ORNAMENT Volume 35 No. 5

Amy Nguyen. Light and Shadow Dancer
Yvonne Markowitz. A Rare Gem at the MFA
Margaret De Patta. Pioneer of Modern Studio Jewelry
Debra Lynn Gold. Playful Constructions
Mary Donald. Material Love
The Last Empress in Qipao. From Manchu to China Chic


This is the thread that ties itself throughout Amy Nguyen’s work and into the way she approaches her life. Never settling into a single mode of being, always incorporating that which seems opposed into a harmonic whole, a clear lesson to be learned from Nguyen is that we can reconcile the seemingly contradictory aspects of our world, to great and transformative effect.


Yvonne Markowitz became the Rita J. and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry in 2006, the first dedicated curator of jewelry in a United States fine arts museum. The new jewelry gallery opened in July 2011. Of the eleven thousand pieces of jewelry in its collection, she has looked at each one; and has cataloged, measured and researched thousands; published her findings in scholarly journals, books and exhibition catalogs; and illustrated hundreds of others, from the ancient Nubian to American studio jewelry of the past few decades.


Margaret De Patta was one of the first American artists to recognize the possibilities for modern design in jewelry. From the mid-1930s until her death in 1964, the role she played as innovator, educator, co-founder of the Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco, and overall social activist/art advocate helped define and guide the burgeoning American modernist jewelry movement regionally and nationally. De Patta’s greatest contribution to the field of metal arts was to approach jewelry as sculpture, to treat each piece as a complex composition scaled to wearable size.


While much of Debra Lynn Gold’s jewelry has a light-hearted, quirky presence, it is well crafted and made to last. Gold appreciates how jewelry is “human scale” and enjoys its dual nature, the fact that it is one thing on its own and something new when worn.


The steel-gray, blackish bracelet shines and reflects like metal. Pierced holes dot the tops of petal-like parts that are layered one over the other, with small gleaming orbs like pinheads acting as rivets. It looks weighty, substantial and hard. But, upon closer look, the large, seemingly rigid piece is not metal, but is actually soft and flexible, light as air, conforming comfortably to the wearer’s wrist. It is these surprises, and a pressing love for interpreting unusual materials, that lies at the heart of Los Angeles-based jeweler Mary Donald’s craft.