Post-war European migration provided a catalyst for the development of jewellery as an art form. This story begins with gold rush of the 1860s and the language of goldfields jewellery for expressing national identity.

It includes the Arts & Crafts Movement as context for decorative arts in developing national identity. But jewellery continued to be considered largely as trade or hobby.

The studio movement begins with the wave of postwar migration from northern Europe, which brought a modernist approach to adornment as a creative practice.

By Justine Olsen

European immigration and settlement introduced western based notions of jewellery to New Zealand. Identity became a significant feature as visions of what jewellery could signify, shifted between European cultural values and an emerging local identity.

The Otago gold rush of the early 1860s galvanised the growth of the jewellery industry. Jewellers arrived from Australia and Europe and one of the first opportunities to publically demonstrate their work was in Dunedin at the New Zealand Exhibition of 1865. Amongst the jewellery presented was a small case of work by Goodwin and Barlow, of Clyde…. ‘who have used only gold of Otago …The brooches are unexceptionably good in design and finish; and they are most interesting as being produced in a gold fields township.’ [1]

While a sense of national pride emerged through the use of locally obtained gold, the style of jewellery suggested the influence of the European style of Naturalism. This 'floral style' was reflected in comments by the Jurors who described ‘mountings formed of leaves and flowers’ in the woven gold bracelets by J. Bernstein of Dunedin [2]. Manufacturing standards too were linked to Europe: ‘Greater attention to the principles of art and design is above all things necessary, to enable our local manufacturers to emulate the efforts of the accomplished artists of Europe’. [3]

Shifting visions: identity

While the style of European Naturalism continued from the late 1860s, a close connection to New Zealand emerged through the use of local materials. Demonstrated through exhibitions both national and international, local materials became one of the most important vehicles for promoting New Zealand jewellery. The New Zealand display at the Vienna International exhibition of 1873, for instance, showed ‘Greenstone and Quartz Jewellery, Colonial-made’ by Kohn and Sons of Auckland, including:

‘6 single Greenstone drops; 4 Greenstone and Quartz for brooches; 2 Greenstone books and 1 Greenstone heart; 3 Greenstone Brooch Stones; 3 pairs Greenstone Earrings; 3 Greenstone Maltese Cross’. [4]

Jewellery worn by both Māori and Pākehā, pounamu or greenstone mounted in gold, became symbols of cultural change. For Māori, pounamu was revered for its beauty and preciousness, and was especially prominent in adornment. Portraits of the period demonstrated the emerging new style of this period including ‘Māori Girl’ by Gottfried Lindauer, about 1874. [5]

Portrait of an unidentified Māori girl, by Gottfried Lindaur, c.1874

Te Papa, 1936-0036-1

As jewellers looked for a closer connection with the local environment, indigenous bird and fish specimens (including huia and kiwi beaks, shark and whale teeth) were mounted in gold, transformed into earrings or pendants, drawing a closer alignment with Māori adornment. [6] 

Commercialisation of New Zealand jewellery by the turn of the century led to a distinctive souvenir style. The Manawatu Times in 1903 suggested ‘One of the prettiest and most original of the many designs in typical New Zealand presents out for this year’s Christmas season is the Kia Ora brooch’ [7]. The use of Māori greetings on pounamu through pierced gold plate was characteristic of commercial jewellery, emphasising origin and the importance of indigenous materials in New Zealand jewellery. [8]

Arts and crafts movement

While commercial jewellery popularised pounamu and gold, the emergence of the British born arts and crafts movement from the 1890s emphasised semi-precious materials. The movement which sought the dignity of traditional craft practice through the nobility of the hand made was promoted through art and technical colleges including the Canterbury College of Art (CCSA).

Director of CCSA from 1905, Robert Herdman Smith, boosted the movement through new programmes at the school while also creating a guild for ex-pupils. It was however the display of jewellery by British exponents including Charles Robert Ashbee at the New Zealand International Exhibition of 1906-07 that allowed pupils and practitioners to view examples which they would have otherwise seen in the British journal ‘The Studio’.

Noted by the ‘Official Record’ was Christchurch jeweller Alice Beatrice Waymouth who had learnt under Ashbee in England. Waymouth specialised in belt buckles and necklaces in enamel, silver, turquoise and pounamu, which were considered ‘well worthy of comparison’ to British jewellery, which was considered the benchmark. [9] While Waymouth was to return to England, jewellers Annie Buckhurst (1894-1959) and Chrystabel Aitken (1904-2015) both of whom trained through Canterbury College of Art, were amongst many who worked in the arts and crafts style through into the 1930 and 40s. [10]

Pendant made by Annie Buckhurst, 1910-1921

Te Papa 2002-0017-1

Prominent practitioners who arrived in New Zealand having trained in Britain included Reuben Watts (1869-1940) and Australian born Elsie Reeve (1885-1927). Reeve established her practice in Wellington then later Auckland in 1922, receiving commissions and exhibiting in local art exhibitions. Her sensitive work was characterised by the use of semi-precious stones and silver wire, with hand wrought motifs including grape and vine leaves. [11]

Necklace made from turquoise and silver, by Elsie Reeve, New Zealand c.1920s

Te Papa, GH011809/1

New Zealand identity

Teachers and practitioners ensured that the British born movement continued into the 1920s and 30s, however Alfred Atkinson 1864-1941) was one of a few whose promotion of pāua shell helped turn the focus back again to New Zealand materials. Self -taught and working from his studio in Eastbourne, Atkinson created highly identifiable forms using a koru- like silver decoration to frame pendants and brooches in pāua shell. [12]

Belt buckle made from pāua shell and silver, Alfred Atkinson, Wellington, New Zealand, c.1930

Te Papa, GH007698

The need to retrain disabled soldiers during and following World War II, led to the resurgence in craft skills including making jewellery. The Disabled Servicemen’s Re-establishment League which was relaunched in 1942 opened craft workshops selling its highly recognisable jewellery directly to the public. Jewellery using local materials and motifs, such as pāua shell jewellery depicting native flora and fauna, such as the Beatson brooch below from the 1950s gained widespread popularity during the 1940s and 1950s. [13]


Paua shell and silver brooch, G D Beatson Ltd; jeweller; 1950- 1953; New Zealand

Te Papa GH003168

The presence of such manufacturing skills helped the following generation of jewellers too. Arriving in 1956, Dutch born Ida Hudig (1913-1987) drew on those skills in the production of her modernist jewellery designs. Morris Winn, a disabled serviceman who had undertaken the four year jewellery course was, amongst other jewellers, including Richard Keller, to work with Hudig [14]. Her articulated geometric jewellery using gold but also silver with semi- precious stones included pāua shell.

Along with Hudig, it was the presence of jewellers, Swiss born Kobi Bosshard (b. 1939), and Danish born Jens Hansen (1940-1999), that was to strengthen jewellery through workshop practice from the 1970s. The resurgence that followed was to become known as the ‘Bone Stone Shell Movement’ where national identity lay at the heart of practice.

Header image: Brooch, pounamu and gold, made by Jacob Ziman, New Zealand, 1915. Te Papa, GH004899

Crafting Aotearoa 

This article is part of a collection of 52 essays that form an online companion to the book, Crafting Aotearoa. Spanning three centuries of making and thinking in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Moana (Pacific), this book looks at the artistic practices that, at different times and for different reasons, have been described by the term craft. Crafting Aotearoa tells previously untold stories of craft in Aotearoa New Zealand, so that the connections, as well as the differences and tensions, can be identified and explored. This book proposes a new idea of craft – one that acknowledges Pākehā, Māori and wider Moana histories of making, as well as diverse community perspectives towards objects and their uses and meanings.

Edited by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai and Damian Skinner

Hardcover book published by Te Papa Press

RRP $94.00

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Olsen, Justine. 'Shifting Visions', Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Published: 11 11 2019.


[1] Otago Daily Times 8 February 1865.

[2] New Zealand exhibition, 1865. Reports and awards of the jurors and appendix. Dunedin, 1866. p.301.

[3] Ibid, p.301 2.

[4] The Vienna Exhibition, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1873 Session I, H-05



[7] Kiaora brooch, Manamatu Times, Vol XXVII, Issue 7876, 3 December 1903, Papers Past

[8] J. Cowan.

[9] Official record: New Zealand International Exhibition of the arts and industries, 1906-07. Wellington, 1910. pp 270-271.





[14] Winn family papers, Te Papa