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Melanite Pioneer in Copper Jewelry: Winifred Mason Chenét

A Short Introductory Story about a Winifred Mason Chenét - a historical Melanite (Black)pioneer in jewelry around the 1900's.

I came across her when I realized I didn't know much about Black jewelry creators, I felt it was important to become familiar with that info. Her story is one similar to many creators. Untold and unknown. Im here to share it.


Winifred Mason Chenét was born in 1915 in the small town of Cambridge, Maryland. As a young girl, she was fascinated by the intricate beadwork and jewelry that her grandmother and other women in her community created.

She was also drawn to the rich colors and textures of African art, which would later become a major influence on her own designs.

Mason's family moved to New York City when she was a teenager, and it was there that she first discovered her passion for jewelry making. She studied at the Art Students League and the Cooper Union, and quickly developed a reputation for her innovative designs and impeccable craftsmanship.

Despite facing discrimination and limited opportunities as a Black woman in a predominantly white and male-dominated industry, Mason persevered and continued to create beautiful and distinctive pieces of jewelry. Her work caught the eye of many prominent figures, including the legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, who commissioned several pieces from her.

In addition to her work as a jewelry designer, Mason was also a mentor and teacher to many other Black jewelry makers. She believed in the importance of supporting and empowering other artists, and was dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Mason received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 1989. Her legacy lives on today, not only in the beautiful jewelry pieces she created, but also in the many artists and designers whom she inspired and mentored over the years.



Winifred Mason Chenét was an influential jewelry designer and artist who inspired and mentored many other artists and designers, particularly Black artists who faced discrimination and limited opportunities in the predominantly white and male-dominated industry. Some of the notable jewelry artists who were inspired by Mason include:

1. Art Smith - Art Smith was a prominent jewelry designer and metalsmith who studied under Mason at the Art Students League in New York City. Smith was influenced by Mason's use of African motifs and textures in her designs, and went on to become a key figure in the mid-twentieth century art jewelry movement.

2. Joyce J. Scott - Joyce J. Scott is a contemporary jewelry artist who creates bold and intricate pieces that incorporate a wide range of materials, including beads, glass, and found objects. She was inspired by Mason's use of African art and design elements in her jewelry, and has cited Mason as a major influence on her work.

3. Betty Cooke - Betty Cooke is a jewelry designer who was a contemporary of Mason's and also studied under her at the Art Students League. Cooke was inspired by Mason's dedication to craftsmanship and her innovative use of materials and textures in her jewelry.

4. John Mason - John Mason is a ceramic artist who is also known for his abstract sculptures and jewelry designs. He was inspired by his mother Winifred Chenét Mason's work, and has credited her with instilling in him a deep appreciation for the beauty and power of art.

These are just a few examples of the many artists and designers who were influenced by Winifred Chenét Mason's work and legacy.

Use these links for photos of her work & additional informative links:*:*&edan_fq[]=name:%22Chenet%2C+Winifred+Mason%22

✨Check back for more information on the other artists she inspired and mentored!✨

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