Michael Manthey image 1
HARMONY brooch of slate, garnet, rainbow moonstone, opals, spessartites, citrine, eighteen karat and fourteen karat gold, sterling silver; 2002. All photographs courtesy of Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia.
Michael Manthey

Heavy Metal Alchemist




“I believe art is the safe in which you manage to keep your soul. If I were the last person on earth, I would probably continue making jewelry and hanging it in the trees around me. That’s the kind of fool I am.”

Michael Manthey stands at the large plate-glass window of the Wexler Gallery in the Old City section of Philadelphia, watching the traffic crawling down Third Street. In the last twenty years, this neighborhood has morphed from a commercial strip dominated by hardware wholesalers and restaurant supply stores to the hub of the city’s vibrant art scene and home to dozens of galleries. In roughly the same period, Manthey has undergone a parallel transformation of his own, from commercial diver and jack-of-all-trades to successful artisan of exquisite one-of-a-kind jewelry.

As soon as I enter the gallery he approaches, hand held out, flashing a big smile. Manthey is a striking figure, tall with a long mane of curly silver hair. Wearing khakis, an unbuttoned blue floral print shirt, and a black T-shirt over which is draped a necklace laden with turquoise and silver, he brings to mind an exceedingly amiable pirate, an image that is bolstered by the observation that his left thumb ends in a mysterious metallic appendage that fits neatly over the tip and attaches at the middle joint (more on this later).





More Michael Manthey images


Avery, Ron. “His Life Has Been a Mosaic: Artist’s Been Here, There, Done This, That.” Philadelphia Daily News, July 2, 1993.

Le Van, Marthe, ed. 500 Gemstone Jewels: A Sparkling Collection of Dazzling Designs. New York: Lark Books, 2010.

McCarthy, Cathleen. “Nothing for the Timid.” Lapidary Journal, July 1994: 26.


David Updike has lived in and around Philadelphia for most of the last thirty years, and for the last ten has been a book editor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When not herding words, he likes to play guitar and listen to old-time radio programs, especially those that feature creaking doors. As someone who appreciates a good story, he was delighted to meet jewelrymaker Michael Manthey, who knows how to tell one.



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