Boston Arts and Crafts: Focus of MFA Jewelry Exhibit

Paris, New York, London, these are cities you might think of when you think of jewelry being created. The kind of jewelry that withstands the test of time that you see when you look at exhibits in a museum. If you read my 4-part series on the Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America that covered the Colonial Era through the late 19th Century. I looked at the listing of jewelers and manufacturers in Boston and talked about how this helped fuel the Boston Arts and Crafts movement. And how Boston was a one time know for its jewelry

If you enjoyed those posts then you should visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) at Boston. The exhibit on view focuses on the Boston jewelers of the Arts and Crafts era. Since you may not be able to go my post is covering several of the items and themes that were on display.

The Featured Designer

Coming up to the exhibit the museum wanted you to know that these pieces are Boston made. The first piece you see is by Frank Gardner Hale that is on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This designer is named a leader and advocate in the Boston Arts and Crafts movement. His work is featured throughout the exhibit and one of his pendants is used on the advertising material and banners for the jewelry exhibit. The necklace is a dramatic piece with lots of color.

Gemstone Necklace, Frank Gardner Hale

You enter and more of Hale’s work is displayed.

Display dedicated to work of Frank Gardner Hale

Here is the necklace I mentioned that is seen on the MFA’s promotional materials.

Opal and Green Garnet Necklace, Frank Gardner Hale

There were different aspects of the jewelry making process that were featured in the exhibit…

The Design Phase

Some drawings of designs by Frank Hale were included. These drawings are done in graphite, ink and watercolor. Can you spot the opal necklace we just looked at?

Jewelry Designs by Frank Gardner Hale

The Enameling

This media is featured through out the Boston Arts and Crafts movement. In fact, this is a defining style of Boston. Colors were chosen to mimic or enhance colored gemstones. The display read that enamels are created by heating powdered glass to a metal substrate.

Enamel Display for Boston Arts and Crafts

The Inspirations

There are several types of inspirations two mentioned in the Boston Arts and Crafts movement were designers and historic periods. One designer that has inspired many a modern designer was also inspiring his peers at the time, Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany is in New York but this Black Opal necklace from around 1910 was in the exhibit as a great example of how he used color.

Black Opal and Demantoid Garnet Necklace, Louis Comfort Tiffany, made around 1910

Some historical times that inspired Boston Arts and Crafts jewelers included medieval Europe and Colonial America.

Moonstone Necklace, Frederick Partridge, another designer mentioned as an inspiration, this designer was from London, England


One aspect to note from the jewelry above is the use of color and materials. One item of information that I found very interesting is that the use of color distinct to Boston was due to the educational system at the time. Color Theory was part of the public-school education. I don’t think color theory was used much in my high school classes, mentioned in junior high but could have been elaborated on more. As a reader did you have a public-school education that covered color theory well? That training in color theory is what compelled the jewelers to design with less main stream stones so that the colors they wanted could be achieved! Below is one of my favorite pieces from the color display.

Enamel and Citrine Peacock Brooch, Gertrude S. Twichell

Women Featured

One aspect of exhibits that are becoming more common are features on women in the field. The MFA included that aspect to the Boston Arts and Crafts exhibit. Works included Elizabeth Copeland, Josephine Hartwell Shaw, and Margaret Rogers. A few of their works in the gallery below.

There were a few other areas, but this is a good overview of the exhibit going on at the MFA Boston. The exhibit goes through March 2020, find more info with this link. Please let me know if you have seen it or are planning to go. Are there questions you have about Boston Arts and Crafts? I would be happy to answer what I can. Hope you return next week for more Data in the Rough!

Enamel Peacock Box, Frank J. Marshall