This Fall’s 5 Can’t-Miss Jewelry Exhibits

If you find yourself in New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris this fall, make a beeline to these exhibits, which will remind you of the jewelry trade’s inherent beauty, wonder, and mystery.

1. The Art of Bulgari, San Francisco, Sept. 21–Feb. 17

A week ago, my good friend Mary posted a link on my Facebook wall prefaced by the following note: “Maybe this could be an excuse for another work trip to SF.” I replied that I didn’t need an excuse—but now that I think about it, she has a point. She was referring to “The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950-1990,” which opened two days ago at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Focusing on the Roman jeweler’s post-WWII heyday, the exhibit comprises about 150 standout pieces, including several from the Elizabeth Taylor collection.

2. LOOT: MAD About Jewelry, New York City, Oct. 1-5

Next week, the Museum of Arts and Design (the coolest place to see contemporary design in the Big Apple) is staging its third annual “LOOT: MAD About Jewelry” event at the museum. Featuring 50 handpicked jewelry artists, the event—sponsored by the Silver Promotion Service—serves as both a showcase and trunk show for one-of-a-kind pieces. If you’re interested in seeing silver jewelry at its most progressive and cutting-edge, don’t miss it. But don’t take my word for it:

“Within the LOOT 2013 body of work are collections where sterling silver is finely knit, meticulously perforated, sand blasted, oxidized, fused with other metals, and combined with rapid prototyping technology,” said LOOT curator Bryna Pomp in a statement. “In other cases silver is combined with wood, glass, porcelain, and even colored thread. The breadth of creativity and innovation is exquisite.”

Proceeds from LOOT will benefit the Museum’s exhibition and education programs.

 

A sterling silver necklace by the Austrian jeweler Margareta Niel; $2,080.80. Courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Design.

3. The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels, London, Oct. 11–April 27

Last week, I covered the story of the Cheapside Hoard, a mysterious collection of 500 jewels from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods discovered beneath a London cellar in 1912, in a news story for JCKonline. But one thing I failed to mention is that the curators at the Museum of London, which is displaying the collection for the first time in its entirety next month, have commissioned master perfumer Roja Dove to recreate the fragrance of Jacobean London. Inspired by the bejeweled scent bottle in the hoard, the perfume will be displayed as part of the exhibit. It harks back to a time when scents made from flower distillations and spices were used to mask bad odors and were worn on chains that hung around the neck—for easy access. 

I can’t think of a cooler, more visceral way to transport jewelry lovers and history buffs back to the time when these incredible jewels were created. And I’m kicking myself for not booking a ticket to London for the museum’s Oct. 10 opening party.

 

A jeweled scent bottle of white enamel and gold, 16th-17th century, set with opaline chalcedony plaques, rubies, pink sapphires, and diamonds, with a gold suspension chain. Courtesy of the Museum of London.

4. The Extraordinary Jewelry of Alexandre Reza, New York City, Nov. 2-14

For a glimpse of some of the world’s rarest and largest colored gemstones, check out Sotheby’s fall exhibition, “The Extraordinary Jewelry of Alexandre Reza,” which comes to the auction house’s New York City headquarters in early November. The collection, said to be bigger and better than those owned by many royal houses, offers a window into the opulent legacy of one of the 20th century’s master jewelers. It includes scores of ginormous gems—including a brooch featuring a 134 ct. untreated oval Ceylon sapphire mounted on a gold clip set with 14 round diamonds weighing 17 cts. t.w., a pear-shaped diamond of 1 ct., yellow diamonds, and 14 pear shaped sapphires weighing 8 cts. t.w. It is any surprise that the brooch dates to 1980, the bigger-is-better decade?

5. Cartier: Style and History, Paris, Dec. 4–Feb. 16

Last but certainly not least, the Grand Palais Museum in Paris is giving over its Salon d’Honneur wing to an exhibition devoted to the grand maison of Cartier. Described by the house as “the most important exhibition dedicated to Cartier,” the showcase will bring together more than 600 pieces from The Cartier Collection, a historic assemblage of jewels, timepieces, and precious objects, to be shown alongside dresses, coats, accessories, furniture, paintings, fashion magazines, and advertising visuals to give visitors a firm sense of time and place when the jewels were worn and treasured. Twenty of Cartier’s rare mystery clocks will serve as a focal point of the exhibition. 

I was just invited to a private tour of the exhibit in mid-January, before I head to Geneva for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. And you can bet my answer was a resounding YES.