Marie Zimmerman (1879-1972) In a profile that appeared in the once ubiquitous Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, the writer declared, “…Marie Zimmermann is perhaps the most versatile artist in the country…She is a sculptress, a painter, a goldsmith and a silversmith, a cabinet maker, a wood carver, a jeweler — even a blacksmith…There is hardly a beautiful thing which human hands can make that Miss Zimmermann hasn’t made.”
Writing in Antiques Magazine, Joseph Cunningham, the curatorial director of the American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation and a coauthor of “The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmermann” states, “Marie Zimmermann was among the most eclectic and innovative designers of jewelry and metalwork working in the early twentieth century. Her creations in gold, silver, bronze, copper, and iron explore a wide range of approaches to design, celebrating and interrogating traditional methods and experimenting freely with materials, surface, color, and applied ornament. Because of the diverse and challenging nature of her work, Zimmermann’s oeuvre has received little scholarly attention until now.”
Marie Zimmermann, an American designer and maker of jewelry and metalwork was inspired by Cellini and Michelangelo to master and employ many different crafts in her work. The daughter of prosperous Swiss immigrants, Marie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She ignored her father’s desire for her to pursue a career in medicine and instead received her education at the Packer Collegiate Institute, Art Students’ League and Pratt Institute. Over a period of twenty-five years, Zimmerman worked to master all the different crafts she wanted to use in her pieces. During this period she would work ten to twelve hours a day. She lived and ran her studio at the National Arts Club in New York from about 1910 to 1937.
Calling herself “a craftsman” rather than an artist, Zimmermann designed metalwork in a wide range of media (gold, silver, bronze, copper and iron), jewelry, as well as furniture. Much of her work was inspired by diverse historical precedents, including ancient Egyptian, Classical and Chinese forms. She experimented freely with materials, surface, color, and applied ornament.
Bejeweled daggers, gold-plated centerpieces, intricate necklaces, silver and bronze sculpture and even a mausoleum for a New York suffragist, Annie Tinker, were just a few of the things that kept Zimmerman busy over twenty years.
Like many designers, Zimmermann’s earliest artistic creations were expressed in jewelry, which she continued to produce throughout her career excelling particularly in intricate combinations of semiprecious stones, delicate enameling, and gold that boldly invoked and subverted Egyptian and classical revival styles.
One of Zimmermann’s most successful Egyptian revival designs is a striking gold ring similar to bracelets found on Tutankhamun’s arms. The ring comprises a beryl scarab in a collet setting and, on the band, three blue and green enamel lines cross banded by three red enamel lines, a design that evokes classical columnar forms and bundles of lotus stems or papyrus reeds often depicted in Egyptian art. Zimmermann added small half-circles and an inverted gold volute to the ring set in a pool of rich blue enamel.
Another ring has a center stone, a large zircon, set off by eight gold and champlevé enamel prongs shaped as lotus petals, with orange-enameled gold beads punctuating the spaces between them. The piece also employs delicate beads of variegated blue-green secondary hues along three strands of the flaring gold band. The bold colors green and blue enamel evoke ancient royalty, while the striations in the enamel (a technique Zimmermann often used) give the ring a feathery appearance that recalls ancient Egyptian sources.
For a bracelet, Zimmermann combined Egyptian motifs and art deco style in an unusual design. Though still in her typical green, blue, and red palette, the irregular shapes of the central gemstones – a low-grade emerald, carnelian, and lapis lazuli – are atypical of her work. The tubes of malachite and enameled gold strung on doubled silk cord create a smooth modernist surface.
The reverse of this Zimmermann bracelet is enameled with Egyptian motifs. The brilliant blue enamel fans, at the corners, recall the geometric formations of scalloped Egyptian columns and various patterns from painted and woven designs.
One of Zimmermann’s most beautiful pieces of revivalist jewelry is an Etruscan style necklace of gold-wrapped wire with shattuckite pendants and coral beads. Its contrasts of blue and orange are subtle and controlled; its rhythms of alternating large and small ovals, beading, and gold rope filigree are elegant and effective. This necklace stands as one of Zimmermann’s greatest accomplishments, combining historical and forward-looking style in a unified work of art.
A dazzling brooch was included in the National Arts Club exhibition in 1928, and was worn by her friend Dr. Connie Myers Guion in a portrait photograph taken in the 1940s. The design’s contrasting hues of black opal and azurite/malachite in one pair of opposing quarters and shattuckite in the other two contain borders in her signature Egyptian revival palette, but here presented in tourmalines, small emeralds, and blue and pink sapphires rather than enamel.
Cunningham concludes that, “Zimmermann’s jewelry is truly a distinctive body of work. Her childhood during America’s Gilded Age, her training during the heyday of the arts and crafts movement, and her keen awareness of international and historical precedents equipped her to create eclectic and individualistic designs. While jewelry played a particularly important role in her earliest artistic expressions, she continued to create in this medium throughout her career. … [H]er profound interest in Egyptian antiquities and reinterpreting this style was not limited to jewelry or to her early career. She explored innovative uses for this imagery in ironwork, bronze, gilded vases, and, particularly, in her celebrated Egyptian Box, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Many of the pieces Zimmerman created were useful as well as decorative. One example, a candlestick with an electric light in the back, combined elegance with utility. The electric light would provide enough illumination for people to see, and the candles would provide atmosphere. Zimmerman used many of her pieces in her own home and therefore knew the work from the client/user’s perspective as well as the maker/designer’s.
Marie always designed her pieces, but hired six workers to help her create them. She trained these assistants herself.
Zimmermann’s jewelry is opulent and original. Her choices of stones and colors is brilliant, and combined with rich enamels, the pieces are often spectacular. They are also quite rare.
Around 1927, Zimmermann began her relationship with her life partner Ruth Allen, an actress in stage production and silent movies. Ruth Allen lived with Zimmermann until Allen’s death in 1969.
During the difficult economic times of the 1930’s, Zimmermann was forced to limit her production of many luxury goods. One of her main sources of income during this period were memorial projects including a Gothic-style memorial shrine or columbarium made for Rudolf A. Metz between 1934 and 1935, and a bronze tree with two markers commissioned for Leopold Fredrick in 1937.
When the Great Depression forced Zimmermann to limit the amount of jewelry she produced, she did not stop. Most of her pieces during this time were commissions with the stones usually provided by the client. In addition to those pieces, Zimmermann experimented with semi-precious stones, creating flexible choker necklaces similar to Cartier’s “Tutti Frutti” pieces.
In the 1930’s Zimmermann also produced an unusual pair of aluminum chalices for a wealthy Pittsburgh family, likely one involved in the aluminum industry as aluminum was at the time rather uncommon and more expensive than it is today.
Zimmermann exhibited her work a few times in the 1930’s. Her pieces were shown during a very short show at the John G. Hamilton Gallery in May 1934. The Gibbs Memorial Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina featured her work in a one-woman show in March 1935. Due to several deaths in her family, Zimmermann spent the next few years without exhibiting, and left her studio and apartment at the National Arts Club. Her last exhibition was a 3-woman show at Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery in 1939.
In 1940, Marie Zimmerman closed her studio and retired. Though now recognized as a major figure of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, Zimmermann preferred to keep a low-profile. After 20 years with limited commercial success, she and Ruth moved to the Delaware countryside that originally inspired her craft.
After her retirement, Zimmerman faded from the public’s interest. Over the remaining years of her life, Zimmermann gardened, hunted and read actively. She kept most of her remaining stock of metalwork, but gifted much of the jewelry she made to visiting friends.
In the 1980s, her nephew decided to continue her legacy by putting her art into various museums. Around this time a book was published by the American Decorative Arts 1900 Foundation entitled, “The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmerman” and the foundation, Friends of Marie Zimmerman was formed.
Works by Marie Zimmermann appear in collections of the Columbus Museum, Georgia (the Persian Box, in silver and ivory with applied lapis lazuli, pearls, jade and malachite), the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Museum of Fine Arts-Boston and Wolfsonian-FIU.
Alexander Laut (b. 1967) According to Alexander Laut’s official website, “The turning point in [his] life was his meeting with Ronald Winston, the son and heir of the great Harry Winston. This extraordinary man, chemist, gemologist and Japanese Art Connoisseur tipped the scale in Alexander’s decision-making process and led him to become a jewelry designer. [Ronald] was also the inspiration behind Alexander’s first jewelry collection.”
Laut was born in Moscow, left Russia in the early 1990s, and immigrated to Hawaii. In his youth, he had jobs in medicine, journalism, photography, rock music, was a restaurant and gallery owner, and portrait painter before he found his calling as a jewelry designer. He also collected rare, unusual, precious gems. Exceptional stones are the foundation of his designs. Now based in Bangkok, he has never owned a store, preferring to deal directly with private clients from all over the world who share his knowledge of the art of jewelry and precious stones.
The official website further reports that, in 2003, the Alexander Laut brand came into existence and he opened first boutique in Hawaii. It did not take long before the brand became popular with connoisseurs worldwide primarily from the USA, Brazil, Japan, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia.
Creating jewelry comprised of rings (especially cocktail rings), earrings, bracelets, pendants, Alexander’s style and creations emphasize the rare, natural stones chosen by him. Alexander focuses on large, rare, and unusual collectible stones including colored diamonds, rubies, sapphires, spinel, alexandrites, and rare tourmalines.
Another notable element of his creativity involves collections of natural sea pearls combined with precious stones. Not long ago he completed a necklace called, “Cleopatra” that has a 26 mm. perfectly round Australian pearl that is no longer easily found. Laut likes to work with large rare pearls from the South Sea because he is intrigued by the mystery of “organic” gems.
Over the course of his long-term collaboration with the House of Harry Winston, Alexander’s works have come to exemplify high quality with intense attention to detail. His designs tend to be “classical” and conservative. He tries to avoid mass-trends and concentrates on individual needs.
The accent in Alexander’s works is always on large and visible Cocktail Rings. He says: “In my opinion, wearing jewelry, as sets can be boring and costly … “[one] can achieve the same effect with one substantial piece of jewelry.”
Among his favorite pieces is the ring Eternal Kiss that highlights the central important stone with diamond from inside. The Ruby Strawberry is another.
Among his notable creations is a diamond bracelet composed of a series of brilliant-cut diamonds within openwork and with each connected by similarly-cut diamond disc links. The diamonds are approximately 5.50 carats total. The piece is signed Laut, numbered 7747, and has a length 18.7cm
Also, there is a Colombian Emerald and Diamond Ring with a step-cut emerald, weighing 30.24 carats, within a marquise-cut diamond surround that is accented by brilliant-cut diamonds to the hoop. The diamonds weigh approximately 9.60 carats total, again signed by Laut, numbered, in ring size 6¼.
Other important creations include a 45.39ct Yellow Sapphire Diamond Gold Ring in 18k gold, featuring a 45.39ct yellow sapphire, surrounded with approx. 0.70ctw GH/VS-SI diamonds, a 32 Carat Sphene Diamond Platinum Ring, a Large Gold Amethyst Citrine Peridot Bracelet, a Gold Diamond Pink Sapphire Pearl Snake Ring, Gold Peridot Amethyst Citrine Earrings, and a Sapphire Ruby Diamond Large Flower Ring.
Each item has its own ID-number and author’s stamp. His jewelry is manufactured by hand, one piece at a time by Japanese jewelers known for their attention to quality and detail.
Alexander travels to many of favorite destinations including Moscow, Zurich, Dubai, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. In Zurich his jewelry is represented by Landolf & Huber Jewelry whose owners are partners and also friends.
Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York are also preferred destinations because some of Laut’s important jewelry pieces have been selected by the Sotheby auction house and are sold there.
Alexander Laut’s team consists of family members and friends who share his vision, believe in the brand, support each other, and share in the success and achievements.