Deedee Cuddihy talks to curators responsible for the jewellery on

display in our museums about their assets and their aims

NOT surprisingly, given her job, Elizabeth Goring was wearing

jewellery and knew the name of the person who had designed every

discreet, understated piece. She said: ''The brass earrings are by

Debbie Long, the brooch by Clare Vicchi, Holly Belsher made the copper

neck chain, Paul Preston the silver ring and my engagement ring (iron,

gold and tiny garnets) is from Malcolm Appleby of Crathes.'' Apart from

the engagement ring, which is a one-off, all Dr Goring's jewellery was

inexpensive limited production stuff bought, not from High Street stores

or posh shops, but from private galleries and craft exhibitions.

As curator of modern jewellery for the National Museums of Scotland,

Elizabeth Goring has recently been putting the finishing touches to the

refurbished twentieth century jewellery gallery in Edinburgh's Chambers

Street museum. Exhibition space has been almost doubled and visitors can

get much closer to the displays, which date from the Arts and Crafts

Movement of the beginning of this century to the present day.

In the 11 years that Dr Goring has been at Chambers Street, the

contemporary jewellery collection -- now one of the most comprehensive

in Britain -- has grown from around 30 or 40 pieces to many hundreds, a

large portion of that donated by Miss Eileen Crowford, a retired typist

with the former Edinburgh Corporation who apparently spent most of her

spare cash from the 1940s until her death in the late 1980s on junk


As Elizabeth Goring recalls, she and her assistant, Lesley-Anne

Liddiard, didn't know what to expect when they received a lawyer's

letter informing them of the bequest. In the event, it took them two

weeks to sort through the beads, brooches, bracelets and so forth that

were tucked away in a tiny council flat in Oxgangs.

In memory of Miss Crowford (who left detailed accounts of when and

where she made her purchases and how much they cost), Dr Goring has

recently acquired a typical Chanel and pearl necklace dating from the

late 1940s which will go on permanent display in the refurbished


''Ours is not a collection of sparkling gems,'' she explains. ''It's

either mass-produced or strictly one off. A lot of twentieth century

jewellery may not be of intrinsic value but is important because it is

so much of its time.

''Generally speaking, I tend to acquire pieces made by established

jewellers; the ones who have prob-

ably taught other jewellers and will chart the direction that

jewellery will take in the twentieth century.''

Although the bulk of the jewellery is British, there are a number of

pieces from the rest of Europe as well as the United States of America

and Japan, where, as Dr Goring explained: ''There hasn't been a

jewellery tradition, so it's interesting to see what they are starting

to make now.''

''We wanted to put Scottish, and British, contemporary jewellery into

a wider context, so what you see here is the best of what's being

produced,'' she said.

''The collection also chronicles the major developments and trends in

modern jewellery design from the time at the turn of the century when

members of the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to revive, in an

industrial age, the ideal of the hand crafted object, to present times

and the creation of jewellery as ''wearable art''.

So the gallery features, among dozens of other pieces, an exquisite

work by the Arts and Crafts artist, Phoebe Traquair (1900-ish); a tiny

mummy case pendant (with tiny mummy inside) from the Wembley exhibition

of 1925, held three years after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb; a

severe Scandinavian necklace circa 1960, and a table top sculpture from

the 1980s which breaks down into 20 different rings.

One of the gallery's most recent purchases is a necklace from Amer-

ica which has been hand knitted in silver and copper wire and

illustrates a new trend -- the use of textile techniques in jewellery.

Although the American necklace is one that Dr Goring admires, she

points out that the decision to acquire a piece depends not on her

personal preferences but on whether it is important to represent that

particular aspect of jewellery in the national collection.

A PURCHASE that gave the curator particular pleasure is the beautiful

necklace of chunky amethysts and white and green enamelling made by the

Arts and Crafts jewellers Arthur and Georgie Gaskin of Birmingham. Dr

Goring explains: ''Supporters of the suffragette movement wore jewellery

in what became the suffragette colours of purple, green and white. Even

establishments like Mappin and Webb stocked jewellery in the suffragette


''This particular piece would have been commissioned by a prominent

suffragette and although I've examined photographs of the Pankhursts, in

the hope of finding it on Emmeline, Christabel or Sylvia, I haven't yet

discovered who it belonged to.''

Aberdeen Art Gallery's keeper of applied art, Christine Rew, says that

''outside of the national museums in Edinburgh, we're the only place in

Scotland actively adding to our contemporary jewellery collection.

''Our link with jewellery is historic. In the sixteenth, seventeenth

and eighteenth centuries, Aberdeen was a great silversmithing area.

''We have a historic silverware collection at the art gallery, some of

which is jewellery that includes polished Scottish granite set in silver

mountings from the 1850s and Cairngorm jewellery dating from the late

nineteenth century, when Queen Victoria was often at Balmoral and gave

many jewellers the royal warrant.''

The historic collection also includes superb work by James Cromar

Watt, an Aberdeen architect whose hobby of enamelling in the Arts and

Crafts style became an all-comsuming passion in the 1890 to 1920 period.

''The contemporary jewellery collection,'' says Christine, who has

been with the Art Gallery since 1983, ''is a reflection of what's

happening in Britain with the emphasis on Scotland.''

Since 1987 the gallery has staged a series of public workshops led by

mainly local jewellers using a wide variety of materials, everything

from precious metals to television wires and plaster cast bandaging.

Earlier this year, a group of 20 Aberdeen jewellers, both staff and

recent graduates from Gray's School of Art, where according to Christine

Rew, ''there is a very vibrant group of jewellery makers and a tradition

of jewellery design'' (although the school has now been incorporated

with the Robert Gordon University), were invited to take part in what

turned out to be a superb and popular exhibition.

Now Aberdeen Art Gallery is this month launching the Craft Gallery, a

series of selling exhibitions which will showcase the work of a

different British jeweller or metal worker every month for the next


''We're the only venue this far north where people will be able to see

and buy contemporary jewellery,'' says Christine Rew, ''and we hope the

exhibitions will demonstrate that this kind of jewellery is affordable

and worth acquiring.''

Glasgow has nothing like the range of jewellery that can be found at

the national museums, but like Edinburgh it has had a generous female

benefactor in Mrs Anne Hull Grundy, who in common with her East Coast

counterpart, had a lifelong passion for collecting jewellery and wanted

it to be given its proper place in the history of art.

Unlike Eileen Crowford, however, Mrs Hull Grundy was able to devote

virtually all her time to collecting and had amassed as many as 10,000

antique brooches, rings, pendants, necklaces, earrings, hair ornaments,

buckles, lockets, and bangles before her death in 1984.

A talented, widely respected jewellery historian, Anne Hull Grundy

spent a fortune on her collection of British and continental work, which

dates mainly from 1720 to 1940 and includes precious metals, gem stones,

cut steel, iron, enamel decoration, paste, glass, and carved and tinted


Kelvingrove in Glasgow was one of more than 40 museums in Britain to

receive jewellery from Mrs Hull Grundy, who, despite being confined to

bed for the last years of her life, continued to collect and donate

jewellery -- with the help of specialist dealers -- until she died.

Rosemary Watt is the Glasgow museum's art curator with whom Mrs Hull

Grundy liaised -- by telephone -- during the eight-year period in which

she was donating jewellery to the city. Mrs Watt explains: ''She had a

personal connection with Glasgow and was aware that, although we had

some jewellery in our costume and textile collection, we didn't have an

active collecting policy.

''Originally we were offered 150 pieces but ended up with more than

1000, which means we have now a strong historical collection, tracing

the story of jewellery over a 200-year period, that will be added to in

the future.''

Only a fraction of the Hull Grundy gift is on public view upstairs at

the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, but the display includes some

perfect French earrings, circa 1860, made from pale pink shell, shaped

into tiny shoes with gold heels, bows, and rhinestone decoration; a

miniature Aladdin's lamp brooch from Italy, also circa 1860, and a pair

of English fuchsia drop earrings in gold and tinted ivory, dated 1835.