Field Trip: If I Had $1,400 to Spend at LOOT: MAD About Jewelry

Yesterday I made my way to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) on Columbus Circle to check out day two of their five day LOOT: MAD About Jewelry exhibition and sale. This is LOOT’s 13th year, but my very first checking it out. The pop-up sale features the work of over 50 jewelry designers who create one-of-a-kind artistic pieces. These jewelry artists come from more than 20 different countries, so it is a unique opportunity to see jewelry you might not otherwise know about or have access to. LOOT is on the second floor of MAD next to the currently abridged Barbara Berger Fashion Jewelry exhibition. In case you missed my blog post about that fantastic exhibition you can check it out here.

One of the great things about LOOT is that the designers are right there to talk with while checking out their jewelry pieces. A great opportunity to hear more about their inspiration and techniques — plus they know great ways to style their jewelry! I wish I could say I had money to burn at this sale, but why don’t we make it fun and use play money? Here is what I would have purchased if I had a $1,400 budget. And yes, I even included real-life NY sales tax in this play money shopping spree!

Monopoly Money

PLAY MONEY TOTAL: $1,400 

#1: Meghan O’Rourke’s Pear-Shaped Oxidized Titanium Earrings for $245 (plus $21.68 in tax):

Meghan O'Rourke earrings at LOOT

Much of Meghan’s work on display involved a technique of oxidizing titanium, which gives this wonderful grey hue to the metal. It also gives it a bit of an eggshell finish, so the pieces have a fantastic understated quality. Her method of punching holes in the metal to create the patterns reminded me of the cut-out of a doily. The pair in the top right hand corner were my absolute favorite — the way the pattern looks like the facets of a gemstone. It was extremely hard to leave these earrings at the show instead of taking them home with me! Meghan also does beautiful work with an anodized aluminum method, which colors her pieces in a rainbow of hues. You can see more of these gorgeous pieces on her website.

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $1,133.32

#2: Danielle Gori-Montanelli’s Grey Felt Key Chain Necklace for $145 (plus $12.83 in tax):

Danielle Gori-Montanelli Key Necklace LOOT

Danielle’s felt necklaces are so much fun! Now that it’s fall (although it was almost 80 degrees here in NYC yesterday, so it doesn’t quite feel like it yet) there’s nothing cozier than some wool. These necklaces made out of thick felt are extremely light and moveable. Danielle also uses bright colors to contrast some of the darker chain links. I fell in love with the center necklace, the light grey chain with the dark grey key. Couldn’t you imagine wearing this with jeans and a t-shirt, or with a fancy little black dress? She also makes fun felt stone collar necklaces, plus felt lego long necklaces, all available in her online shop.

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $975.49

#3: Rachel Eardley’s Coin Wren Bird Ring for $156 (plus $13.80 in tax):

Rachel Eardley coin bird ring LOOT

Rachel uses coins and silver for her jewelry, and it makes for these charming and sweet pieces. Many of the coin cut-outs were of small animals — birds, rabbits, pigs, horses, owls, etc. Her display case felt like a magical fairy-tale forest world! This particular ring was my absolute favorite because of the two-tone metals and the open space inside the circle that lets your skin show through. Rachel was also an absolute pleasure to speak with. Definitely check out more of her work — she has necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings, cufflinks, etc. all in a similar style. I wish this bird ring could fly home to me!

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $805.69

#4: Margherita Marchioni’s Rainbow Colored Pencil Pyramid Necklace for $480 (plus $42.48 in tax):

Image courtesy of Margherita Marchioni

Image courtesy of Margherita Marchioni

Let’s start with a little fact about me: I adore colored pencils. I love the range of hues and using them to blend the colors in an art piece. So a colored pencil necklace? Right up my alley! Margherita uses pencils as a tool to create amazing shapes like these pyramids. The center of the pencils (where the color is) are drilled and thin clear plastic string is looped through to connect the pieces. So this necklace was very dynamic and flexible. Yet another necklace that could be dressed up or down! And absolutely a conversation piece. Check out some of her other jewelry in her gallery — I also loved the twisting colored pencil necklace that looked like a DNA double helix!

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $283.21

#5: Ashley Buchanan’s Powder Coated Grey Earrings for $144 (plus $12.74 in tax):

Ashley Buchanan earrings LOOTPowder coated jewelry has this wonderful soft finish and a modified sheen that I adore. These earrings, like Meghan’s earlier, remind me a bit of a doily because of the cut-outs. Although they may seem like they would be stiff, when I tried them on they actually have a good amount of dangling movement. They also look great when worn with the straight side toward the face — it frames the jaw and neck perfectly. Another very hard piece of jewelry to part with. I am also a (newly) big fan of her Faux Real line, which has a ring called Diamonds Are For Everyone that involves a button with the image of a diamond from a magazine placed in the center setting. It’s pretty fun, you can check it out here.

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $126.47

#6: Alienina’s Sailing Mixed Cuff in Grey for $108 (plus $9.59 in tax):

Alienina bracelet LOOT

Image courtesy of Alienina

If you hadn’t noticed yet, I love the color grey. Love love love. This bracelet, created by jewelry artist Eliana Venier for her collection Alienina, is made from sailing rope and recycled jersey fabric. Woven together it creates a sturdy but stretchable jewelry piece. I fell into serious love with this bracelet because once you slide it on your wrist it hugs you is this perfectly cozy and comforting way. Who wouldn’t want to walk around feeling a permanent hug, especially when the weather gets chilly? A bracelet you could wear every day! Check out her other woven pieces in her online shop – a never ending wish list of great jewelry. And all hand-washable!

PLAY MONEY REMAINING: $8.88

Well, we have $8.88 left over. What would I do with it?

Diamond Bingo

Scratch-off lotto tickets! That way there’s a chance to win it all back — or win even more and shop all over again for more jewelry pieces!

Which was your favorite of the bunch? Or are there any pieces you saw on the designer’s websites that you adore? If you are in NYC anytime between now and Saturday you should definitely check it out, plus admission is only $5 to the museum during this sale. Also, they are having an all-day jewelry event on Saturday, October 5th to celebrate the last day of the sale. Lots of jewelry-related workshops and tours. Excited to go back next year!

P.S. Although I mention the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) a million times in this blog post, I was not paid or perked to write about this exhibition/sale. I am simply a lover of gorgeous jewelry!

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Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age Exhibit

In June I had the pleasure of visiting the Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age exhibit twice, currently on display at The Forbes Galleries in NYC. The first event was part of a talk with conceptual gem artist John Hatleberg, who has several pieces on display. The event was organized by the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA) and its co-director, Elyse Zorn Karlin, who guest curated the exhibit. At the second event Elyse gave a private tour of the exhibit to a small group. Both times I was struck by how much detail and information could be packed into the small exhibit. The jewelry gallery at Forbes is just one room but this exhibit, which includes over 100 pieces, contains so many amazing pieces of jewelry. With just a few days left until the exhibit closes, it is a must-see for all you jewelry and space geeks!

SpaceJewelrycover

“The purpose of this exhibition is to document how the history of space exploration has been reflected in our popular culture through both fine and non-precious jewelry and to showcase the beautiful and whimsical jewels that are being crafted today as jewelers continue to ponder the mysteries of the universe.” — Elyse Zorn Karlin, Guest Curator

Although the exhibit is centered around jewelry inspired by and related to space, there is also great non-jewelry memorabilia to go with the gems — a space ship sewing set from the 1930’s, a space cadet thermos, and a space-themed toy piano from the 1950’s all contribute to the far-out feeling of the exhibit:

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

The centerpiece of the room, which is the first item you see as you walk into the main area of the exhibit, is the Tampa Necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. This one-of-a-kind piece, from a private collection, contains a multitude of diamonds and gemstones — round, baguette, and rose cut diamonds; pink, purple, blue, and yellow sapphires; onyx; orange garnets; red spinels; and beryl. It was created in 2010 and was inspired by the science fiction novel From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne:

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

The movement in this piece is incredible, the way the diamond trail of the rocket has swirled around the neck several times, and the burst of orange air beneath it. An ingenious part of this design is the large yellow sapphire at the bottom of the piece, which has an orange garnet set underneath it that shows through because of how thin the yellow sapphire is. It adds to the dream-like fantasy of the piece. Along with that, this necklace can be worn nine different ways, since it is made up of detachable and interchangeable pieces. Such a fantastic piece, especially for this exhibit!

The exhibition contains a wide range of jewelry, with items from the dawn of the space age (the late 1950’s to 1960’s) along with contemporary pieces, like the Venus Earrings by Steven Kretchmer Design:

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

Looking at these earrings you might think, “Cool earrings, I get it, they look like diamonds in orbit”. But they are so much more than that! There earrings are made up of 18 kt gold, diamonds, and polarium, a permanently magnetized platinum alloy created by Stephen Kretchmer. One of the amazing behaviors of polarium is levitation, which is exhibited in these earrings. The diamond discs are not attached to any part of that center rod — they keep their amazing spacing simply because of the poles repelling. How amazing is that!

There is a fascinating section in the exhibition dedicated to jewelry that has flown in space. Astronauts are allowed to take up to twenty personal items on a space mission, with a limit of 3.3 lbs total. Jewelry is often taken as part of this package because of its small size and sentimental nature. Of course having a piece of jewelry that has gone up into space greatly increases its value as well, and many pieces can fetch between $50,000 – $100,000 at auction, depending on which astronaut it belonged to. One of my favorite pieces is a Towson watch worn in space by commander Gerhard P.J. Thijiele, on loan from the National Watch and Clock Museum, which was worn on US Space Shuttle Mission SS-99 from February 11th-22nd, 2000. The date on the watch is permanently set to the 22nd, the last day of the mission. Looking at the worn leather band and the stopped clock you can almost imagine it has soaked up special space powers!

If you thought the idea of having items on display that have been in space was cool, another section of the exhibit features jewelry created using materials that come from space. This includes meteorites, tektite, moldavite, pallasite, and moissanite. A fun example of this is the Kitchen Sink ring by John Hatleberg:

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

Photo courtesy of Forbes Galleries

This ring is true to its name with a plethora of gemstones set in it — pallasite, white diamond, red emerald, South Sea pearl, zircon, tourmaline, spinel, sapphire, tsavorite, aquamarine, and irradiated diamond. I imagine it is strong fluorescence in these diamonds that gives them a milky glow, which matches so perfectly with the other gemstones in the ring. The green overtone of the South Sea pearl gives the feeling of an alien lifeform’s skin. Couldn’t you imagine this is what the surface of some fantastic alien planet looks like?

I could go on and on about the amazing jewelry at this exhibit, but I would rather leave the surprises for you to see for yourself. The last day of this exhibition is September 7th, 2013, and it is free to the public. If you are here in NYC, treat yourself to a lunch break at this stellar gallery. It is truly out of this world!

P.S. Although I mention The Forbes Galleries a million times in this post, I was not paid or perked to write about this exhibition. I am simply a lover of gorgeous space-tastic jewelry!

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Field Trip: Fashion Jewelry – The Collection of Barbara Berger at MAD

After a rainy lunchtime meeting with a client in the Diamond District last week the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and I decided it was high time I took a walk to check out the Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).

Fashion Jewelry Insta

Featuring over 450 jewelry pieces from Barbara Berger’s astounding 4,000+ piece personal collection, this exhibition curated by Harrice Simons Miller is the result of over 50 years of collecting. The daughter of a diamond merchant, Barbara purchased her first pair of Chanel earrings at a flea market as a teenager and never looked back. “I buy what I like and it’s usually love at first sight,” Barbara says in her book that showcases over 200 of the pieces from the exhibit.

Coco Chanel book quote Insta

Walking through the exhibit is like being inside of Barbara’s jewelry box. Adding to this feeling, MAD showcases the pieces not only in standing glass displays, but also in rows and rows of pull out drawers. Each time you open another drawer the surprise of what you might find is elating. It is a very intimate experience to see the jewelry pieces that have special meaning to Barbara. Along with the item descriptions there is also a handy audio tour that you can listen to on your mobile device while strolling the exhibit.

Gong necklace Insta

This 24 karat gold and brass piece from 1987 is dubbed the “gold cymbals necklace” in my mind, but is actually titled Gong (not that far off) by Robert Lee Morris. It was a gift from the artist to Barbara in 1995, and I just love the layered movement of the brass circles in the necklace. I could imagine this with a fantastic strapless tribal or floral print dress and sandals. Or a crisp white dress shirt and fitted black skirt. The possibilities are endless!

Butcher paper pink Insta

I am IN LOVE with this necklace by Swiss artist Verena Sieber-Fuchs. This untitled piece from 1988 may seem to be created from delicate feathers plucked from a magical pink bird, but it is in fact created from butcher paper and silver wire. How amazing is that? Each thin slice of paper gives a light, fluffy, and utterly feminine feeling. Couldn’t you imagine a ballerina wearing this to mimic the plume of her tutu? So ethereal!

Etro necklace Insta

This necklace made by Etro (an Italian company) in 1990 is created from velvet and metal, and for me it evokes the crisp and cool beginning of autumn. Maybe it’s the velvet, or the jewel-toned hues (especially the deep burgundy) that remind me of falling leaves and the start of sweaters and jeans. I also appreciate that this necklace is not perfectly symmetrical in its design. Just a fun and playful piece!

Chanel feather neck Insta

If the pink butcher paper “feather” necklace was my favorite piece of the exhibit, this metal feather necklace by Chanel might be my second favorite. I adore the asymmetrical design of the feathers on this, which I can just imagine laying exquisitely over the right shoulder of the wearer. It is simple but completely fabulous.

I could go on and on with photos of the jewelry at this exhibit, there were just so many interesting pieces. I really appreciate how wide-ranging Barbara’s taste is. She can have light and feminine pieces like some of those above, and then you turn the corner and you see this necklace by Daniel Von Weinberger:

Imprisoned in Fluo Insta

Titled “Imprisoned in Fluo”, this necklace is a conglomeration of plastic toys, from glow-in-the-dark frogs to a masked superhero caught in the footbed of a rubbery pink shoe. Even if it’s not your taste to wear for a night out on the town, it’s fun to look through it and see all the little pieces tangled within.

After delighting over all the interesting jewelry I made my way up to the sixth floor, which has both a learning center and a workroom for the current artist-in-residence. The learning center is a bit like walking into summer camp — several tables topped with all kinds of creative supplies. My favorite area was the jewelry making table, of course. Super inviting cups and bins full of beads, sequins, and unusual cast offs were available to string and wire wrap. After seeing all the fantastic costume jewelry from the exhibit my creativity was peaked and I was ready to dig in. I made this fun necklace, and it took everything in my power not to just stay there all day and create more:

Molly necklace Insta

After prying myself from the crafts table (seriously, make sure to hang out up there if you go to see the exhibit) I went to the room next door to see what the artist-in-residence was doing. That day it was David Mandel, a jewelry designer who has several pieces in the Fashion Jewelry exhibit. Having created jewelry for theater and live events for over twenty years, you may have seen his larger-than-life pieces in the 2012 Victoria’s Secret runway show:

Photo courtesy of MAD

Photo courtesy of MAD

David was wonderful to speak with, and I was especially fond of the piece he is currently working on in the artist’s room, a jewelry shirt called Urban Grind:

Jewelry Shirt Insta

 And here is the back (in somewhat different lighting):

Jewelry Shirt Back Insta

The vertical jewelry strips in this shirt are detachable, and with hooks along the neckline that means that this shirt is completely customizable. Mix and match sections of the shirt to create a different look each day. Isn’t that so innovative and fun? Also, note the plastic googly eyes within the design. When wearing a jewelry shirt it’s important not to take yourself too seriously!

As I said, there are a million more pieces from the exhibit that I would love to show you, but that would ruin the fun of seeing it yourself! The exhibition will run at MAD until January 20th, 2014, but some portions will close on September 22nd, so if you are in NYC make sure to check it out before then.

Have you already checked out the exhibit? What was one of your favorite pieces? Did you try and pick up one of the Barbara Berger books on display only to find it was glued to the table to prevent stealing? Yeah, I didn’t either 😉

P.S. Although I mention the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) a million times in this blog post, I was not paid or perked to write about this exhibition. I am simply a lover of gorgeous jewelry!

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Field Trip: American Museum of Natural History in NYC

If you grew up in New York City, you probably attended at least one school trip to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Maybe it was a fifth grade trip with a school bus full of excited classmates, or a trek on the subway with a friend to complete your high school science homework. AMNH is always there, right across from Central Park, but it’s easy to neglect it as you get older. Well, let’s fix that. Who’s up for a field trip?

Since I’m a gemologist, let’s visit two of my favorite parts of the museum, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals and the Morgan Memorial Gem Hall. Both are located in a darkened part of the museum with very little overhead lighting, allowing you to really focus on the gems and minerals under their own spotlights. So forgive some of the dark photos!

One of the first specimens on the way to the Hall of Minerals is this amazing stibnite, which is the largest on public display in the world. It weighs almost half a ton, and was found in the Wuling Mine in southeastern China. If you are familiar with hematite, stibnite looks a lot like it in person, but has a lighter, almost blue-grey color.

Right near it is this amazing ammonite shell. Ammonite was a marine animal that went extinct around the same time as dinosaurs did, 65 million years ago. The incredible iridescent effect on the shell is created naturally over the course of millions of years due to high temperatures and high pressure. The colors are so beautiful in person — lots of orange and green!

Along the sides of the Hall of Minerals are some huge gems, like this amethyst. Doesn’t the display look futuristic, as if this amethyst is getting ready to travel to space?

In a nearby display case is an excellent array of opals from Ethiopia. This grouping showcases the various colors of opal so well. It’s also great to see pieces that are still surrounded by some of the host rock. The photo doesn’t show it well, but the middle white opal in the front row is incredibly sparkly. They all show such beautiful play of color!

Let’s move into the Hall of Gems. The pieces in this room are predominantly faceted and polished gems, which is a great transition after seeing so many gems in their more natural form. There are several walls just like this one which display varieties of a particular species of gemstone. Think of it like a family tree. In this photo it is the species beryl, with plenty of aquamarine, morganite, and other colorful variety examples. One of the other displays shows rare and unusual gems — such a great way to see items up close that, unless you’re a gemologist, you don’t normally get to view!

When I was there, a group of elementary school kids with their teacher piled into the Hall of Gems room, suddenly excited after what appeared to be a collective tired slump. All of the kids were frenetically looking on the walls to find their birthstones. Nothing like some gems to get people excited, young or old!

A great reason to visit AMNH on your own is to see some of the gems that I couldn’t get good photographs of (the dark lighting is great for ambiance, but not so great for catching the gemstones on camera!), like the Kazanjian Red Diamond, which at 5.05 carats is one of three red diamonds in the world known to exceed five carats, or the Star of India, which at 563 carats is the world’s largest blue star sapphire. There is also the Patricia Emerald, which at a whopping 632 carats is considered one of the greatest emerald crystals in the world.

A funny moment occurred at AMNH as I walked through the gift shop to the exhibit, as well as on the way out through the same route. The most popular spot in the gift shop was, hands down, the big box of dyed rocks. Maybe it’s the bright colors or the smooth feel of them in your hand, but people were crowded around, small black velvet bags in hand, fervently choosing their favorites from the bunch.

If you saw my teaser of this on Instagram and guessed correctly where I was, congrats!

Well, that ends our tour of the American Museum of Natural History. What was your favorite gem? Have you been there on a school trip as a kid too? Are you excited to go back now and see more of the minerals and gems on your own? I highly recommend it!

P.S. Although I mention the American Museum of Natural History plenty in this blog post, I was not paid or perked to write about this exhibition. I am simply a lover of gorgeous gems!

All photos were taken by me.

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