Angela Cummings: When Jewelry Pieces Become Timeless Art Objects

Schooled in Europe in art, goldsmithing, and gemology and "adopted" by the US, Angela Cumming is one of the most appreciated jewelry designers of our days.

The world of jewelry would be poorer and incomplete without Angela Cummings. Her creations, rooted in nature and exquisitely crafted are, no doubt, real works of art.

Angela Cummings - Short Biography

Together with Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti, Angela Cummings is considered one of the innovative jewelry designers associated with Tiffany & Co.

Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1944,  at the age of three she moved with her family to the United States. She later returned to Europe to study art in Perugia, Italy, and in Hanau, Germany, graduating with a degree as a gemologist, goldsmith, and designer.

With her universe - and skills - enlarged by the studies in Europe she came back to the US and In 1968, and began working at Tiffany & Co. Her creations were so successful that, in 1975, Tiffany presented Angela Cumming's first complete jewelry collection.

In 1984, Cummings - at that time an already mature and appreciated designer - formed her own company with her husband which gave her the opportunity to expand her design repertoire. One year later, her creations were sold by Bergdorf Goodman. She is also represented at Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Shiseido, Japan.
angela-cummings-iron-lacquer-gold-cuff
To make her work affordable for a wide range of customers, not only for the very rich ones, she created part of her designs using less expensive materials.  

Angela Cummings - An Innovative Designer

Angela Cummings was famous for the way she processed 18-carat gold, platinum, and silver, with precious stones. As an innovative designer, she came with surprising jewelry by juxtaposing these materials with unconventional counterpoints such as wood.

She also experimented with classical techniques of creating jewels, such as the inlay of precious metals and iron, a process known as "damascene".

Her collections, full of joy and color and inspired by nature, were highly appreciated by the collectors. One of her bestselling jewelry pieces was, for example, a $3,875 lifelike gold rose petal necklace and earring set which was allegedly inspired by an accident. At one point, Angela Cummings accidentally crushed a rose in her hand when surprised by the ringing of the telephone.

Inspired by themes found in nature, Cummings incorporated in her creations forms such as ginkgo leaves, spiderwebs, vines, shells, feathers, seafoam, dragonflies, and orchids. Some of the most famous pieces Cummings created for Tiffany were a $38,000 gold-and-diamond spiderweb necklace, $12,000 earrings made of gold and diamonds and shaped like elm leaves, a $5,800 crocodile bracelet fashioned out of 18-karat gold, and a $1.5 million geometric emerald and diamond necklace.

Educated in art, Angela became famous for her innovation, trompe d'œil effects, intricate designs, and concern with the smallest of details.

angela-cummings-18k-gold-buckle-alligator-belt

Angela Cummings Becomes A Brand

In 1984, Cummings launched her business in partnership with her husband, Bruce Cummings a gemmologist who had also worked for Tiffany & Co.

She began working with a wider range of materials, especially silver, as she had not been allowed to sign her silver works at Tiffany.

Although her first collection included many high-end pieces of beautiful jewelry with black opals, South Sea pearls, black jade, and diamonds with nature-inspired motifs (the most expensive piece of jewelry was $117,000), there were also items as low as $30. In addition, she also approached more genres including tableware and accessories which represented about thirty percent of the items in her new collections. She also came on the market with watches.

She opened her first "Angela Cummings Fine Jewelry Boutique" within the department store Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and she also partnered with Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Angela Cummings Was Highly Appreciated In The Fashion World

Her creativity blossomed in many new creations prised by the connaisseurs. An article in the New York Times was very appreciative of her creations. NYT wrote about several of her new pieces such as a linked necklace made of gold with an etched wood grain surface, a matching cuff and collar of inlaid black opals, an inlaid black opal necklace of gold, with links shaped like orchids, gold, and burnished silver pieces inlaid with a zebra pattern of black jade, and a necklace of South Sea pearls with a 4.5-carat (total) diamond clasp.

Fashion guru Elsa Klensch (CNN) also appreciated many of Angela Cummings' pieces made during the late 1990s.

Known for her passion for the three-dimensional art of sculpture, Angela Cummings created pieces that featured movements, such as through stems that twisted and curving leaves. One of her most-loved pieces shaped in this style is the necklace called Breakers (1997), composed of a series of waves going around the neck. Others pieces she created had an Asian influence, featuring cloud shapes infused with jade.
Angela Cummings
Cummings' 1999 collection was described by Klench as more abstract than her organic designs of the past, although they retained their sculptural quality. For this collection, Angela combined semiprecious and precious stones with metals, such as peridot with diamonds and gold. Her education in art and exquisite taste were highly visible in the way she mixed colors. She broke the rules of traditional jewelry-making by using plenty of color in her designs. For example, she combined mauve-, brown-and gold-colored black pearls with diamonds that were also slightly tinted in mauve and brown, Fashion Encyclopedia reported.

Cummings also worked with QVC, an American television station, to sell affordably priced pieces fashioned in sterling silver. She sold thousands of items in less than an hour.

Although Cummings continues to favor organic designs, she sometimes surprises by adding geometric pieces to her collections. Regardless of the shape and the source of inspiration, it is to be noted that all her creations have something in common: the piece has to be comfortable. So, Angela Cummings jewelry is not only of an undisputed beauty but also provides comfort to the wearer.

In 2003, Cummings closed her business as well as the boutiques and moved to Utah with her family. But, ten years later she started a collaboration with pearl specialists at Assael, with whom she collaborated to create 25 pieces of cultured pearl and diamond jewelry crafted in platinum and gold.

View our Collection of Antique & Vintage Jewelry