Arts and Crafts Ruskin Jewelry

Arts and crafts jewellery is one of my favourite types of adornment. I have very few examples because it is pretty rare. Partially because the movement itself short lived (between 1890 and 1914), but also because the designers embraced a labour-intensive handmade esthetic which meant that they didn’t produce a lot of pieces, and most of it was expensive.

Arts and crafts design was aligned with William Morris’ Pre-Raphaelite School of fine art. Like the Pre-Raphaelites, arts and crafts designers were basically against the industrial and machine age. John Ruskin was a founding father of the Arts and crafts scene. One of his followers, Edward Richard Taylor, opened a pottery concern on the outskirts of Birmingham in 1898. He named it after Ruskin. In 1900, The Ruskin Pottery started producing richly glazed ceramic cabochons made to be inset in home decorations and jewellery.

These hard-fired “plaques” proved popular and soon other potteries started manufacturing similar ceramic cabochons, so I can’t tell you if the pieces pictured her are Ruskins (they would be signed, but these pieces have closed backs. They were mostly set in pewter (above left) or silver (above right). Repoussé pewter settings that mimicked medieval designs were frequently the handiwork of home guilds as the metal was easy to work with.

The cabochon pictured above is probably from the tail end of the Ruskin Pottery history. Taylor died in 1911. His son William then took over. While other firms like Moorcroft and Kensington tried to replicate Taylor’s glazes, but William took his father’s glazing secrets to the grave with him when he died in 1935.