New Collecting Awards: Modernist jewellery

Sarah Rothwell
Assistant curator of modern and contemporary design, National Museums Scotland

Earlier this year Sarah Rothwell won funding from the New Collecting Awards to develop a collection of modernist jewellery at National Museums Scotland. Here, she writes about her research so far.

Earlier this year I was one of five successful recipients of the Art Fund's New Collecting Awards. I was particularly excited to receive the award as my background before my arrival in Edinburgh was within the field of exhibitions development, working and commissioning contemporary artists and makers for a non-collecting organisation. Therefore this is a fantastic opportunity for me to develop a research profile.

Visiting the Crafts Council exhibition I Am Here with Beatriz Chadour-Sampson in November Photograph by Sarah Rothwell

Visiting the Crafts Council exhibition I Am Here with Beatriz Chadour-Sampson in November


Photograph by Sarah Rothwell

National Museums Scotland holds one of three nationally significant modern and contemporary jewellery collections, alongside V&A and mima. The aim of the award is to highlight the collection, and modernist jewellery design created between 1945 and 1978, a subject which has been under-represented within research and collecting practice here within the UK.

A great part of my research is being able to meet with curators, collectors and dealers within the field of jewellery and discuss with other enthusiasts about modernist designers and makers. Beatriz Chadour-Sampson was appointed as my mentor by the Art Fund; as a leading jewellery historian she is a wonderful advocate for the project, and has helped facilitate many of these introductions.

Over the last few months I have been visiting these individuals to view their collections and find some of the best examples of modernist jewellery design on the open market today. Trips have ranged from visiting the collections at mima in Middlesbrough, Goldsmiths Hall and the V&A in London, and Aberdeen Museum and Art Gallery. I have also visited the fine art jewellery dealer Didier Ltd and modernist jewellery specialists Gråsilver and Sandy Stanley.

Visiting mima jewellery gallery Photograph by Sarah Rothwell

Visiting mima jewellery gallery


Photograph by Sarah Rothwell

In addition I am in email correspondence with curators in Scandinavia, such as Michael von Essen, former curator of the Georg Jensen Museum and expert in Danish jewellery design, and Isabel Wagner, who is an independent Swedish jewellery historian. Their shared insight is helping me to uncover the influences behind the designs, as well as introducing me to other designers and makers who I may not have come across.

I am now pinpointing the individual designers and makers whose work I hope to collect examples of. These designers and makers include British-based designer Helga Zahn, whose work challenged the association of jewellery with wealth, as well as reflecting European modernism; and also Swedish designer Sigurd Persson, who is known for his individual style and elegant, simple sculptural forms.

The New Collecting Awards enable promising curators to pursue new avenues of collecting, while building skills. Read about the other New Collecting Awards winners.

Venue details

National Museum of Scotland Chambers Street Midlothian EH1 1JF 0300 123 6789

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

Daily, 10am – 5pm 26 Dec and 1 Jan, 12 – 5pm Closed 25 Dec

Tags: New Collecting AwardsSupporting museums