"Life Began in Water"
Sah Oved, c. 1950
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the years following the Second World War, more so than in any other era, jewelry began to be viewed as a type of “wearable art,” which allowed the wearer to express his or her character as well as that of the designer. Designers played with the conventions of jewelry-making to produce untraditional, often abstract, pieces which looked to the modernist principles of the Bauhaus as well as to earlier avant-garde art movements such as Surrealism, Cubism and Constructivism. Though designs may have nodded to conventional and traditional designs, jewelers felt free to play with proportion and material, employing stones with unusual shapes which were presented in arrangements which were often asymmetrical.
Sah Oved became known for such pieces. Here’s an example of her work, made in England around 1950. “Life began in Water,” features a playful title which is alluding to the creation of life. This jewel is considered an iconic piece of its period.
The central ornament of the necklace is positioned off-center, the fishes and water birds are abstract, and the cuts of the agates, jasper and aquamarines are unconventional. The wholly odd, asymmetrical design became a benchmark for other designers wishing to emulate her work.