“Read My Pins” at BAM

Breaking the Glass Ceiling, featured in the Bellevue Arts Museum's "Read My Pins" exhibition. This pin was worn by Madeleine Albright to send the message that she and those like her were breaking the glass ceiling for women of all ages. The brooch was designed by Vivian Shimoyama and photographed by John Bigelow Taylor. Used courtesy of BAM.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling, featured in the Bellevue Arts Museum’s “Read My Pins” exhibition. This brooch was worn by Madeleine Albright to send the message that she and those like her were breaking the glass ceiling for women of all ages. The brooch was designed by Vivian Shimoyama and photographed by John Bigelow Taylor. Used courtesy of Bellevue Arts Museum.

 

“Read My Pins” is a unique exhibition to find in an art museum. It features an eclectic collection of brooches, mostly of the costume variety, that represent a woman whose art cannot be found anywhere on display; not painted on canvas, not etched in glass, and not forged in metal or decorated with gemstones.

The brooches were described in the Washington Post as “garish tchothkes.” Kathleen Vanesian of the Phoenix New Times goes so far as to say that the show is “often ridiculously segmented into categories,” and she doesn’t feel it belongs in the Phoenix Art Museum.

I believe Ms. Vanesian raises an important question, one the arts community continues to ask about art in general and jewelry specifically. What constitutes art?

Most of these brooches were acquired at garage sales and dime stores, out of the way shops visited by a woman whose role in shaping US foreign policy and democracy has done nothing to alter her down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to collecting jewelry.

So, is it art?

I suppose the answer depends largely upon how you define the word. Was it made by master craftsmen using old world techniques?

Most of it was not.

Was it pieced together in the studio by a visionary who artfully considered the means and methods by which she pieced together the stones and carved the lines of metal?

Most of it was not.

Was it fashioned out of nature’s most beautiful offerings: precious gold or silver, diamonds and rubies?

Most of it was not.

Then why has this collection of costume brooches of varying themes and designs, loosely grouped in categories of insects, hearts, and patriotic symbols, taken such a prominent place in the central exhibition hall at the Bellevue Arts Museum?

An institution whose mission is to ignite the mind and fuel creativity? An institution dedicated to art, craft, and design?

I propose that in this case, Read My Pins falls under the Bellevue Arts Museum’s commitment to the exploration of creativity. This collection of brooches belongs to a woman whose creativity was played out day after day in state rooms, board rooms, and conference rooms.

Her media included words, moods, and all the forms of nonverbal communication she could muster. Including her jewelry. After a number of difficult negotiations with Iraqi officials, Madeleine Albright was described by one of Saddam Hussein’s poets (read, press agents) as an “unparalleled serpent.”

At her next meeting with these officials, Ms. Albright wore a pin with a serpent coiled around a single branch, a jewel hanging from its mouth like an egg it was about to swallow. From that point on, Ms. Albright, who was appointed the first female Secretary of State in 1997, took up the habit of inviting colleagues and press agents to, “Read my pins.”

I think a person would be hard-pressed to find a more creative way for a diplomat to express her creativity. And visitors to the Bellevue Arts Museum have the opportunity to stand face to face with a collection of jewels that represents feminine prowess in the face of national and international crises on a scale that most of us can only comment on from our armchairs.

It may seem out of place in an arts museum, but for those of us who choose to look deeper, beyond the mere surface appearance, we have the pleasure of discovering far more than meets the eye. Madeleine Albright is a woman who gave of herself in every way to promote freedom and democracy on a global scale.

A casual glance at her pins and the stories and quotes that go with them might leave a bitter aftertaste of ethnocentrism and even arrogance, terms that are often bandied about wherever discussions of American politics and foreign policy take place.

However, upon deeper inspection, we find a collection of heartfelt messages, hopes and dreams, intents and purposes. We find a woman who worked hard to learn the ways of peace and, yes, the art of war, in an arena populated by men who were often affronted by the very prospect of a woman sitting at table with them.

We find a woman who never compromised her femininity, yet found ways to hold her own and make a true difference in the world. We find a woman humble enough to share her weaknesses along with her strengths. A woman who made every decision with careful consideration for the long-range consequences, not just for American citizens, but also for the citizens of the world.

A woman who faced challenges the likes of which most of us will never taste, who felt the inadequacy every woman faces, but on a global scale. A woman who wrote, “There were times I felt stymied by my own government, treated unfairly by Congress and the press, and frustrated by own inability to wave a wand and magically reshape events” {from her book Madame Secretary}.

And yet, she showed up for work every single day, ready to give of all her gifts, all her experience, and all her energies to secure freedom for as many people on the earth as possible in her few short years as Secretary of State.

She further writes in her book Madame Secretary, “People sometimes ask me how I want to be remembered. I reply that I don’t want to be remembered; I am still here. But when the day comes, I hope people will say that I did the best with what I was given, tried to make my parents proud, served my country with all the energy I had, and took a strong stand on the side of freedom. Perhaps some will say that I helped teach a generation of older women to stand tall and young women not to be afraid to interrupt.”

I, for one, am grateful to the Bellevue Arts Museum for believing in the value of displaying a collection that, while not necessarily considered traditional or even contemporary art, was clearly artfully curated by a woman whose artistry has and will continue to inspire many around the world.

I encourage you to take an hour out of your day and $12 out of your wallet to immerse yourself in the realm of American foreign policy and American values as seen through the lens of a woman whose life has been dedicated to both since her family came to America for safety in the late 1940s.

Visit the Bellevue Arts Museum website for more information.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Linda Kindler-Priest at Facèré Jewelry

"Baby Pelican" by Linda Kindler-Priest. Two-part brooch in 14k yellow gold, green sapphires, pearl, and aquamarine rough. Photo used with permission.
“Baby Pelican” by Linda Kindler-Priest. Two-part brooch in 14k yellow gold, green sapphires, pearl, and aquamarine rough. Photo used with permission.

 

Linda Kindler-Priest tells a story with every jewel. Sometimes her stories are complex and profound, at other times simple and straightforward. The story she tells with Baby Pelican is a simple story of life.

As the baby pelican toddles along, learning the ropes of life in search of food, he takes in the view of the misty ocean, sparkling in its crystalline beauty. Somehow, he knows that this is where he belongs. Its aquamarine depths will provide safety and sustenance. He will swim, dive, and catch fish. In short, he will live.

Ms. Kindler-Priest tells the bird’s story in two parts. The first act manifests as a masterpiece in repoussé . With only a hammer and a handmade stamp held between her hands and a chunk of 14k gold, she sculpts the pliable metal on her workbench. Pushing, shaping, and coaxing, she calls forth the pelican from both sides of the precious material. By the time Baby has emerged “every millimeter of the metal is worked,” infusing it with “subtle textures” and a “rich softness to the overall feeling.”

Ms. Kindler-Priest then begins the more evocative layer of the baby pelican’s story. First, she adds just a touch of sapphire flourish, giving the impression that the pelican treads upon the pristine shores of a distant shore. Far below, the misty nuance of the sea is represented by a lovely slice of aquamarine rough. The same flourish of sapphires is echoed in the frame surrounding the cut stone, linking them together in perfect harmony. A single ovoid pearl bridges the gap between the two parts, calling to mind the first stage of life for this sweet baby pelican.

This gorgeous brooch is one of several on display at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery as part of their “So Fine” exhibition. The exhibit explores fresh interpretations of fine jewelry and fine art in precious metals and gemstones. Ms. Kindler-Priest uses fine materials, but in an informal, asymmetrical fashion.

In Baby Pelican, the essences of fine and precious blend together in seamless harmony. A precious baby pelican discovers the bounty of the seashore for the first time. A shimmering pearl and the glittering yellow gold remind us that nature’s greatest gifts are both precious and fine. Faceted blue sapphires lend to the piece an element of fine jewelry, and the whimsical pelican and raw aquamarine evoke art at its finest.

Ms. Kindler-Priest finds her inspiration in nature, often drawing from the wildlife sanctuary near her home in Massachusetts. She studies her subjects carefully, ensuring that her work will capture both their essence and their form. Her passion for gemstones led her to learn the art of stone cutting.

She chooses gemstones like a painter chooses a color from her palette, cutting and shaping them to highlight the patterns and textures required to tell her vignettes. She designs her sculptural pieces with an eye to detail, combining all the shapes, textures, and forms found in nature in a symphony of harmony.

We invite you to visit Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery this week. The show closes on May 12, 2015. You will find more information on Facèré’s website.

Mary Lee Hu Featured in “So Fine” at Facèré Jewelry

Choker #91 by Mary Lee Hu
Choker #91 by Mary Lee Hu will remain on display at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery until May 12, 2015. Photo used with permission.

 

Mary Lee Hu approaches her craft like a Zen master, dedicating herself to a relatively narrow group of tools, materials, and techniques.

Every one of her techniques is drawn from the field of textile work. Even ancient designers wove with metal from time to time, but very few appear to have dedicated themselves to the application of techniques in basketry, hand weaving, crochet, and knitting to metalsmithing in quite the way that Ms. Hu has done.

Beginning with silver and copper in the mid-1960s, Mary Lee Hu has created unique adornments that exude many of the characteristics of cloth, though with a fine, glimmering edge that can be achieved only with elemental minerals. Today, Ms. Hu primarily crafts her pieces in 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k gold, often weaving several gauges together to achieve the subtle nuances that set her work apart from that of her peers {Blauer}.

Ms. Hu uses only a small handful of tools, depending primarily upon her fingers. From time to time she employs a crochet hook, and perhaps one or two other special implements, though she prefers to keep her tool bag light and her options limited. Within these self-imposed limitations, she has found an endless supply of variations on a theme.

To follow the arc of Mary Lee Hu’s life work is to behold the power of commitment, faithfulness, and perseverance. She began her work as all great masters begin, in the classroom. At the bench, she learned the elements of Scandinavian design which were so popular during her early years at the bench {Mad Museum}.

In graduate school, she ventured outside the world of metals to take a class in fibre arts. As the semester progressed, she became increasingly inspired to apply what she was learning in textiles to her favored medium, metal wire .

Throughout the 1970s she drew inspiration from nature, crafting lifelike lizards, birds nests, and insects, using the simplest of techniques, wrapping, plaiting, and twisting wires. As school gave way to a career in metals, she found herself on distant shores, studying ancient and modern cultures.

Her passion for anthropology and jewelry history opened a window to the past, inspiring Ms. Hu’s multicultural torques and chokers which carry overtones of the Orient. For many years her work was bold and cultural, though in more recent years the lines of her pieces have become more organic, favoring the styles of European antiquity.

The necklace featured here, called simply Choker #91, is an exquisite example of Ms. Hu’s more delicate, European style work. The evoke a ballroom scene during the Belle Epoque, though Ms. Hu would be cautious about assigning any one source for inspiration.

Ms. Hu, quoted by author Nanz Aalund in the book Masters: Gold, claims many inspirations. “I look at a lot of historical jewelry and metalwork, as well as traditional non-Western body adornment, and they do influence my work, but not to the point where I wish to name a piece in reference to something in particular” {p. 25}.

Instead, she maintains a minimalist approach to naming her pieces. Each piece is numbered within its most elemental category, be it a Choker, a BraceletEarrings, or a Brooch. She hopes this simplistic naming system allows those who experience her jewels to interpret their impact through their intuition, through their gut, rather than using their minds to puzzle over the name and what it means to them.

For those interested in experiencing this gut level reaction, we are pleased to announce the ‘So Fine’ jewelry exhibition at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in downtown Seattle. Visitors can savor several precious pieces fashioned by Mary Lee Hu, as well as a number of pieces by other local jewelry artists, including Nanz Aalund, Megan Corwin, Maggie Davidson, Linda Kindler-Priest, Todd Pownell, and more.

The ‘So Fine’ exhibition aims to offer a fresh interpretation and expression of the notion of traditional jewelry. The gallery has chosen select pieces in which the presenting artists have explored visions of finery and fashion interpreted in precious metals and gemstones. For more information, click here.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Grainger Hall of Gems

Photo of the Grainger Hall of Gems after its 2009 remodel. Dark display boxes against a white background highlight the evolution from raw gemstones (just out of view in a box of sand), to loose faceted gems, to beautiful jewels. Photo ©2012 Kimberly Vardeman.
Photo of the Grainger Hall of Gems after its 2009 remodel. Dark display boxes against a white background highlight the evolution from raw gemstones (just out of view in a box of sand), to loose faceted gems, to beautiful jewels. Photo ©2012 Kimberly Vardeman.

 

The Grainger Hall of Gems offers one of my favorite presentations of gemstones and jewels. It remains at the top of my list for gem halls to visit in the future.

In 2009, under the direction of the the Chicago Field Museum’s senior vice president and curator of the gem hall, Dr. Lance Grande, the display of the Field Museum’s permanent collection of jewels and gemstones became one of the world’s most innovative and unique interpretations of the natural history of gemstones.

Typically, a museum’s gem hall features a backdrop reminiscent of Elizabethan stage plays, with heavy dark curtains, black walls, and display cases lined in dark blue or black velvet. In these dramatic settings, the jewels and gemstones seem to gleam from out of the darkness, illuminated by stark backlighting.

While the effect of such a display can leave a lasting impression in its dramatic and haunting effect, it is not a setting truly conducive to learning and creative exploration. In keeping with his mission to “bridge the gap between scientists, gemologists and jewelers” {cited} and to “tie the natural beauty…together with human artistry” {cited}, Dr. Grande has reimagined the display of gems and gemstones.

The new hall is decorated in a rich honey color with oak wood floors and walnut-colored trim. Stretching the length of an entire wall is an inset display case set flush within the wall. Several satellite display cases stand throughout the exhibit floor.

The room is well-lit with natural lighting which appears to emanate from skylights placed within the domed arc of the ceiling. Each display case features a block wood platform painted white with a series of square or rectangular display platforms painted in white, dark grey, or black. Jewels are mounted for optimal viewing, while raw gemstones are nestled artfully in trays filled with light brown sand.

The Grainger Hall of Gems demonstrates a logical sense of order befitting a natural history museum. The emphasis of this remarkable presentation rests upon the standardized classification of gemstones and minerals. Dr. Grande and his staff have provided visitors with an in-depth examination of the partnership between man and nature.

Visitors to the Grainger Hall of Gems will enjoy displays of both ancient and contemporary jewels beside raw gemstones in original matrix and loose faceted gemstones. These displays are organized in mineral families, so visitors can closely examine the similarities and differences between all their favorite stones.

The importance of understanding the evolution of gemstones to jewelry cannot be understated for jewelry enthusiasts. While in and of themselves gemstones are among nature’s most beautiful gifts, the powerful addition of human ingenuity to nature’s raw materials has marked history for thousands and thousands of years.

The Grainger Hall of Gems offers an artful and thoughtful presentation of this powerful partnership to any who are captivated by the magic and mystery of gems and jewelry. We invite you to visit the Field Museum website for more details.

References

  1. Field Museum. “Grainger Hall of Gems: Gallery of Gems.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  2. Field Museum. “Grainger Hall of Gems: History of the Gem Collection.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  3. Grande, Lance and Allison Augustyn. Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
  4. Helen, “The Field Museum’s ‘The Nature of Diamonds,'” Chicago Windy City Guide, October 22, 2009.
  5. University of Chicago Books, The. “Gems and Gemstones by Lance Grande and Allison Augustyn.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  6. Valenzuela, Michelle. “Gemstones go au naturel at Grainger Hall of Gems,” Sparkle, September 2012.
  7. Woulfe, Molly. “Rock Show,” NWI Times, October 23, 2009.

The Pumpkin Diamond

Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.
Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.

 

On March 24, 2002, when Halle Berry, wearing the celebrated Pumpkin Diamond on her left pinky finger, made her landmark Oscars acceptance speech at the 74th Academy Awards, history was made. Forever forward, the rare orange diamond will be linked to the year that the first African American woman held in her hands the golden statue that honors those men and women who have distinguished themselves in the film industry.

Ms. Berry won the award for her role as Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball. The film tells the story of a poor colored woman who falls in love with a white correctional officer who, she finds out perhaps too late, played a major part in her husband’s execution. While the tale is most definitely about the racial divide, it is also about the dividing lines of poverty, family, gender, and our judicial system.

In her acceptance speech, Berry hints at the depths to which she had to go to nail the role: “…my husband, who is just the joy of my life, and India [her husband’s daughter], thank you for giving me peace, because only with the peace that you’ve brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I could go. Thank you. I love you and India with all my heart.

“Our director, Marc Forester, you’re a genius. You’re a genius. This movie-making experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me, you trusted me, and you gently guided me to very scary places. So thank you.” Ms. Berry went on to thank as many people as she could remember in that shell-shocked moment.

The Pumpkin Diamond

While Halle Berry is on stage making her gut-wrenching speech, she wears on her left pinky the Pumpkin Diamond. It radiates with warmth and energy as she throws a silent, sobbing kiss to her peers in the audience. It glows with golden light as she grips the Oscar in her left hand as she honors all the people who made her moment possible, going back a hundred years. It shimmers elegantly in the stage lights as she covers her face in disbelief.

Could Ronald Winston have possibly known the role that his rare orange-colored Pumpkin Diamond would play in American history that night?

No Thought of Winning

 

For reasons known only to him, he graciously lent the 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond to Halle Berry for her night at the Oscars. She was nominated, but even she had no thought of winning. She told Libby Brooks, writer for The Guardian, that she had not even planned an acceptance speech.

During the interview, she laments her missed opportunity to thank many more people, most importantly Billy Bob Thornton, without whom her win would have proven impossible. It seems like it was just like any other Oscars night for the House of Harry Winston.

The practice of lending pieces to celebrities for red carpet events may have even been invented by the firm’s founding father, Harry Winston. He was always carrying large diamonds on his person, slipping them onto potential clients’ fingers when they least expected it. Nothing sells a diamond like seeing it in person, feeling the weight of it, falling in love with its mesmerizing qualities.

And nothing captures the interest of collectors like seeing a diamond make history. It would be pure conjecture to guess at the motives behind the Winstons’ choice to slip the brilliant orange diamond on the actress’s finger. She had a one-in-six chance to win, up against America’s most celebrated actresses, Nicole Kidman, Sissy Spacek, Judi Dench, Renee Zelwegger. No wonder she hadn’t planned an acceptance speech.

Making History

But the odds played well for Ronald Winston. His diamond was now making history, as it should. Nearly as rare as Halle Berry’s breakthrough win, this diamond deserved recognition. It was found in 1997, in the Central African Republic. William Goldberg purchased the stone and then had it fashioned into a cushion cut before selling it at auction the next year.

In 1998, during an auction hosted by Sotheby’s, Ronald Winston, representing the House of Harry Winston, purchased the phenomenal orange diamond for $1.3 million {6}. According to Robert Genis, writer for The Gemstone Forecaster, Ronald Winston expressed a desire to name the stone The Tangerine. However, since the stone was purchased the day before Halloween, his staff urged him to connect the stone to the autumn holiday {2}.

Rare Vivid Orange

Ronald Winston and Phillip Bloch set to work right away to design a classic platinum setting for the stone {1}. They mounted it between two specially cut white diamonds. The resulting jewel resembles many antique rings from the late 1800s.

Following the 2002 Oscars, the House of Winston loaned the Pumpkin Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. For three months, the jewel remained on public display in a special exhibit called The Splendor of Diamonds. This exhibition was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, The Steinmetz Group, and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The Splendor of Diamonds exhibition showcased seven of the world’s most rare and valuable colored diamonds. The Pumpkin was the only orange diamond included. What makes this orange diamond so special, according to the Smithsonian Institution, is that the majority of orange diamonds manifest with a brown undertone.

The Pumpkin Diamond does no such thing. It is pure vivid orange, catapulting it into diamond history as one of the largest fancy vivid natural orange diamonds in the world {6}.

And that is how diamonds make history.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

References

  1. Famous Diamonds. “The Pumpkin.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  2. Genis, Robert. “Collecting Orange Diamonds,” The Gemstone Forecaster, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 2003.
  3. Oscars YouTube Channel. Video: “Halle Berry Wins Best Actress: 2002 Oscars. Published by Oscars on May 23, 2014.
  4. “Oscars Fashion: A Beautiful Time,” People, Vol. 57, No. 13, April 8, 2002.
  5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  6. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds: The Pumpkin Diamond.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  7. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012.

The Logan Sapphire

Photo credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian Staff. This photo is in the public domain.
Photo credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian Staff. This photo is in the public domain.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

The Logan Sapphire

The Logan Sapphire mesmerizes with its numerous facets radiating in spiral fashion toward the deep central culet. Surrounding the 423-carat Sri Lankan blue sapphire, set in silver and gold, are twenty round brilliant-cut diamonds. Their total carat weight is 16 carats.

Shop Sapphire Engagement Rings

Today, this gorgeous jewel resides in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. This arresting gallery is “tucked,” as the GIA writes, “into the eastern wing” of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  It has lived there since 1960, a part of our nation’s treasure trove, The National Gem Collection.

In 1997, the GIA examined the stone and declared it to be an untreated, natural blue sapphire. The Smithsonian describes its color as “medium soft violetish blue,” and reports that the stone has “exceptional clarity” given its size and cut {8}.

Rebecca “Polly” Guggenheim

Before that time, one Rebecca “Polly” Guggenheim wore the gorgeous brooch on her shoulder while hosting lavish parties in Firenze House, a Tudor-style mansion on Broad Ranch Rd. {1} in D.C.  The Washington Post reported in 1994, that between the 1940s and 1970s, she entertained countless diplomats and VIPs in both the arts and the business communities of Washington.

Mrs. Guggenheim was married to Col. M. Robert Guggenheim. According to Jeffrey E. Post, curator of the Smithsonian’s Mineral Collection, Mr. Guggenheim was heir to a fortune built on the mining and smelting industry. Mr. Post also mentions that the man was a “notorious philanderer.”

In 1959, Mr. Guggenheim died. In 1960, Polly Guggenheim donated the gorgeous table-cut sapphire brooch to the museum. Mr. Post related that when her friend asked how she could part with such a beautiful piece, Polly responded, “Every time I looked at it, all I could think of was my no good, cheating husband” {7}.

Mrs. John A. Logan

In 1962, Polly married John A. Logan, a management consultant in Washington, D.C. {5}. According to a friend of the family, Mr. Donald Dewey, the couple moved into a smaller home on S Street. Her parties continued, though they took a decided turn away from art and world politics, toward American Republican politics.

According to The Boston Globe, Mrs. Logan dedicated decades of her life to providing behind-the-scenes support to Republican candidates. Descriptions of Polly from those who knew here range from “…a tornado, a very dynamic force across the landscape…” {4}. Hailed as “a master of the mechanics of politics in the…pre-Internet age…” {4}, she was “…a dynamo in all that she did, whether it was civic or political or friendship…” {4}.

Politics and Art

Her niece, Beverly Pollard Page, wrote that her Aunt Polly “was the kindest person to any and everyone and had a lovely southern way about her. She loved entertaining and going to Washington parties in her beautiful gowns and was a Washington beauty with her red hair” {6}.

Her tireless efforts for the Republican Party were only a part of her story. Prior to her involvement with the party, Polly spent her time advocating for the arts. An artist herself, Polly founded the Art Barn in Rock Creek Park, where “the works of painters, sculptors, photographers, and artisans are exhibited” {1}.

Not only did she support artists, but Mrs. Logan was also a painter. Her portraits have graced the walls of the Smithsonian and other Boston museums, and some belong to private collections {1}.

Although she was a Guggenheim when she acquired and donated the  sapphire to the Smithsonian, it is no wonder that the powers that be decided to name the jewel The Logan Sapphire. Clearly, Mrs. John A. Logan was just getting started in her Guggenheim days. It is far more fitting that The Logan Sapphire be associated with the gregarious, infectious, and charming Polly Logan.

Notes

  1. Barnes, Bart. “Polly Guggenheim Logan Dies; Art Patron, Washington Hostess,” Washington Post, March 15, 1994.
  2. Chapin, Merille and Duncan Pay and Jim Shigley and Pedro Padua. “The Smithsonian Gem and Mineral Collection,” GIA, November 14, 2013. http://www.gia.edu/gia-news-research-smithsonian-gem-mineral-collection.
  3. Internet Stones Forum Thread. “Logan Blue Sapphire,” August 6, 2013 – December 24, 2013. http://forums.internetstones.com/index.php/Thread/205-Logan-Blue-Sapphire/.
  4.  Marquard, Bryan. “Polly Loga, 88, state GOP’s grande dame,” The Boston Globe, October 8, 2013. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/obituaries/2013/10/07/polly-logan-grande-dame-republicans-massachusetts/wrFZjgQCSTLR5bKtCuSRVM/story.html.
  5. Maryjewel. Comment on Internet Stones Forum.August 9, 2013. http://forums.internetstones.com/index.php/Thread/205-Logan-Blue-Sapphire/.
  6. Pollard Page, Beverly. Comment on Internet Stones Forum. March 16, 2010. http://forums.internetstones.com/index.php/Thread/205-Logan-Blue-Sapphire/.
  7. Post, Jeffrey E. “Capital Jewels,” Washington Life Magazine, February 4, 2009. http://www.washingtonlife.com/2009/02/04/capital-jewels/.
  8. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “Gem Gallery: Logan Sapphire [G3703]. Accessed December 22, 2014. http://geogallery.si.edu/index.php/en/1001402/logan-sapphire.

 

 

 

 

Immerse Yourself in Hollywood Glamour at the MFA in Boston

Multi-use Necklace of Actress June Knight, late 1930s. Neil Lane Collection. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Multi-use Necklace of Actress June Knight, late 1930s. Neil Lane Collection. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Opening at the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston (MFA) September 9, 2014, Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen promises to dazzle with exquisite gowns and jewels worn by some of Hollywood’s most prominent Golden Age actresses.

The iconic retro styles of Mae West, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich continue to influence fashion today. The MFA aims, with this exhibition, to demonstrate the uniquely American take on style which was, as co-curator Michelle Finamore states,  “an ideal expression of Hollywood’s distinctive brand of escapist fantasy.”

When you walk through the gallery doors, you’ll be taking a step back in time. You will see sumptuous gowns made of metallic lamé  woven with real gold and silver, silk satin, and chiffon, made by leading designers Travis Banton, Gilbert Adrian, and Edith Head. You’ll see a beautiful pair of silver leather platform shoes worn by Mae West, and several stunning photos of the stars taken by Edward Steichen.

And where would The Golden Age of Hollywood be without the stunning retro jewelry designs of Paul Flato, Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin, and Suzanne Belperron? Hollywood Glamour features several works by these and other top designers of that era.

The necklace featured here is a gorgeous platinum, engraved sapphire, and diamond multi-use necklaced designed by Trabert & Hoeffer, Inc.-Mauboussin in the late 1930s. This style of necklace was extremely popular onscreen in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly because of its versatility. In its full form, it was worn as a necklace as seen here, but it could also be separated to form a suite of bracelets, brooches, dress clips, and rings.

This particular necklace, on loan from Neil Lane’s collection, was worn by actress June Knight, who worked in film between 1930-1940. According to IMDB, though her roles in film were underwhelming, her presence on Broadway kept her front and center throughout the 1940s.

Viewers will also see up close an astonishing suite of jewels worn by Joan Crawford. With its highly polished yellow gold flourishes, aquamarine links, and diamond accents, this gorgeous piece was crafted by Verger Freres in around 1935. The necklace, brooch, and bracelet represent the moderne look with their repeating shapes and mechanical appearance.

This beautiful exhibition is on view at the MFA from September 9, 2014 until March 8, 2015, in the Loring Gallery. The exhibition is sponsored by generous donation from Neil Lane Jewelry, with additional support from the David and Roberta Logie Fund for Textile and Fashion Arts and the Loring Textile Gallery Exhibition Fund.

To learn more, we invite you to visit the MFA’s website.

‘Gold & The Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia’ Opens July 19, 2014 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Winged Isis pectoral (538-519 BC). Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Used with permission.
Winged Isis pectoral (538-519 BC). Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Used with permission.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

This golden pectoral ornament has to be one of the most spectacular pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston’s upcoming exhibition Gold & The Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Found in 1916, near the Nubian pyramids in present-day Sudan, in the tomb of Amaninatakelebte, in a cemetery at Nuri, this exquisitely carved golden jewel features the winged goddess Isis kneeling with her arms outstretched.

She holds in her right hand an ankh, and in her left hand she grasps what appears to be the hieroglyph for a sail. The ankh represents ‘life’, and the sail represents ‘the breath of life’. Upon her head she wears a throne-shaped crown, the symbol for her hieroglyphic name. The goddess Isis appears to have debuted as a Nubian goddess, who was also worshiped in Egypt and the Hellenestic lands. She was revered most as the goddess of motherhood and fertility, known to heal and confer wisdom to her devotees.

This relic from Ancient Nubia is a superb example of the nearly 100 Nubian jewels the will be on display in Gold & The Gods, which opens July 19, 2014. Every one of these artifacts was discovered by archaeologists in expeditions led by a joint partnership between the MFA and Harvard University from 1905-1942.

This expedition extended from the banks of the Nile to the Mediterranean coast and to Sudan, and a majority of the hundreds of artifacts brought back from these important digs are housed in the museum’s Egyptian and Nubian collections. This particular exhibition of Nubian artifacts will feature a number of foreign imports (acquired by Nubian royals through trade routes established between the peoples of central Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea), as well as a number of truly unique Nubian pieces fashioned with advanced techniques in goldwork, beadwork, and enameling.

According to the show’s co-curator, Denise Doxey, who curates the Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the MFA, the “highly sophisticated and dynamic” Nubian culture produced Nubian artists who designed and manufactured “spectacular jewelry [which] demonstrates [their] technical skill and aesthetic sensitivity.”

Since this particular body of artifacts spans 2,000 years of Nubian civilization (1700 BC to AD 300), visitors will have the opportunity to witness the evolution of the many highly skilled techniques used by Nubian artisans. Many of these techniques, including granulation, repousse, and champlevé enameling, continue to be used by modern jewelry artisans. However, given the crude tools used in ancient Nubia and their primitive methods of controlling temperatures with fire, the results they achieved are absolutely astonishing.

Museum curators, Denise Doxey and Yvonne Markowitz (the MFA’s Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry), believe that visitors will “discover the wonders” of this ancient culture which is only now beginning to take its place on the timeline of ancient history. They also hope that visiting jewelry artists will be inspired to incorporate Nubian motifs and techniques into their own pieces.

If you’re planning to be in Boston later this summer, you will not want to miss this amazing exhibition. We invite you to visit the MFA’s website for more information.

A Midwestern Man Falls to the Floor When Wartski London Confirms that His Scrap Metal Purchase is a Genuine Faberge Imperial Easter Egg

Third Imperial Faberge Egg, ©Wartski. Photo used with permission.
Third Imperial Faberge Egg, ©Wartski. Photo used with permission.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

A Fancy Golden Egg

It has been a bit of a noose around his neck for ten years, albeit a beautiful one. He purchased the piece for approximately $14,000 at a Midwestern antique fair with hope that the gemstones could be sold and the gold melted down for perhaps $500 profit. However, his estimates of its value exceeded those of his prospective buyers. Call it a hunch (or stubbornness), but the man decided to hold onto it rather than selling the piece at a loss.

It is a fancy golden egg, made with exquisite detailing including a ridged shell and an ornate mounting. It is set with a large round diamond ‘pushpiece’, which opens the shell to reveal a wonderful prize. The egg rests upon its original pedestal, an ornately carved golden tripod featuring chased lion’s paw feet and a festoon of colored-gold garlands suspended from three cabochon blue sapphires surrounded by gold beads and crested by diamond-encrusted bows {cited: Wartski}.

A simple click of the diamond button, and the lid pops open to reveal a beautiful lady’s pocket-style watch with white enamel dial and openwork gold hands set with diamonds. An engraving on the watch, which reads ‘Vacheron Constantin’, offered the only clue as to its illustrious history.

Faberge Egg with Clock, ©Wartski. Photo used with permission.
Faberge Egg with Clock, ©Wartski. Photo used with permission.

An Identical Likeness

The scrap-metal dealer, desperate for some return on his investment, typed in Google the search phrase “egg Vacheron Constantin.” In a stroke of pure serendipity, The Telegraph had one year prior published an article declaring that a photo of one of the missing Imperial Faberge Eggs was recently discovered in an American auction catalog from the 1960s.

The photo demonstrated an identical likeness with the egg sitting upon this dealer’s countertop. He made a swift trip to London, carrying photos of the egg to the named expert, Kieran McCarthy, director of Wartski, a firm specializing in the works of Carl Faberge.

“I knew instantly that was it. I was flabbergasted–it was like being Indiana Jones and finding the Lost Ark,” Mr. McCarthy told The Telegraph.

‘Treasures Into Tractors’

On May 18, 1887, Emperor Alexander III made a payment of 2160 roubles to Faberge for this, the third installment in his exceptional Easter gifts to his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. In total, 50 such Imperial Eggs were made by Faberge for the beautiful empress.

In 1902, this particular egg was placed on display in the Von Dervis Mansion Exhibition in St. Petersburg. This was the last time this egg was seen in public. Fifteen years later, the Bolsheviks transferred the entire Imperial treasury, including all fifty of the remarkable eggs, to the Moscow Kremlin Armory. The presence of this particular egg is noted in the Kremlin archive as Art. 1548 {3}.

The egg was transferred once again in 1922, to the care of Ivan Gavrilovich Chinariov, a representative of the Council of People’s Commissars. It was a prime candidate for meltdown in the Russian Revolution’s ‘Treasures into Tractors’ campaign {4}. Although much of the Imperial treasure was indeed lost, of the 50 Imperial Eggs seized by the Bolsheviks, all but 8 of them have been found intact. Of these eight, only three are expected to have survived the great meltdown.

On the Kitchen Counter

This egg represents not only the third Imperial Egg made for the Tsarina, but also the third of these lost treasures discovered in the past 100 years. In 2011, a photo of the egg was spotted by an American in a Parke-Bernet catalog dated March 1964.

Sold in the New York auction by vendor “Clarke” as a “Gold Watch in Egg-Form Case on Wrought Three-Tone Gold Stand, Set with Jewels” {1}, the jewel was never identified as a Faberge egg, and its whereabouts after the sale were unknown until it showed up on the kitchen counter of our Midwestern dealer.

Kieran McCarthy, a Wartski representative, took a jaunt to the Midwest and knocked on the door of the dealer’s humble home. The door opened, and he soon caught his first glimpse of the golden egg, somewhat dwarfed next to a large cupcake.

Real Blue-Collar America

“I examined it and said, ‘You have an Imperial Faberge Easter Egg.’ And he practically fainted. He literally fell to the floor in astonishment,” Mr. McCarthy reported.

The fortunate dealer is not of the world of important jewels and collectors. “He’s from…a world of diners and pick-up trucks, real blue-collar America, and he and his partner are still stunned by all this,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters.

The actual sale price was withheld to protect all parties involved, but Wartski calls the finder “an art historical lottery winner, receiving multiple millions of dollars per centimetre of egg” {4}.

An Exclusive Exhibition

The egg’s new owner, a private collector, has graciously agreed to allow an exclusive exhibition of the found egg at Wartski London, who plan to display the marvelous egg in the days leading up to Easter. To view “the ultimate Easter Treasure,” one can stand in line at the Wartski showroom on Grafton Street, London, from 9:30am-5:00pm between April 14th and April 17th of this year.

For details, we invite you to visit Wartski online.

Notes

  1. Nikkhah, Roya. “Is This L20 Million Nest-Egg On Your Mantelpiece?” The Telegraph, August 13, 2011.
  2. Singh, Anita. “The L20m Faberge Egg That Was Almost Sold for Scrap,” The Telegraph, March 18, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/10706025/The-20m-Faberge-egg-that-was-almost-sold-for-scrap.html.
  3. Wartski. “The Lost Third Imperial Easter Egg by Carl Faberge.” Accessed March 21, 2014. http://www.wartski.com/.
  4. Wartski Press Release. “Lost Treasure Found After Almost 100 Years.” Acquired March 21, 2014 from Wartski.

Designer Spotlight: Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR)

Find your place, and let the world gravitate to you. ~Diana Vreeland

JAR Raspberry Brooch 2011 Rubies, diamonds, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum Collection of Sien M. Chew Photograph by Jozsef Tari. Courtesy of JAR, Paris.
JAR Raspberry Brooch, 2011
Rubies, diamonds, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum
Collection of Sien M. Chew
Photograph by Jozsef Tari. Courtesy of JAR, Paris.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Inspired by the landmark exhibition currently on view at The Met, we offer this spotlight on the jewelry of Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR). As mentioned in a recent post, we encourage any of our New York readers, or those who will be visiting New York between now and March 9, 2014, to include Jewels by JAR  on your must-see list.

Eluding Definition

The jewelry industry enjoys a vast array of incredible designers, past and present. There are those whose commitment to excellence has crowned them with the distinction of classic and timeless elegance, such as CartierVC&A, and Tiffany. Then there are those whose edgy charisma inspires a cult following among the avant-garde elite, like Stephen WebsterCoco Chanel, and Paloma Picasso.

And then there are those whose originality outclasses every class, whose mastery of the art of jewelry makes them an art form in their own right, such as Jean SchlumbergerSuzanne Belperron, and Alex Spekus. These are the men and women who keep time according to their own rhythm. Their passion and vision lead them, and their artistry is an expression of their very essence. They defy the natural order of things, eluding definition (and often the press).

Such is the case with Joel Arthur Rosenthal, most popularly known as JAR.

The Enchantment That Lies Within

His storefront on the Place Vendôme in Paris is “almost invisible” {2}. One intriguing window might display a twig, a pear, or nothing against its “wall of faded pink velvet” {11}, and those who visit are expected.

After ringing the stamen of a “beautiful bronze camellia,” a visitor might find herself in a scene from Alice and Wonderland. A “pale, intense, magnetic, and brilliant” man leads her “down the rabbit hole” to a “series of small interconnecting rooms lined with fading moss-green velvet” {cited: 2; 2; 11}. Her enigmatic host leaves her for a few moments among the specimens of nature which intermingle with full-length oil paintings resting against the wall.

The spicy scent of carnations and cloves lingers in the air, inviting the senses on a magical journey, “like peering through the glass in a zoo, an insect house, an arboretum, a cabinet of marvels” {2}. The waiting is anything but dull. Surrounding her is “an infinitely precious display of imagination, wit, and enormous soul” {2}. Sooner than later, the reason she came emerges in the hands of a man the public rarely sees, and whatever he’s holding, he’s chosen it just for her.

It might be a delicate butterfly with folded wings paved in amethysts and sapphires, it’s gem-encrusted body coming in for a landing. It might be a cluster of raspberries on a blackened gold stem, bound by a band of diamonds. It might be an exquisite pair of earrings, perhaps a pair of dynamic chandeliers, or maybe the demure shimmering pansies made from titanium.

Nothing Like Jewels by JAR

For certain, it will make an excruciating mark upon her soul. For there is nothing like Jewels by JAR. Every jewel he creates “is a world unto itself, like a poem. His work has magic in it” {2}.

“Flower petals drip with rubies as though they are wilting from the sheer weight of the stones,” {5}, and each piece is “bold but never flashy…extremely delicate, often inspired by nature in a way so realistic that…a flower or butterfly…seem almost real” {13}. Indeed, some say his renderings are even “more perfect than what nature intended” {3}.

JAR’s meticulous passion for perfection in color and design is evident in every facet. Like a perfect tapestry, the backs are nearly indistinguishable from the fronts, and each piece is endowed with a personal touch, a gift from the designer to the wearer alone: It might be an imprint left at the end of the night upon your ear lobe, or a secret gemstone delicately caressing the inside of your wrist, or a diamond-encrusted clasp that rests coolly against the back of your neck beneath your hair.

Though the evening will end and the jewels will once again lie in repose in their velvet-lined boxes, the mark they will last forever. True artistry haunts for life, and JAR is true artistry.

Bibliography

  1. Adams, Susan. “The Cult of JAR,” Forbes, September 24, 2006. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2006/1009/306.html.
  2. Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Legend of JAR,” Harper’s Bazaar, February 27, 2013. http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-designers/legend-of-jar-0313.
  3. DeMarco, Anthony. “A First Look Of ‘Jewels by JAR’ Exhibition At The Met Museum,” Forbes, November 19, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonydemarco/2013/11/19/all-that-glitters-is-jewels-by-jar-at-the-met/.
  4. Friedman, Vanessa. “Lunch with the FT: Joel Arthur Rosenthal,” Financial Times, November 1, 2013. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/63cae7d8-414f-11e3-9073-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2l7RPF5fG.
  5. Liebling-Goldberg, Melissa. “The World’s Most Exclusive Jewelry is Waiting for You,” PopSugar, November 20, 2013. http://www.fabsugar.com/Jewels-JAR-Exhibition-Metropolitan-Museum-Art-2013-32519709?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20fabsugar%20(FabSugar%20-%20Have,%20Want,%20Need.).
  6. Mapp, Glynnis. “JAR Fragrance Boutique, Bergdorf Goodman,” Style Sight Blog, November 4, 2011. http://blog.stylesight.com/beauty/retail-jar-boutique-at-bergdorf-goodman.
  7. McCarthy, Cathleen. “JAR: Designer Jewelry as Calling Card,” The Jewelry Loupe, August 12, 2010. http://thejewelryloupe.com/jar-reclusive-designer/.
  8. McCarthy, Lauren. “Jane Adlin Talks ‘Jewels by JAR’,” Women’s Wear Daily, December 9, 2013. http://www.wwd.com/accessories-news/jewelry/jane-adlin-talks-jewels-by-jar-7280480?module=Accessories-Jewelry-main.
  9. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The. “Over 400 Pieces by Renowned Jewelry Designer JAR on View at Metropolitan Museum Beginning November 20.” Accessed December 6, 2013. http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/press-room/exhibitions/2013/jewels-by-jar.
  10. Moore, March and Patty White. “JAR Perfume–Strange and Beautiful.” Perfume Posse Blog, August 10, 2006. http://perfumeposse.com/2006/08/10/jars-in-white-satin-never-reaching-the-end/.
  11. Tennant, Stella and Melanie Huynh, ed. “The Magic of JAR,” Harper’s Bazaar, September 4, 2013. http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-designers/stella-tennant-on-joel-arthur-rosenthal-0913.
  12. Thomas, Dana. “Jewelry Designer JAR Creates Spectacular Rings, Brooches, and More,” Architectural Digest, September 2013. http://www.architecturaldigest.com/shop/2013-09/jar-joel-arthur-rosenthal-jewelry-ellen-barkin-gwyneth-paltrow-article.
  13. Wilson, Sara White. “Get Set,” Bespoke Magazine. Accessed December 6, 2013. http://www.bespoke-magazine.com/109/Article/Get-Set.
  14. Winters, Erica. “The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Present ‘Jewels by JAR’ This November,” PriceScope, August 8, 2013. http://www.pricescope.com/blog/jewels-jar-exhibition-metropolitan-museum-art.