The minute I left the Betty Cooke retrospective at the Walters Art Museum, I knew what I had to do. I headed directly to The Store Ltd., Cooke’s jewelry space and museum-style shop, located in Cross Keys since 1965. After trying on several signature pieces, I bought myself the perfect necklace.
In all honesty, I had my eye on this particular item for over a year, but had never brought myself to a full commitment. However, walking through The Circle and the Line: The Jewelry of Betty Cooke, an exhibit of 160 works made between 1947 and 2017, it became obvious that it was a now-or-never moment. I knew that this relatively affordable piece would be gone the next time I visited and I really wanted to own this small bit of Baltimore’s cultural legacy, especially after seeing so much of it displayed with precision and care at the museum.
My Betty Cooke necklace is an asymmetrical thread of thin silver tubes boasting a petite chunk of pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, placed off to one side, with an extra linear tube and a circular disc dangling sideways off the chain in counterbalance. Compared to much of Cooke’s work on display in the museum, it’s quite simple. This particular piece grabbed me because it felt deliberately weird and playful, while fluently speaking the visual language Cooke has honed through seventy-plus years of making.