Collection of Ruth Berridge Jewelry

   We are offering a complete collection of a Jeweler’s professional career. 

Ruth Berridge was one of the premiere jewelry designers in the 1950s. 

This is a collection of over 100 pieces of important Ruth Berridge vintage sterling silver jewelry from the 1950s – 1970s.  There are jeweler’s tools and equipment, jewelry molds, jeweler’s supplies, jeweler’s name stamps and over 1000 fine drawings etc.

We own the copyright.  Most importantly, this is a business opportunity to reproduce timeless vintage works of art  as well as to purchase a large collection.    

 

 

Here is the article in: Vintage “Fashion & Costume Jewelry” magazine Vol. 19, No. 2, 2009.

Jewelry in Motion: The Modernist Art of Ruth Berridge

By Jacqueline Rehmann

When visiting a new area, I always investigate the local antique shops in search of costume jewelry.  It was no exception when, on a recent trip to Lenox, Massachusetts, I ventured into the downtown area with my friend Lois.  We walked into a small shop and gasped; a beautifully appointed room was filled with museum-worthy antiques including paintings, sculpture, and furniture.  We looked at each other.  There were no prices on anything.

The shop owner, Charles Flint, greeted us amicably and asked if we’d like more information about anything we saw.  Lois asked about a large black walnut sculpture that was absolutely gorgeous.  To say that it was out of our price range would be an understatement.  Time to back out of the store, I thought, as I gave Lois a look. But Lois wasn’t leaving.  My devoted friend told Charlie that I’d recently published a book on costume jewelry, that I’d been collecting for years, etc. , etc. I was breaking out into a sweat by this time, ready to face the icy air in search of another shop, preferably one with prices.  There wasn’t anything small here so clearly there was no costume jewelry, I thought.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It turns out that Charlie, of Charles Flint Art & Antiques, was a long-time friend of Ruth Berridge, an American modernist jewelry designer who made sterling silver jewelry for several decades, most notably during the 1950s and 1960s.  When Ruth died in 2004 at the age of 83, Mr. Flint became custodian of her tools, design drawings, jewelry fittings, stamps, stones—in short her entire studio, missing just the workbench.  He has the correspondence she exchanged with shops about her design ideas; he has newspaper clippings and advertisements for her jewelry.   Charlie brought out tray after tray for us to examine.  We held her tools and tried on jewelry as we marveled at the fluid and highly wearable designs, some in various stages of completion.  It was a rare glimpse into the life and work of an accomplished artist.  It was both exhilarating and humbling as Ms. Berridge’s life work was set out before us.

Her sometimes abstract expressionist, sometimes cubist designs rival the work of the best modernist artists.   Perhaps her signature look can be considered the silver mobile jewelry, especially earrings that sway with the wearer’s movement.  Handmade of sterling silver and spring wire, the delicately balanced mobiles were called modern sculpture in miniature and made with and without rhinestone or crystal accents.  Ruth originated this design that was sold through Niemann Marcus as well as by such avant-garde shops as Design Research in New York; The Upper Story in Cambridge; and Nanny’s in San Francisco.  Her mobile jewelry was once described as “eye-catching adornments which float in the air even when the wearer’s head is still and seem to have a life of their own.”  Ruth herself said of her mobile earrings, “they behave like a flock of birds.”

Thoroughly modern, Ruth’s designs were right in step with the times.  According to Marbeth Schon, author of “Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960 (Schiffer, 2004), The Museum of Modern Art’s mid-century “Good Design” exhibits influenced the manufacture of products that were “well made, comfortable, useful and aesthetically modern.”  Modern studio jewelry was easily accepted as good design because its unadorned abstraction was both useful and unpretentious.  American Studio Jewelry gained entry into the “Good Design” exhibitions not only at the Museum of Modern Art but into many subsequent exhibits at museums around the country including the Brooklyn Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Pasadena Museum of Art.  Modernist jewelry design was accepted as a major force within the field of decorative arts.

Ruth was first and foremost an artist, and a suitcase full of her drawings bears testament to this fact.  She herself might disagree with this assessment, however.  She once said that “the thing I like best is the engineering aspect.  I like the problem solving rather than the artistic aspect” including “how things move.”  Ruth discovered in college that “she did not work well with soft materials” and could never be a fashion designer.  She found hard materials more appealing to work with; when she arrived in Rhode Island she only signed up for jewelry courses.

She was born Ruth Margaret Berridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 4, 1921, the daughter of William A. and Ruth Reid Berridge.  She attended schools in Cambridge and also attended Radcliffe College.  After her year at the Rhode Island School of Design, she trained in the New York studio of Danish jeweler Adda Husted Anderson.  In one of the articles I read, Ruth reminisced about spending her childhood summers in the breathtaking Berkshires.  She was quick to talk about “the shape of the pine trees, the marsh grasses, and meadows filled with wildflowers, the wind blowing over them, the small animals.”  These themes show up in her jewelry, and she often talked about her love of animals.  She mostly worked out of her apartment/studio on E. 82nd Street in New York City.  She made earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and hair combs.  She also made men’s jewelry including cuff links.  Her designs had names like “Corridor” and “School of Fish.”  She was the designer, the caster, the platter, the assembler, the polisher, the timekeeper, the bookkeeper, the saleswoman, and the secretary—all the jobs required to operate a jewelry business.  She was, in essence, a one-woman show.

I could find very little information about Ruth and her work, except as provided by Charles Flint.   From what we saw that chilly day in February, Ruth fashioned beautiful designs that were both contemporary and uniquely personal.  It would take weeks, if not months, to go through all of the drawings, jewelry, and other artifacts that Ms. Berridge put together throughout her creative life.  What a privilege to gain a glimpse into it.  Ruth died on November 18, 2004 after a brief stay at North Adams Regional Hospital.