Episode 133 – Part 1: The “Simply Brilliant” Jewelry of the 1960s and 1970s with Kimberly Klosterman, of Kimberly Klosterman Jewelry
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- Why jewelry artists from the 60s and 70s, such as Andrew Grima and Arthur King, are gaining more appreciation today
- The difference between artist jewelers and jewelry by artists
- What a jewelry lover should do to refine their taste and start their collection
- What defines a passionate collector
- What to expect from the Kimberly’s upcoming exhibition “Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s”
About Kimberly Klosterman
A graduate of Stephens College with a BFA in design, Kimberly Klosterman was always interested in art, antiques and design. After graduation she studied Decorative Arts at Sotheby’s London, where she was exposed to the world of antique jewelry. Upon return to Cincinnati, she and her Husband, Michael Lowe, opened their first gallery selling art and antiques. At this time, she also began her search for fine jewelry. To make ends meet for the new business, Klosterman went to work in the family company, Klosterman Baking Company, in 1982 where she currently moonlights as C.E.O.
Her jewelry business, established after another Sotheby’s course, Understanding Jewelry, was opened in 1996. Her love of 1960s and 70s jewelry developed through the tutelage of Amanda Triossi, whose own collection thrilled Klosterman. After living in Amsterdam and London, she returned to Cincinnati where she continues to collect fine jewelry.
Klosterman has given gallery talks at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum, the American Society of Jewelry Historians, and the American Society of Jewelry Appraisers, NYC Jewelry Week, Christies Auction, Bonhams Auction, etc.
The current exhibition “Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s,” organized by Cynthia Amnéus, Chief Curator and Curator of Fashion at the Cincinnati Art Museum, is a result of Klosterman’s passion for collecting. Her goal, to help preserve the legacy of these bold men and women who were jewelers to the jet-set. The exhibition, which opened at DIVA in Antwerp, Belgum and traveled to the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzhiem, Germany, will be on view in Cincinnati Oct 22- Feb 6. A catalog complete with biographies and makers’ marks accompanies the exhibition.
This is the cover of the book, which is also the catalog and a listing of where the exhibit has been.
Roger Lucas for Cartier astronaut ring
Romolo Grassi Gold and emerald pendant.
Gilbert Albert ammonite and pearl Bracelet Brooch
Cedars Devecchi carved coral and gold brooch.
Arthur king Brooch Collection of Andy Warhol and Kim Klosterman
Andrew Grima amethyst ring.
Andrew Grima agate and tourmaline necklace.
What makes a passionate collector? For Kimberly Klosterman, it’s someone who can’t get enough of the objects they love, no matter what they are. She herself became a passionate collector of 1960s and 70s jewelry long before it became popular. Her collection is now being featured in a traveling exhibition, “Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s.” She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about the qualities that draw her to 60s and 70s jewelry; why the unique jewelry of this period has come back in style; and what aspiring collectors should do to create a thoughtful collection. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Today, my guest is Kimberly Klosterman of Kimberly Klosterman Jewelry. While she’s dealt in jewelry across a number of periods, she’s recognized for her collection of designer jewels from the 60s and 70s. Her collection is currently being featured in the museum exhibit “Simply Brilliant,” scheduled to open at the Cincinnati Art Museum on October 21. The show has already been at DIVA, which is the new diamond museum in Antwerp, as well as at Pforzheim in Germany. We’ll hear all about Kimberly’s jewelry journey today as well as about the museum exhibit. Kimberly, welcome to the program.
Kimberly: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here, Sharon.
Sharon: Tell us about your jewelry journey. I was looking at this beautiful catalogue, “Simply Brilliant.” It’s a standalone book, but it’s a catalogue of the show. I’m reading the review that Ruth Peltason, I think, did with you. You’ve really had such a journey if you’d tell us about that.
Kimberly: I’ve been interested in jewelry for a long time and started collecting Art Deco things and different kinds of jewelry earlier on. I decided if I’m going to do this, I’d better learn a little more about what I’m getting myself into. So in 1996, I went to London and found out there was a course called “Understanding Jewelry” at Sotheby’s. I thought, “This might be a great thing for me to do. I’ve been a Sotheby’s student before, and I learned a lot the first time around.” This was a course that lasted five or six weeks and Amanda Triosi was teaching it. So, my husband and I went to London and I took the course. It was great. It was the history of jewelry. It was a lot of fun. I do have an art background, so it was easy to pick up on the jewelry she was talking about. We had great speakers, but one thing that stood out for me was that I was exposed to the artists’ jewelry of the 1960s and 1970s, and that happened in two ways.
One of our projects for extra points was to go see a show at Hancocks in London, and that was an Andrew Grima retrospective. I went to the show, and I was completely bowled over. I was almost shaking when I saw the jewelry there. I walked in, looked at it, and the man behind the counter was very tall and dapper, a really elegant man, and he looked at me and saw my enthusiasm and said, “Would you like to meet the artist?” I said, “Oh yes, that would be fantastic,” and he extended his hand. It was Andrew Grima. That was my first exposure to that kind of jewelry. Up until then, if you think about what was happening the mid-90s, everybody was into white gold and small jewelry and little, tiny things. Here were pieces that were big and bold and gold, and all kinds of materials were used instead of precious and semiprecious stones. It was a real eye-opener.
The other thing is Amanda, who has become a very close friend, at the time when I was her student, she took some of us back to her little apartment in London and said, “Would you like to see my jewels?” I said, “Oh sure, that would be great.” So, she reached behind the radiator and pulled out these hot jewels, and they were incredible. She had a necklace by Gilbert Albert and Andrew Grima pieces and a host of things I had never laid my eyes on. The other few students that were with us didn’t get it at all. I immediately responded to it, and I knew that was a path I wanted to carve out for myself.
At the time, I was taking a bit of a break from my family business, which is Klosterman Baking Company. My husband and I were in Europe, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I woke up one morning and said, “I know; I’m going to sell jewelry.” I took the previous stuff I had collected, which actually turned out to be a lot better than I thought, and started selling that, but with an eye to look for these other jewels. I think one thing that was so amazing to me is how difficult it was to source that material from the 60s and 70s. I didn’t realize until some years later that the reason was because it simply wasn’t out of the jewelry boxes yet. It hadn’t come into the marketplace, and if it did, it was probably scrapped pretty quickly, as they were heavy pieces of gold. So I went on this quest, but it took quite a while to build a collection. If you are thinking about this jewelry in today’s marketplace, say for the past four or five years, it’s everywhere, but it was very difficult to source in the beginning. I made a little booklet on my iMac that I used to take to shows on the jewelry I was collecting. This was before we had cellphones. I would take it around with me to shows and show various dealers, “If you get anything like this, call me. Here’s my card.” That’s how I started collecting.
Sharon: Did you get a response from dealers? Did they say, “Oh, I’ve had that in my drawer for ages”?
Kimberly: I did have a funny thing happen one time in Miami. I was wearing a piece of jewelry by Arthur King, and I really like King’s work. He’s an American jeweler that started working in the late 40s. He started out as a studio jeweler making his own jewelry in Greenwich Village, right on the same street as Sam Kramer and—
Sharon: Art Smith?
Kimberly: Art Smith, yes. He was right in that group. I think he went to Florida right after that and eventually started working in gold. He started hiring other bench jewelers to help him as well. He had a place in Cuba. He had a couple of different stores in Florida, and he was also showing at Fortnum & Mason in London. He’s a very interesting jeweler to me, but anyway, back to the Miami Beach, Florida Antique Show. I was wearing an Arthur King piece, and one of the dealers looked at me and said, “Do you like that stuff?” and I said, “Yeah, I do.” She said, “I have these things in my safe.” It ended up being a number of pieces that came directly from Louise King, Arthur’s wife, and she had them on consignment. I bought those pieces and started my friendship with that dealer, who down the road would show me things like that when she got them.
Sharon: I’m sure people were surprised because that stuff was so out of fashion when you started collecting it.
Kimberly: It really was. The other dealer stories are a total crackup. I say my best pieces came out of people’s big and ugly boxes. You would go to the show, and they’d have this box, big and ugly.
Sharon: Today it’s not white gold, but it’s still tiny, little pieces. I call it Brentwood jewelry. That’s an affluent area near here. I’m knocking somebody’s jewelry, not any particular designer, but I don’t understand; it doesn’t show up. Why are you wearing it? That’s all.
Kimberly: I’ve always said it’s funny about jewelry. I learned a long time ago that people that wear big jewelry don’t necessarily have to be big people. A lot of times different jewelers would say, “Oh well, you need a big woman for that,” and I said, “No, you need a big personality.” Some of the people I know that wear the biggest jewelry happen be to the tiniest people.
Sharon: That’s true with art jewelry being made out of plastic or wood. It’s big, but it may be a little more out there, avant garde. I remember at a gallery, there was a small, very elegant woman telling me how she would have to convince her clients they could wear this stuff. They didn’t have to be big women, like you’re saying. You mentioned Graham Hughes. Tell us who this is and how he influenced your collecting or your path.
Kimberly: Graham Hughes was in the late 50s at Goldsmiths’ Hall. His father had been at Goldsmiths’ Hall and Graham followed in his father’s footsteps. This is in London. Graham was initially involved with the silver department there, but he had a real love of jewelry and decided this would be a good avenue for Goldsmiths’ Hall to go down to start a collection of jewelry. He was very passionate about it and has written a number of books on the history of jewelry. I always liked his take on things. We just seemed to have the same taste. Even in his historic collection of jewels that he chose to picture in his books, they were always the best; they’re just great. He was a bit of a character, from what I understand.
I never did get to meet him, but he got together with some people at the V&A. They started talking in the late 50s about putting an exhibition of jewelry together, and they didn’t want to do just any jewelry. They thought jewelry was boring, staid; “What can we do to shake it up?” This little group initially said, “I know. We’ll get artists to make jewelry. We’ll commission artists to make jewelry and we’ll have this exhibition.” They talked about that, and the more they talked about it—it was actually Graham, I believe, that said, “No, we can’t do that, because artists don’t always understand how jewelry hangs on the body or how it attaches to clothing because they’re artists; they’re not jewelers.” He said, “We need to reach out to people that are jewelers making amazing jewelry already, people making one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that are thinking outside the box.”
There were a couple of different reasons; I don’t know exactly what they were. Health was one issue. One of the people had a health issue, and something else happened at the V&A where they were going to cancel the show. Instead, Graham proposed that they have the show at Goldsmiths’ Hall, and everything came together. They started reaching out to people all over the world for this proposed show. I can’t remember how many countries; maybe 80 countries, something like that. Just under a thousand pieces, 900 and some odd pieces were exhibited in the show when it happened in 1961. It was also a historic show because it showed works by René Lalique, Chaumet, some other big houses. It was kind of a survey in that area, but the idea was modern jewelry, 1890-1961.
Sharon: I want to make sure everybody knows that the V&A is the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Kimberly: Anyway, this put a lot of people in the limelight. People like Arthur King exhibited from America in that show; Andrew Grima exhibited; just a whole host of people. Those people helped inform my collection. The catalogue he wrote that accompanied the exhibition as well as the book that followed it became the Bible for my collection, my wish book.
Sharon: I want to ask you something else, a small detail. Amanda Triosi’s class, was that every day for five or six weeks or once or twice a week? Because if it was every day, wow!
Kimberly: It was five days, and it was great. We had the best speakers and great field trips. It was really wonderful.
Sharon: Wow! I’m ready. Sign me up. That sounds wonderful. I’m curious if today you go to some social event and wear your jewelry, do people understand it more than they did 10, 15 years ago?
Kimberly: I think so, absolutely! If you look in today’s marketplace, heck, go to TJ Maxx and look in the case. So much jewelry is influenced by what was happening in the 60s and 70s, whether these contemporary jewelers know it or not. It has definitely come back around. Uncut stones, rough diamonds, textured gold, bigger, bolder items; all of these things have come back into the marketplace, and yellow gold again as opposed to white gold.
Sharon: Was there a time, maybe 20, 25 years ago, when friends, people at social events, would say, “What is that?” Was there no understanding or appreciation?
Kimberly: I think overall people do appreciate it more than they did. To my face they didn’t tell me they didn’t get it, but it’s been interesting working with different people on the exhibition that maybe weren’t exposed to this kind of jewelry before, even possibly the curator at the art museum, Cynthia Amnéus, who wrote the book, or Ruth Peltason, who’s also writing a book on 1960s and 1970s jewelry and did the interview with me in our book. I have educated them to the point where they really like the jewelry now.
Sharon: It definitely grows on you.
Kimberly: It does, and I think that’s true with anything. People tend to like what they know, not know what they like.
Sharon: That’s interesting. That could lead into a whole different discussion. Did somebody have to teach us to love Art Deco jewelry, or is that just something that is beautiful?
Kimberly: You know what? I think it’s just beautiful. I remember declaring, after I graduated from my “Understanding Jewelry” course at Sotheby’s, that I knew what I was going to sell: Cartier Art Deco, because it’s the best. Well yeah, everybody else thought so, too. So, I carved out a niche for myself that was remotely different.
Sharon: It must have been easier to source at least, Cartier Art Deco. A lot pricier I would think, but easier to source.
Kimberly: Easier to source, but out of reach for me at the time.
Sharon: In some of the literature I was reading about you, it says you sell to the passionate collector. What is the passionate collector to you?
Kimberly: It’s anyone that can’t enough of anything. I have one friend I sell to and they’re—you know what? I think you should answer that question. You’re the collector.
Sharon: I was thinking about that. Is that somebody like me who occasionally will buy—let’s say it’s out of my budget; it’s out of my reach, but it’s so beautiful I have to have it. There are a lot of things I don’t think about that way. I don’t need sports cars. I don’t need a boat. I don’t need a horse.
Kimberly: I think it’s when you can’t stop. I know from my own self I’m a passionate collector. I keep thinking, “I don’t need that, but that’s fantastic.” You try to say, “Hey, I’ve got all this. I don’t need another example of this, but I need an example of this.”
Sharon: I’s like as my mother used to say to me, “You have a black blouse.” Yes, I have a black blouse, but does it have short sleeves? Does it have a bow? Anyway, the other thing you talked about is jewelry by artists versus artists’ jewelry. Can you tell us a little bit more?
Kimberly: The difference between an artist jeweler and jewelry by an artist is this: an artist like Calder, Goya, Dalí, etc. makes other art. They’re more passionate—I don’t know about passionate, but—
Sharon: They’re artists in that way.
Kimberly: They’re artists in a bigger realm. They’re making paintings and sculptures and different things, and jewelry is just a small portion of what their oeuvre is. Whereas an artist jeweler is a jeweler by trade or in the jewelry industry by trade, making one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that are in that marketplace. It’s almost like a marketplace situation. You’ve got jewelers and you have artists, but certain jewelers that we call artist jewelers are making one-of-a-kind pieces, usually, or limited pieces for the jewelry market. Does that make sense?
Sharon: Yes, it is hard to define. I’ve talked to a lot of different people about what a passionate collector is and what collecting is. Someday somebody will come up with some definition that’s definite. What you’re saying makes sense. I understand what you’re saying.