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James Winn


James H. Winn was highly regarded in the Arts & Crafts movement both as a jeweler and as a teacher.  Born in 1866, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with the renowned Louis J. Millet.  Other Millet students included Clara Barck Wells (the Kalo Shop), Rose and Minnie Dolese (the Wilro Shop), and Jessie Preston.


He began work in 1895 as a jewelry manufacturer.  In 1905 he opened a studio in Chicago's Fine Arts Building, where he created jewelry and taught until 1929, when he moved to California.  Some of Winn's early pieces show an Art Nouveau influence, while later ones are more geometric and in the Arts And Crafts style.  

Mark on pin below:


Mark on necklace below:


The pin below was done at a consummate level of design and execution.  The frame is actually two layers of gold with dozens of tiny pierced rings joining the top and bottom parts.  This level of detail is extraordinary.  It would have been far easier to simply create a thicker one-piece frame, but Winn added this subtle ornament, which allows light to penetrate and illuminate the open-back stones.


Winn mounted five oval faceted amethysts so that the facets are on the bottom and a smooth cabochon side faces the top.  This lets the facets sparkle slightly but softens and modulates the effect. 


The gold leaves are elegant and simple, and fill the frame without overpowering the design.  Winn made them dimensional, with a raised central vein and sloping sides, to act almost as facets themselves, creating patterns of light and shade.  And while Arts & Crafts jewelers usually preferred semiprecious stones, Winn spaced 16 small faceted diamonds across the face of the pin as counterpoint to the plain gold leaves, and to add a bit of fire.  


The pin is large (2-7/8" L and 9/16" W) and has an unusual hinged fastener with two points and a safety clasp.   It is heavy and solid, but delicate.



James Winn gold pin with amethysts and diamonds (front view)

Winn used 21 stones in this pin, in balanced and retrained proportion


James Winn gold pin with amethysts and diamonds (back view)

Unusual double-ended hinged clasp is visible, as are the backwards-facing faceted amethysts


James Winn gold pin with amethysts and diamonds (side view) showing two-level frame separated by dozens of pierced rings

The frame is actually two layers of gold supported by dozens of tiny pierced rings


The necklace below shows another side of Winn's work.  It has a strong Jugendstil-inspired form, and pronounced but extremely fine hammering.   Gold and coral are an elegant and understated combination, and here they have a soft, luminous effect.  The coral glows from the almost faceted hammer marks on the gold around it. 


The main pendant body is composed of stylized leaf forms, with heavily hand-worked surfaces, chased and pierced geometric details, two applied coral beads at the top ("eyes"), and an internal tear-shaped coral drop at the bottom.  The main pendant is suspended from a smaller plaque with curved edges and worked surfaces with pierced details, centering an applied coral bead.  These are connected with small hooks to a delicate chain with five small gold and coral pierced plaques spaced along its length (only two are shown here). 


James Winn gold pendant with coral

Winn pendant in gold and coral with decorated chain


While the chain is long enough (18-1/4") to fit over someone's head, the hooks can be removed from small loops for fastening and unfastening while in front of the wearer (see top of closeup below).  The pendant and the plaque from which it hangs are fairly large -- 2-3/8" H and 1-9/16" W -- but the slender shape, concave edges, fine hammering, and curving cutouts make it seem delicate and light.  Winn also animates the piece by providing articulation between the two main pendant parts and a movable drop inside the pendant, both of which let the piece sway softly as the wearer moves.


James Winn gold pendant with coral -- closeup

Closeup of Winn pendant showing fine hammering

and removable hook-and-loop arrangement (at top)


Winn's Nouveau-styled objects also show the hand of a master.  The flowing lines on the silver pin below were achieved by shaping the saw-pierced surfaces to add shadows and highlights that convey a sense of motion.  The large, prominent cabochon lapis stone thrusts outward to enhance the feeling of movement.  


James Winn silver Nouveau-styled pin with lapis


James Winn silver Nouveau-styled pin with lapis -- side view

Winn sterling Nouveau-styled pin with dimensional lapis cabochon and swirling, pierced

open-work frame with overlapping, interlocking design.  Lightly textured surface.  2-1/4" W


Even less important objects like the stickpin below display Winn's attention to detail and fine design.   We see a considerable amount of scarab jewelry that is very forgettable, but the simple version shown here by Winn matches the color of the stone with the color of the metal, and has enough stylized details to carry the Egyptian theme without becoming heavy-handed.  The open back that reveals carving on the reverse of the stone is a nice touch.


James Winn gold scarab stickpin (front view)


James Winn gold scarab stickpin (back view)


Stickpin, gold, oval chased and hammered frame in an Egyptian motif, centering heavy carved green stone in the shape of a scarab beetle.  The back of the stone is also carved, with hieroglyphics.  2-9/16" L and 9/16" W.  Signed:  WINN


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