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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