of major museums such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Find a collection of Art Smith jewelry on 1stDibs.

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Art Smith Early Geometric Silver Copper Brass Sculptural Wire & Gaps Cuff 1940s
By Art Smith
Located in Chicago, IL
American Art Smith hand-crafted this modern asymmetrical cuff from roughly finished semi-precious layered metals in his early signature style including sculptural wires and gaps. On ...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Modern Art Smith Jewelry

Materials

Silver, Brass, Copper

Modern Art Hammered Spiral Sterling Silver Wire Undulating Brooch Mid-Century
By Art Smith
Located in Chicago, IL
This spiral and undulating squiggle modern brooch that is hand hammered and flattened from sterling-silver wire ends as a c-clasp on one side and a sharpened pin on the other for sel...
Category

Early 20th Century American Modern Art Smith Jewelry

Materials

Sterling Silver

Pair of Iconic Art Smith Modernette Cuffs
By Art Smith
Located in Riverdale, NY
Pair of Iconic Art Smith "Modernette" Cuffs from the 1940's in sterling silver. Pioneering jeweler Art Smith created some of the most iconic designs in the Modernist period. Examples...
Category

1940s American Modernist Vintage Art Smith Jewelry

Materials

Sterling Silver

Art Smith Modernist Mobile Earrings
By Art Smith
Located in New York, NY
Art Smith Modernist Mobile Earrings in brass from the 1950's. Athough unsigned, this is a well recognized design of his (see Brooklyn Museum Collection) and the metal earring fixture...
Category

1950s American Modernist Vintage Art Smith Jewelry

Materials

Brass

1950s Art Smith American Modernist Patinated Brass Kinetic Screw Back Earrings
By Art Smith
Located in Los Angeles, CA
1950s dangling kinetic leaf earrings created by Art Smith of New York City, New York. Earrings measure 3" in length and are of the screw back variety. Signed art Smith on the back ...
Category

1950s American Modernist Vintage Art Smith Jewelry

Materials

Brass

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Previously Available Items
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  • Art Smith Vintage Cufflinks
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Art Smith Mid-Century Modernist Silver Brooch
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Art Smith jewelry & watches for sale on 1stDibs

1stDibs offers a range of Art Smith jewelry and watches. Each of these unique items has been designed with extraordinary care, often using brass. This collection includes 1 pieces as well as a number of other designs by this jeweler. While this collection reflects work that originated over various time periods, most of these items were designed during the 1950s. If you are looking for additional options, many customers also consider jewelry & watches by Marianne Ostier, Guy Laroche and Margot De Taxco. Prices for Art Smith watches and jewelry can vary depending upon gemstone, time period and other attributes. The price for these items starts at $1,850 and tops out at $1,850, while pieces like these can sell for $1,850 on average.

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Questions About Art Smith Jewelry
  • 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022
    Kiki Smith is a contemporary artist whose career has included sculpture, drawing, painting and other media to address issues such as mortality, gender and nature. Her multidisciplinary work is sought after by collectors worldwide. On 1stDibs, shop expertly-vetted Kiki Smith pieces from some of the world’s top art dealers.

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