How enduring is Angela Cummings’ work? A stunning gold necklace created in 1980 for Tiffany & Company, was a red carpet sensation at a major 2018 awards ceremony.
Inspired by themes found in nature, Angela Cummings has created a body of work that critics and fans have deemed to be timeless objets d’art.
In 1944, while World War II continued to rage on, Angela Cummings made her appearance in the world. Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, she relocated to America with her family at the age of three.
Cummings spent her formative years in the States, returning to Europe to study art in Perugia, Italy, and to learn jewelry design in Germany. In 1967, she graduated with a degree in goldsmithing and gemology from Zeichenakademie in Hanau, West Germany.
A Designer in the Making
One year later, Angela Cummings moved to New York City and began her career under the tutelage of a Tiffany & Company artisan. After several years of gaining valuable experience, she launched a collection under her name in 1975.
Her early designs were fashioned primarily in 18K gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, jade, mother-of-pearl, coral, opal, and wood. Cummings’ creations had themes that embraced the beauty of nature, from flora to fauna and everything in between including dragonflies, feathers, vines, shells, and seafoam. One of her most-loved styles is a lifelike gold rose petal necklace and earring set, allegedly inspired when Cummings accidentally crushed a rose in her hand when startled by the ring of a telephone.
A 1982 People magazine article featured the rose petal ensemble, as well as other 18K gold pieces she created for Tiffany. Displayed were a diamond spider web necklace, elm leaf earrings, a series of seagull brooches, a crocodile bracelet, and a geometric emerald and diamond necklace.
Working primary in 18K gold, Cummings was also known to incorporate platinum and sterling silver into her designs, showcasing diamonds and exquisite gems. She sometimes juxtaposed precious materials with unconventional materials, including wood. Cummings employed classic jewelry creation techniques, such as precious metals inlaid into iron (a process known as “damascene”). She broke the rules of traditional upscale jewelry making by using an abundance of color in her designs.
A New Beginning
Although she continued to work with Tiffany, in 1984, Angela Cummings decided to open boutiques carrying her name. She partnered with her husband of 14 years, Bruce Cummings, a gemologist who had also worked at Tiffany. The first Angela Cummings Fine Jewelry Boutique opened inside a New York department store, Bergdorf Goodman. It was a first for the Fifth Avenue store, which hosted the boutique in a 500-square-foot space located in the center of the main floor. Other department store boutiques followed in Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Cummings found new creative freedom, expanding assortments beyond jewelry. She began branching out, designing tableware and leather accessories. Cummings also added new materials to her jewelry repertoire; black opals, South Sea cultured pearls, and black jade. She used diamonds with her nature-inspired motifs and continued to do inlay work, now employing more sterling silver in addition to her classic gold designs. To fulfill her desire to make her work affordable for a wide range of customers, she created a portion of her designs using less expensive materials.
Business was good, and Cummings went on to open more boutiques in America and Japan.
Styling in the 90s and Beyond
Many of Cummings styles during the decade of the 1990s employed movement: stems that twisted, curling leaves, a series of waves that went around the neck. Others had an Asian influence, featuring cloud shapes infused with jade. She ended the decade with a more abstract collection, combining both precious and semi-precious gemstones with metals.
In 1996, Cummings was approached by Candie’s shoe store to partner with them, along with other jewelry designers, to design a line of shoes to benefit the American Cancer Society. Cummings’ contribution was a single, squared gold button that graced the top of each shoe.
A limited-edition compact pendant called Beautiful Blossom debuted in 2001 for an Estée Lauder solid perfume. The piece debuted at an exhibit in Washington, DC, after which it was available for sale.
Cummings also worked with QVC, an American television station, to sell affordably priced pieces fashioned in sterling silver. The premiere of her QVC collection was gratifying, with thousands of items sold in less than the allocated hour.
Retiring in 2003, Cummings closed her business as well as the boutiques and moved to Utah with her family. She was lured back into the world of jewelry design ten years later by pearl specialists at Assael, with whom she collaborated to create 25 pieces of cultured pearl and diamond jewelry crafted in platinum and gold.
Cummings’ jewelry continues to earn acclaim from critics and customers alike. Whether for her signed pieces for Tiffany & Company created during the 1970s and 1980s or the styles designed under her own name, Angela Cummings’ work remains admired for its beauty, comfort, and signature style, which she has perfected during her fantastic career.