Atoms necklace

merry renk (American, 1921–2012)

Object Place: San Francisco, California


Diameter: 43.2 cm (17 in.); overall (each element): 5.1 x 5.1 x 1.3 cm (2 x 2 x 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Silver, enamel

On View

The 1940s and 1950s (Gallery 336)


Americas, Jewelry


Necklaces and neck bands

Comprised of 16 “Atom” shaped sterling links separated by small circular links decorated with red enamel .

Renk says she wasn’t consciously thinking of the atomic symbol when she designed the six-lobed shapes that dot this necklace in 1954. But that was one year after the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, and nuclear fear and fascination were in the air. Renk’s customers immediately called the design “atoms,” so she followed suit. Actually, the necklace is inspired by chains worn by sixteenth-century English King Henry VIII in his formal portraits. Renk never claimed the necklace was a political statement, but the design does cleverly associate atomic energy with symbols of power.




Mobilia Gallery; Daphne Farago, December 15, 1994 Daphne Farago; to MFA, 2006, gift of Daphne Farago.

Credit Line

The Daphne Farago Collection


© renk