Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Necklace - 'Life Began in Water'
  • 'Life Began in Water'
    Oved, Sah, born 1900 - died 1983
  • Enlarge image

'Life Began in Water'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1950 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Oved, Sah, born 1900 - died 1983 (designed)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, silver, agates, jasper and aquamarines

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 33, shelf D, box 1

In the early post-war years, jewellery began to be accepted as an art form or 'wearable art', expressing the character of the wearer as much as that of the designer. In liberating themselves from the conventions of traditional jewellery, designers looked back to the modernist principles of the Bauhaus and to earlier avant-garde art movements such as Surrealism, Cubism and Constructivism. This allowed them to create unique designs, often with a sculptural quality. Jewels of this period are often abstract in design, though they may use or refer to traditional motifs. Stones have unconventional shapes and their arrangement is often asymmetrical.

Sah Oved had little formal training. She studied at art school in Chichester but her studies were interrupted by the war. During the First World War she took evening classes in jewellery with war-crippled miners who were being trained for alternative employment and honed her skills under the Arts and Crafts jeweller John Paul Cooper. By 1924 she had her own workshop under the name of Miss Rendle, Doughty Street. In 1927 she worked with her partner Moshe Oved in the well-known shop 'Cameo Corner' near the British Museum, selling antique jewellery. Between 1934 and 47 they lived in Jerusalem, later returning to England.

Her jewellery was almost invariably made in response to private commissions, often incorporating stones or cameos from the shop's stock. The poet Edith Sitwell, the novelist Marghanita Laski and Nancy Cunard were among her clients.

'Life began in Water', the title alluding to the creation of life, has become an iconic piece of its period. Unintentionally and maybe through her spontaneous approach Oved broke away from conventions. The central ornament of the necklace is positioned off-centre, the fishes and water birds are abstract, and the cuts of the agates, jasper and aquamarines are unconventional. The choice of an asymmetrical design was quite unusual for its time.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1950 (made)


Oved, Sah, born 1900 - died 1983 (designed)

Materials and Techniques

Gold, silver, agates, jasper and aquamarines


Height: 20.4 cm, Width: 16.5 cm, Depth: 1.3 cm

Object history note

NB. While the term ‘crippled’ has been used in this record, it has since fallen from usage and is now considered offensive. The term is repeated in this record in its original historical context.

Sah Oved (1900-1983) was born Gwendolyn Ethel Rendle.

A gold and emerald choker dated 1931 was sold by Bonhams in 2006 ('Fine Jewellery', 6 April 2006, London New Bond Street, lot 136). A gold and topaz necklace was in 'Signature Styles: Fine Jewellery and Iconic Jewels from the 20th century'. Bonhams, 6 December 2007, London.

Descriptive line

'Life Began in Water' necklace; gold, silver, agates, jasper and aquamarines, designed and made by Sah Oved, England, about 1950

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Sah Oved, The Book of Necklaces, London 1953


Gold; Silver; Agate; Aquamarine


Jewellery; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.