Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Jewels by JAR": Get to the Met!

Nearly four hundred (!) pieces dazzle in a tiny maze of a room. Darkness draws everyone to the only source of light - the display cases or what I would call the ultimate treasure chest. With noses practically up against the glass, visitors cannot help but become transfixed by each piece. The silence of the visitors as they stand in awe adds to the enchantment. Saturated colors, naturalistic forms and dizzying sparkle make for a euphoric jewelry-lover's dream. "How did he make that?", "Could you move wearing those earrings? Who cares, they are amazing!", "Are those earrings what I think they are? Ravioli?!"

Clockwise from top right: Item 17 Rose Petal Earrings, 1996; Rubies, sapphires, diamonds, silver, gold; Private collection, London. Item 99 Pendant Earrings, 2011; Lapis lazuli, diamonds, silver, gold; Private collection. Item 80 Earrings, 2001; diamonds, emeralds, silver, gold; Private collection. Item 51 Pendant Earrings, 2012; zircons, diamonds, platinum; Private collection. Item 122 Ravioli Earrings, 2010; sapphires, garnets, tourmalines, diamonds, silver, gold; Private collection.

Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the creative force behind the pieces, is now 70 years old and, after brief stints in the needlepoint industry and then at Bulgari in New York, has been working out of Paris since the late '70s. In the Met's exhibit, the range of JAR's skill and imagination is on perfect display. Each piece goes beyond beautifully cut and colorful stones or other materials. Certain pieces appear impossibly paper thin (can we pause to admire the amazing pavé work!) while others give the impression of heaviness. JAR's play on depth and balance is also interesting. Many describe his work as sculptural and in person it truly is - shading in certain pieces creates the illusion that the piece just walked out of a still life or even real life.

 Photo credit:

JAR tulip brooch (2008). Photo credit:

There were a few downfalls to the exhibit - insufficient lighting in some of the display cases, fingerprints visible on certain pieces, lack of contextual information - but nothing overshadowed the jewels and craftsmanship. Interestingly, at the JAR retrospective in London’s Somerset House in 2002, the exhibition was also nearly pitch black. 

The JAR exhibit closes on March 9, 2014. Go now, before it is gone. Seriously!

A special thank you to JAR, the Met, exhibition sponsors and the gracious individuals who loaned their amazing jewels - here's to being that lucky one day! 

Item 131 Heart Brooch, 2009; spinels, diamonds, gold, silver; Private collection.

For some interesting and rare glimpses into the man/myth/legend that is JAR:

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