BAKELITE, STEEL, GOLD, AND DIAMOND CUFF BRACELET BY DANIEL BRUSH, NEW YORK, 2004
A carved, off-white plastic cuff ornamented with a granular steel inscription of a Mae West quote: “I used to be Snow White . . . but I drifted,” and curling decoration, embellished with collet-set, fancy-colored, circular-cut diamonds; in a fitted suede and snakeskin box
- 29 circular-cut, fancy-colored diamonds
- Signed with maker’s mark, a stylized db
- Measurements: 4 1/8 × 2 7/8 × 1 3/16 inches
- cf. Harlow, George, ed. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 194.
- cf. Price, Judith. Masterpieces of American Jewelry. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2004, p. 93.
- cf. Proddow, Penny, and Marion Fasel. Diamonds: A Century of Spectacular Jewels. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996, p. 149.
- Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, October 16, 2012–February 24, 2013.
For more than thirty years, New York based artist Daniel Brush has created paintings, sculpture, and jewelry. His paintings and drawings are inspired by the Japanese Noh theater, while his steel sculptures incorporate granulation, inlaid gold, and, often, winged insects attached by rare earth magnets. His experimentation with jewelry design began thirty-five years ago, evolving from pieces inspired by ancient gold work to animals made out of Bakelite and other space-age materials. He has had several exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and three books have been devoted to his work. In 2012, the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, presented Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light.
Whether he is creating a sculpture, a painting, or one of his jewels, Daniel Brush is one of the most unconventional and extraordinary artists working today. Brush’s creations encompass a wide variety of media, and each of his pieces is an entity unto itself—a unique work of art, which he creates to satisfy the needs of his soul.
This bangle, which began as a solid block of Bakelite, was hand filed, shaped, and polished to its present form through an exacting and rigorous reductive process. The fine steel beads that define the quote and decoration are a minute .024 mm wide; they are tapped into extremely small holes and secured with resin, a process that demands both mental and physical dexterity. The diamonds, set into collets, are applied similarly. Beyond the artistry involved marking this piece as superior, there is also the extraordinary choice of material. Bakelite, a plastic medium, has been used for a variety of items from jewelry to furniture and car accessories to insulation on space ships.
Tantamount to the mastery of the jewel is the message on the bangle, a quote from the American icon of sex and savvy Mae West, “I used to be Snow White . . . but, I drifted.” The chic innuendo and Brush’s use of nontraditional materials in his jewelry making encourages a change in how fine jewelry is perceived—and encourages viewing the piece through the eyes of an artist.