Episode 133 – Part 2: 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: Could you collect a production piece in your collection?
Kimberly: I do have some production pieces in my collection, for example pieces by Elsa Peretti; I happen to like Elsa Peretti very much. I think she’s a great designer, but again, she settled on jewelry as being her first and foremost love. Even though they’re production pieces, in my opinion, she’s an artist jeweler because she’s designing that way. Other production pieces that I have—during the late 60s and early 70s, Cartier made some production pieces that were pretty wonderful. There was another person, Aldo Cipullo, who designed the love bracelet and a number of other things that Cartier started selling. I think of him as an artist jeweler as well.
Sharon: Is a piece that you want for your collection high-end or limited like Peretti? She’s not what I consider a production jeweler. I’m sure some of her work she signed and numbered, but I wouldn’t consider it production. You used TJ Maxx before; if you walked into TJ Maxx and saw a piece and you thought, “Oh my god, this is incredible,” would you maybe not wear it but consider buying it?
Kimberly: I love all kind of things, but for my collection, no. They’re signed pieces. That’s something, too, that I always looked for in forming my collection. I would see things that I thought were interesting and I would buy them. It didn’t always have to be signed, but nine out of 10 times, if the piece was signed, even if I didn’t know the name of the maker at all, I would buy it if I liked the piece because then I could do the research later. A lot of the material I have in my collection came to me that way, by buying unknown people and later finding out who they were and why they were important to this group of people in this time period.
Sharon: If somebody wants to start a collection, if you’ve ignited somebody’s interest in this, where would you say they start? I don’t necessarily believe that things always have to be signed. I have some very nice things that aren’t signed, but where would you suggest they start? Are there certain designers?
Kimberly: First of all, just getting out and seeing what’s available is very helpful. Go to the big shows. If you can, go to Miami, or there’s a show coming up in New York. Go to interesting places, because you can see a lot of jewelry and start thinking about what you might like. Look at books, look at auction catalogues; auctions are also a great place to look. Then settle on something that sings to you and go down that path. I think people have accumulations of things, which is really a shame. I find that people want what their friends have. They buy this and this, things that are hot, like Van Cleef and Arpels Zodiac pendants, which are fine; they’re wonderful and they’re really cool, but you start ticking off things. I want an Alhambra necklace; I want a Van Cleef Zodiac signed. To me, that’s wonderful jewelry. It’s great to wear all the time, and it is a collection. Believe me, the stuff will become and is more valuable than many of the one-of-a-kind pieces I like. You know what? Scratch all that stuff. That’s not good to say.
Sharon: It is a collection if you’re talking about the Zodiac piece and Alhambra.
Kimberly: It’s a collection and it’s fine to have. I guess sometimes I get bummed out because I feel so passionate about these wonderful, one-of-a-kind pieces, and I find that a lot of times, people can’t wrap their minds around it because it’s something they don’t understand or haven’t seen much of.
Sharon: Also, you might not be doing as much dealing now, but you look at things in terms of whether it’s going to appreciate. I buy things knowing sometimes they will appreciate. I have a friend who buys only with the idea of selling it. I don’t do that.
Kimberly: No, I definitely don’t either. I just buy my passion and what appeals to me.
Sharon: I don’t know if I would have had the fortitude; you must have had to buckle up. Why you started out in this genre of jewelry, you must have had to buck a lot of people saying, “Oh my god, what do you see in that?”
Kimberly: Well, dealers didn’t say that because they were just happy to get rid of it. I had a number of people showing me things that weren’t right at all, and I’d still get that. This is my view, and it’s like, “No, that doesn’t look like it at all.” I just love this path, and I think you do too, of having jewelry that celebrates your individualism.
Sharon: Similar to you, I love it when I find a piece that’s one of a kind, even though nobody ever heard of the person. They’re never going to become a Cartier, but I like the fact that it’s really different. I’m curious about the exhibit, which I’m looking forward to seeing at some point in Cincinnati. Tell us about how it came about. Was that your brainchild?
Kimberly: Yeah, it was interesting. In 2012, I had given a lecture for the American Society of Jewelry Historians in Manhattan, and in the audience was the curator of jewelry for the Cooper Hewitt, Sarah Coffin. Sarah came up to me after the lecture and said, “All this stuff is amazing. I think we should do an exhibition,” and I said, “Oh, that’s a cool idea. I like that idea.” For one reason or another, we could never get it together.
In 2015, I started thinking, “I’m going to propose this to someone else,” and I started thinking about what museum might make sense and who might like the idea. I went to the Cincinnati Art Museum and heard Cynthia Amnéus speak, and I was very impressed by the talk she gave. I remember that it was on modernism, a subject I know pretty well, and she had to get the lecture together overnight. I thought, “Wow, if she can do that overnight, she knows her stuff.” So, I went to Cynthia and said, “I have this collection of jewelry, and I’d like to talk to you about it.” She took my PowerPoint presentation and she really liked it. I thought this would make perfect sense because she’s Curator of Fashion for the Cincinnati Art Museum, and it’s literally in my own backyard. I know the material really well and I knew that a lot of people didn’t understand it, so I knew I was going to have to be hands on with the exhibition. This gave me the opportunity to do that, and it was really exciting.
After the show was accepted, we decided to travel it. It was an honor that DIVA picked up the show. They did a great exhibition. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it because of Covid. Following that, it went to the Schmuckmuseum of Pforzheim, Germany. Cornelie Holzach knew all about this kind of material, which I was very excited about. I had met with her and asked if they would be interested. She knew almost everyone in the exhibition, and she had great stories about them. I showed her a watch I had and she said, “I think that’s this artist,” and she went back and showed me where the source came from and some of their early catalogues. It was a real honor to be in both of those museums. I’m looking forward to the show in Cincinnati.
Sharon: How long is it on for? Until next year, at least?
Kimberly: Yes, it runs October 21 through February 6.
Sharon: I certainly hope I get there. Cincinnati from Los Angeles is at least a little bit closer than New York. The other thing I’m curious about is what attracted you to this kind of jewelry first and what holds your attention.
Kimberly: For me, it’s the naturalistic quality of the jewelry. There’s a lot of texture and warmth in most of the jewelry I collect, and I love the idea of using odd materials. The necklace I have on today by Arthur King has an amber piece with a petrified mosquito in it, and I just love that. The Gilbert Albert pieces that are in the catalogue with the fossilized ammonites, I think those are very interesting. I have some jewelry also by Gilbert Albert with beetles in them. I find all this natural material something special, and the natural crystals and uncut stones.
Sharon: Did it give birth to what we see today?
Kimberly: I really believe so. I haven’t talked to any young designers as to what their inspiration is, but one would think. All you have to do is look at the catalogue and page through it to see how this jewelry could have influenced young designers. Jacobs, for example, is a huge fan of Andrew Grima. So was the fashion world, I think.
Sharon: You could take any piece from the catalogue and put it in Nieman Marcus today. It wouldn’t look like a dated piece or anything; it would look like a fashion piece or a current piece. It’s a beautiful book, and I encourage anybody who has an interest in this to get their hands on it and take a look. Did you think about the book on its own aside from the exhibit, or did the book only come about because you knew you were doing an exhibit?
Kimberly: The book came about because of the exhibit, but I did feel very strongly that the two should go hand in hand. I think, especially for jewelry, that’s a wonderful thing to happen, because you’re able to see the pieces in the flesh rather than just see them in a book. I do like having the record of the book. One thing we did, and this is where the dealer and the collector part of me comes in, is that the book is mainly buyers of these different artist jewelers who were fascinated themselves. Many of them sold to the jet set; it was that time and period and craziness. There are buyers of the artist jewelers, and in the back we have makers’ marks of all the jewelers that are in the exhibition. That comes in handy, especially for some of the more cryptic makers’ marks that people can’t figure out so well.
Sharon: It’s fabulous to see that. It’s a great resource. I know you have a background—is it in art history?
Kimberly: Design primarily, but my husband I have had a gallery for as long as I can remember, and we’ve been together about 40 years. My husband sells, but mainly he’s like I am. We’re both hopeless collectors. It’s mostly minimal and conceptual art.
Sharon: Wow! Do you enjoy the research part because it’s researching jewelry and art, or do you like research in general?
Kimberly: I love research. I love research in general I suppose, but anything I’m passionate about. The only other thing I like to do is eat.
Sharon: I can join you in that. Are there certain characteristics that a new collector should look at in terms of signatures or one-of-a-kind or limited edition? You’re driven by what you like and you’re suggesting that new collector would be driven by what they like. O.K., but are there certain things—everything you’re pointing out has what I call tentacles. You called them something else before. What are the characteristics here?
Kimberly: Again for me, I think it goes back to the naturalism of all the material. I have to say I’ve always described my jewelry as painterly, meaning it’s textural, it has some kind of artistic quality to it. If I had to give advice to a budding collector, like I said, it would be try to see as much as you can, read as much as you can, and if you don’t read, that’s O.K.; look at the pictures. Look at jewelry catalogues and jewelry books and jewelry publications. Everybody will hit on something. It’s like you said earlier; you’ve got how many black shirts in your closet? I’m with you on that account, too. I think we will walk down our path of what our own taste is. It’s just discovering what the level of taste is and then going with it.
Sharon: Years ago, I was trying to decide what I should keep, what I should look at passing on or selling, and someone who sold art said to me, “Buy what you love.” I talked to other collectors in other areas where I tend to be—if it’s in TJ Maxx, I may not buy it, just to be truthful about it. Are you a believer in the buy what you love, or are you looking for certain things?
Kimberly: Oh, absolutely. You have to buy what you love. The things is, you have to learn what you love, and you only do that by exposing yourself to what’s out there, or else you don’t know what you love. It’s just like a kid; they won’t eat certain things because they haven’t tried them. Then they try them and they like them. You need to know what’s out there and what’s available so you can form an educated opinion. After all, like Christopher Dresser said, “Knowledge is power.” I think that’s an important statement.
Sharon: I want to say it’s amazing—that’s not really the word I want, but the fact that you’ve collected this for so many decades now, several decades, and it’s still what you love. I don’t know what I want to say, but there are things I’ve liked; there are trends, but the fact that you have been so passionate about it for so long—
Kimberly: It’s interesting, because I am very passionate about it still and I don’t see that waning at all, but that said, I love ancient jewelry. I love antique jewelry. I love jewelry by artists. There are many, many different kinds of jewelry that I absolutely adore as well. I just don’t go down that path as much because I find that I know more about this now. It’s like a friend of mine said, “Stick to your knitting.” I try to do that. However, with the ancient jewelry and ethnic jewelry, it informs the stuff I collect anyway. It’s not uncommon for me to wear a pre-Columbian pendant. What else do I have that I like to wear a lot? I have a lot of jewelry by a woman named Patti Cadby Birch who took ancient materials and reconfigured them in the 70s, so the materials are ancient, but they’re a little more wearable. I love that as well.
Sharon: Have you thought about what your next exhibition is going to be?
Kimberly: I’m going to say, because I don’t know if it’ll be an exhibition or not, but I’m really fond of the work by Arthur King. I think he’s an interesting American jeweler and an important American jeweler from the 60s. There are lots of people out there that have his jewelry. In my dream world, if I have time to do it, I’d like to do an exhibition of Arthur King, not just with the jewelry I have. Anybody listening, if you’re an Arthur King collector, I would really like to do a museum exhibition of his work. I would do that myself.
Sharon: That would be fabulous. I don’t know his work. When you say there are a lot of people out there who collect him, I’m sure there are. I don’t see a lot of it. When I go to shows, I don’t see it or I don’t know it. It’s not being called out, like when they have a little tag saying, “This is a Cartier.” There are lots of jewelers besides Cartier, but I’m just saying. That would be fabulous. I didn’t even know he was American.
Kimberly: Oh, yeah. He had a couple of stores in Manhattan and, like I said, in Florida as well, so lot of his jewelry ended up in those pockets of the world. A lot of people knew him, and there are some great stories about him. I have been in touch with people that were close to him, and right now I’m trying to get their stories just in case this comes to fruition.
Sharon: That would be a fabulous next step. I’m sure you’re just going to sit down and be, like my husband would say, “eating bonbons” after this. Anyway, Kimberly, thank you so much for being here. The exhibit sounds wonderful. Who better to put it together and drive it than you, with your passion and knowledge? We are all looking forward to it. It starts October 21 at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which I understand is a fabulous museum. I look forward to getting there, and I hope everybody listening to this can make it also. Thank you so much.
Kimberly: Thank you so much, Sharon. I hope to see you in Cincinnati.
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