Jewelry design in the 20th Century has gone through numerous innovations in style and technique. Not least of these innovations is the production of art jewelry — jewels created by fine artists that function as both adornment and art piece. Notable artists from Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder to such contemporary luminaries as Jeff Koons have tried their hand at the design, and often fabrication, of jewelry with wonderful and collectible results.
Among this group fine artist-jewelers is the Mid-Century/Modern sculptor Marguerite Stix. Born in the early 1900’s in Vienna, Austria, Stix emigrated to the United States in 1941 and quickly made a name for herself as a sculptor. Her work was exhibited throughout the U.S. in important galleries and museums — including the Whitney and the Metropolitan.
Marguerite Stix Shell, Amethyst and Pearl Pendant
However, in the 1960’s, Stix and her husband Hugh discovered a new passion: rare and unique shells. Both of them became avid collectors and 1968 saw the publishing of their book The Shell: 500 Million Years of Inspired Design which featured a number of items from the Stix’s private collection. As their treasure trove of beautiful natural shells continued to increase, the Stix’s chose to make their passion public and established a museum in 1964 — The Stix Rare Shell Gallery — at their home in Manhattan.
Marguerite Stix Coral, Hematite and Shell Pendant
But, collecting and displaying shells was not enough for Marguerite. With incredible care and attention to detail, she began to create fine jewelry using gold and precious gems along with her beloved shells. Taking care not to detract from the vivid natural coloration and design, each Stix jewel or miniaudiere paired a perfect shell with diamonds, moonstones, emeralds, pearls and turquoise in a manner which emphasized the precious quality of each sea-shell.
Marguerite Stix Shell Earrings
Her jewelry was sold out of the Cartier store in New York city with prices ranging from $400 – $2,000 in 1972. These fine jewelry items gained a devoted following, including style icon Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and were featured in high fashion magazines such as Vogue. Only a limited number of pieces were ever crafted and, sadly, she died of cancer in 1975.
Today, Marguerite Stix items are rare and highly collectible for connoisseurs of both art and jewelry. They stand as a testament to a highly inventive artist who mastered the juxtaposition of the man-made and natural realms.