Helga Zahn

In the mid-1950s, Helga Zahn set off from Schwarzenbach / Saale to London without any previous artistic training, first she worked as a domestic help and then, with great energy, realised a fantastic career as a jewelry artist. She acquired basic knowledge in design and jewelry art in 1958 with the painter Peter Gee and in a summer course in Oxfordshire. As early as 1959, according to Dr. Petra H├Âlscher in the authoritative publication on Helga Zahn’s artistic career, she made a piece of jewelry made of cut silver sheet with pebbles. From the very beginning, her works have been characterised by great creative freedom and innovative processing of simple basic materials such as silver, silver sheet, pebbles and gemstones such as agates. Zahn works with templates made of silver-colored cardboard, which she lays on the metal and then cuts around it. Discs, crescents, rings or other geometrically shaped elements are recombined again and again until the basic rhythm of a planned bracelet or long chain pendant is heterogenous but coherent. From this working method, Helga Zahn also develops the kinetic system jewellery with details in enamel, which is exemplary for her innovative strength and her inspiration from contemporary art movements such as concrete art or Op Art.

As early as 1966, as a participant in the International Crafts Fair in Munich, she was awarded the gold medal of the Bavarian State Prize for a bracelet and a necklace. Most exhibitions of her work, however, took place in Great Britain and the USA, where she was very well acquainted with important representatives of the blossoming studio jewelry scene. Helga Zahn met fellow designer Wendy Ramshaw, and for Barabara Cartlidge Electrum Galerie Zahn designed the catalog for the inaugural exhibition she took part in. Photographers like Tessa Grimshaw-Traeger photographed her necklaces with pendants in black-and-white shots.


  • 1936 born in Hof/Saale, Germany
  • 1954 Graduation from commercial school
  • 1957 Moved to London; four-week course at the Cherry Marshall Model School; course ‘Colour and Modern Art’, Oxfordshire; course ‘Basic Design’ with Peter Gee, London; part-time studies in the Jewelry Department Central School of Arts & Crafts
  • 1959 Classes in Modern Dance with Ernst Berk
  • 1960 Leeds College of Art, attending a private art school for drawing and design, Paris; lessons in Modern Dance with Jerome Andrews
  • 1961 Course ‘Foundation, Form and Colour Studies’ with Victor Pasmore, Leeds
  • 1962 – 1963 Lecturer at the Leichester College of Arts; at the City Literary Institute, London
  • Solo Exhibitions – Solo Shows


  • 1966 Gold Medal of the Bavarian State Prize, International Craft Fair Munich
  • 1975 Scholarship Bursary of Crafts Advisory Committee, London

Solo Exhibitions

  • 1964 Design Research Inc. New York, USA
  • 1968 Axiom Gallery, London, GB; Reuchin Museum, Pforzheim, D
  • 1969 Apogee Studio, New York
  • 1970 Richard Foncke Gallery, Gent, BE; Weinelt Gallery, Hof, D
  • 1974 Collection of Jewellery, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
  • 1976 Helga Zahn. A Retrospective Assessment 1960-1976. Jewellery, Prints and Drawings. Crafts Advisory Committee, London, Great Britain

Group Exhibitions

  • 1965 Jewellery 65, Ewan Phillips Gallery, London
  • 1966 British Wee, Milan, IT
  • 1967 The Scottish Design Centre, Glasgow
  • 1968 Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford; Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London (silkscreens and jewelry)
    Jablonec 68, Czechoslovakia; Helga Zahn. Colleagues, paintings and silkscreens. Jewelry Museum Pforzheim, Germany
  • 1969 Development of Modern Jewellery, Pace Gallery, London; Bloomingdales, New York
    Liverpool Building and Design Centre, Liverpool; Obelisk Gallery, Boston, USA
    Barharbour Gallery, Maine, USA
    Galerie Henseler, Munich
  • 1970 Tendenzen 70, Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim
    Galerie Richard Foncke, Ghent, Belgium
    ‘Helga Zahn. Collages-Graphics-Drawings’, Galerie Weinelt, Hof, Germany
    ‘Helga Zahn. Jewelry and Jeweler’s Work’, Boutique Bijou, Hof, Germany
  • 1971 Opening exhibition Electrum Gallery, London
  • 1972 Sieraad 1900/72, Zonnehof, Amersfoort, NL
    Camden 72, Swiss Cottage Library, London, UK
  • 1973 The Craftsman’ Art, CAC exhibition at the V&A Museum, London
    British Jewellery, Goldschmiedehaus Hanau & tour, D
    Aspects of Jewellery, Aberdeen Art Galler Scotland
    Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, GB
    DLI Museum, Durham, GB
  • 1974 Jewellery by Helga Zahn, National Museum Wales, Cardiff, GB
  • 1975 – 1976 Jewelry 75, Eberli & Fischer Gallery, CH
    Jewellery in Europe, Scottish Arts Council/CAC exhibition
    Edinburgh, V&A Museum, London and tour
  • 1979 Crafts Council Collection Display, Casel Museum, Norwich, GB
  • 1980 Crafts Concil Collection Display, Casel Museum, Nottingham, GB
    Westdean College, Eduard James Foundation, Farnham, Surrey, GB
    International Jewellery 1900-1980, K├╝nstlerhaus Wien, AU
  • 1980 – 1981 David Crisp, Crafts Advisory Committee, London and tour
  • 1981 Crafts Advisroy Collection Display, Stock on Trend, GB
  • 1982 Oxfordshire Museum Service, Woodstock, Oxfordshire
    Makers Eye, Crafts Advisory committee, London, UK