Kay Denning

Kay Denning (???? – ????) Kay Denning was an artisan jeweler who created enameled copper jewelry in the 1960s and 1970s. Her designs, with their Modernist influences, were rendered in bold, geometric patterns. She made jewelry during the 60s for Bovano; an independent studio, art company that specialized in metal and glass sculptures since 1952 and was based in Chester, Connecticut. The firm contracted with her in the 1960s to create designs for them.
She is best known for the rich deep glow of her enamels that she crafted using raised cookies of glass. Her distinctive style features designs made with large ‘frit’ cookies or globs of colored glass with contrasting color backgrounds.
Her work, when signed is marked, “Denning” or “K. Denning,” usually in green on a white background. Generally, most of her large items like bracelets and necklaces are marked, but rarely (if ever) does the mark appear on the earrings and pins she created.
Her copper jewelry, with its bold enamel designs, have a devoted following among collectors who now scour the market for mid-20th Century enamels. Enameling achieves a rich, colorful result due to the fusing of powdered glass to metal by firing. The glass powder melts, flows and hardens to a smooth, vitreous coating on metal, glass or ceramic.
Enameling is an old technique. Examples date back to 13th century B.C., where the method was used by ancient cultures on either pottery, stone or metal. They produced enamel powder by pulverizing colored glass or mixing colorless glass with metallic oxide colorants. The bright, jewel-like colors made the technique a favorite among Art Nouveau and mid-century copper jewelry designers.
Denning’s pieces of particular interest include a classic set created in red, white, and blue. Another is a bracelet in black and white.
Most of Denning’s designs were made in vivid color combinations of red and blue, orange and yellow, and green and purple that are unique, solid creations and make an instant statement. Occasionally, there are pieces that are not in the “cookie” style, but rather look almost stenciled. These are rare but do surface every so often.
Another bracelet of interest was made in the 1960’s. It was created in copper and covered in turquoise blue enamel with a modernist design in copper overlay. The back is done in white enamel and hand signed. Items like this were produced in small volume and are, consequently, hard to find.
Denning appears to have stopped making jewelry around 1980. Her work continues to be quite collectible with some pieces achieving prices of $400 or more. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for a Denning vintage piece.