Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mid Century Jewelry Designer – Kay Denning

I love love LOVE enamel on copper jewelry. I started off as a fan of Matisse jewelry (which I have seen
Joan wear on Mad Men many times), but then found the work of Kay Denning. Don’t get me wrong I
still own and admire Matisse, but it has definitely been pushed into the background when it comes to
searching and acquiring. Here are some pieces in my currently collection:


Aren’t they pretty! These are my favorite pieces.

 The yellow bracelet was one of my first pieces :) 

Bracelets, bracelets, and more bracelets

Yes she did make necklaces too!

How to spot a Denning? Well I find it quite easy, since her work is very distinctive. But a few things to
look for are, first the style. 95% of the pieces I have seen feature a designed made by large “cookies” or
globs of colored glass with a contrasting color background.

  See the raised "cookies"

Also there is of course her signature (which is usually in green on a white background)…obvious I know lol. But I have seen her work mislabeled all the time, and I’m constantly surprised by how many different words people read.  Generally most of the large items like bracelets and necklaces are marked, but rarely (if ever) are earrings and pins.


I have scoured the web and found very little information on the artist other than it seems she made
jewelry during the 60s for Bovano of Chester, CT.  There is one particular color combination that seems like it was quite popular, due to how often I see them.  That combo is the classic red, white, and blue (I wear mine every 4th of July)


 On occasion I have seen pieces that are not the "cookie" style, but rather look almost stenciled.  These are more rare it seems but they do come up on ebay every so often. 


I'm sure I will be collecting Denning for years to come, but I tend to buy it sporadically now.  Prices have sky rocketed, or at least sellers perceptions have warped.  If you do a search on Denning right now on ebay you will see bracelets in the price range up to 250 which just seems crazy to me.  I can understand wanting to get as much as you can for your item, but a lot of them have been "sitting" online for months.  Some of them are worth more than others (at least to me) but a lot of it is just overpriced.  But...if you love it as much as I do keep searching, there are some great pieces at reasonable prices...that is if I don't buy them first LOL. 

Becca

PS.  Check out my Collection here on the blog!

9 comments:

  1. I must say that I'd never seen her pieces before. They are quite stunning!

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  2. Glad to learn about this jewelry, I'm going to be on the lookout for it!

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  3. My Mother and my Father knew the Dennings and my Mom would love to share what she knows about them. We also make enamel jewelry in a similar style in addition to making paintings in enamel on copper. And...we live in Jacksonville. Feeel free to email me...Michael Lucey

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    1. Hi Michael! I would love to learn more! Unfortunately I can't access your email address from your profile, can you email me? My contact email is at the top of the page. Thank you!

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  4. I feel the exact same way! I would so love to find out more about her, too.

    You say you didn't pay so much for your pieces - out of curiosity what sort of prices did you get yours for? And would you be willing to sell any at all? :) I'd understand a markup! :)

    I am scouring the internet but there is so little out there. I am actually wondering if I might try to learn how to MAKE enamel! It could never be as good as her work of course and there is something magical about the feel of something that has aged, but it might be fun.

    This post is written a fair while ago - have you got any more now?

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    1. Hi! On prices, it depends, since I love to look for unidentified pieces, but usually around 50ish for most bracelets/necklaces. I don't buy as much anymore since I have built a good size collection. Most of the piece that come available I either have or don't care for as much. :D I probably have around 250+ pieces maybe (I'm out of control!).
      I would love to make enamel jewelry as well, but have yet to find a local class. :(

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  5. OMG!!!! I was doing a google search for info on my grandmothers old best friend and came across your blog... we had no idea that her work was this known and admired. My grandparents were neighbors with the dennings. My grandmother was best friends with her. She has numerous person pieces made by kay. I also have a bunch of tie tac an cuff link sets made by her. I read your blog to my gram and I have to tell you she started to well up and the nose start sniffling as she started to remember all the good times she had with kay. If you or anyone wants to ask us any questions believe me when I say my gram will love to tell the stories.

    Oh oh I also wanted to say if your a fan ofthe jewlery I can show you some pictures of not just our personal pieces BUT I have some pieces that are hmmmmmmm how do you say are a little larger then just jewlery and is absolutely breath taking. I wanted to post picgures in the comments but I dont know how. Please email me so I can show you.

    Thank you for giving my grandmothed a trip down memory lane and a beautiful smile that I trust will be upon her face as she sits and remembers all the amazing times she had with her dear friend

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    1. I forgot to hit notify me also my email is rjscalise@gmail.com so if u reply to my comment reply to this reply so I know you ummmm replied lol :)

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  6. Thanks for your article! I just realized a little pin I have had for years is most likely a kay denning piece. It matches the brown, green and red necklace in your 4th pic!

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