I don't make jewelry; I do sculptures for the body. – Barry Kieselstein-Cord


Artistic Beginnings

Barry Kieselstein-Cord was born in 1943 in New York City, to an architect and an illustrator. His interest in art began at a young age, his first love being Native American themes, which inspired him to create carvings and effigies. In his teens, Kieselstein-Cord changed his focus to painting and metalwork, experimenting with metals to observe changes in color and patina. He professes his inspiration has come from cultures and periods, rather than from other artists.

Kieselstein-Cord studied at the Parsons School of Design, New York University, and the American Craft Institute. Early in his career, he was an art director/producer for several advertising agencies. After nine years, he wearied of Madison Avenue and decided to pursue his interest in jewelry design. He went to work for Georg Jensen before deciding to strike out on his own.

In 1972, Kieselstein-Cord founded his eponymous company. In addition to producing and selling jewelry, Kieselstein-Cord designed gloves, home furnishings, and accessories. Handbags were added to his repertoire in 1991. 


Branching Out

In 1985, Kieselstein-Cord opened boutiques within Bergdorf Goodman's New York location. Boutiques followed in Neiman Marcus' Beverly Hills location and Mitsukoshi, Tokyo In 1990. Five years later, locations opened in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.


A Celebrity Following

Kieselstein-Cord has a loyal clientele that encompasses all areas of celebrity, from film and TV stars to musicians to sports figures to artists. His devotees include but are by no means limited to Tom Hanks, Oprah, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Wayne Gretzky, and Jack Nicholson. He was a long-time friend of Andy Warhol and has worked with Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein.

Vintage 1986 Kieselstein Cord Carnelian 18 Karat Gold Signet Ring
Vintage 1986 Kieselstein Cord Carnelian 18 Karat Gold Signet Ring
Vintage 1986 Kieselstein Cord Carnelian 18 Karat Gold Signet Ring

Setting Trends

I am not influenced by fashion, preferring to be an influencer. – Barry Kieselstein-Cord

From the outset, Kieselstein-Cord experimented with sterling silver, although most of his early pieces were created using plastic recycled from items made in the 1930s and 1940, as well as natural materials such as deer horn and leather. 

The first significant sale he made was to the owner of a chain of hunting stores, the profit from which allowed him to purchase a large quantity of sterling silver. From this, he produced his first full collection of sterling silver pieces, which premiered at Georg Jensen's flagship store in New York. The collection was an instant hit, and the success of Kieselstein-Cord's venture was assured.

In 1976, Kieselstein-Cord embarked on a new endeavor: creating status belt buckles. The latest creations took the fashion world by storm, and soon his belt buckles received plenty of media attention, in particular from fashion magazines, where his collection appeared in spread after full-color spread. His best-known belt buckles were entitled the Winchester, an homage to the American West, and the Vaquero. A book about Art Nouveau design inspired each. His alligator necklaces, bracelets, belt buckles, and accessories are signature pieces that are still desirable today.

By the late 1970s, Kieselstein-Cord began using gold as well as sterling silver to showcase his designs. Precious and semi-precious gemstones were added to the mix, and his reputation for artistic wearable designs continued to increase his international celebrity.

Kieselstein-Cord's association with Perry Ellis blossomed during this time. Ellis allowed Kieselstein-Cord to display his works in Ellis' showroom. In return, Kieselstein-Cord designed a set of sterling silver duck candlesticks that lined Ellis' dining room table. The association was mutually beneficial to the two business owners for many years. 

The last thing I look at for inspiration is jewelry of any kind or period. – Barry Kieselstein-Cord

Throughout his career, much of his inspiration has come from nature, featuring animal motifs that include dogs, horses, and alligators. Another popular theme is ancient art and architecture.

Ever the artist, Kieselstein-Cord, creates jewelry that is first and foremost a work of art – a piece that will be enjoyed and appreciated for lifetimes.


Notables

A scarab minaudiére influenced by ancient Egyptian art, as well as the Art Deco Egyptian revival period, is designed in the famous Kieselstein-Cord style.

Mick Jagger had a sterling silver skull necklace created for his 30th birthday. 

Some of Kieselstein-Cord's most memorable collections include the Crocodile, circa 1985; Pompeii, designed in 1986; and Borgia, introduced in 1980.

The Crown Heart Motif, created in 1987, was fashioned into rings, pendants, and earrings, many featuring diamonds, rubies, or sapphires set pavé-style. The design featured a gold cleft heart with a sculpted crown. 

 

Exhibitions

  • The Louvre, Paris
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Louisiana State Museum
  • Houston Museum of Fine Arts
  • National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
  • Louisiana State Museum of Fine Art
  • Eckert Fine Art Gallery in Millerton, NY

 

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