World renowned expert on Art Nouveau Jewelry, Dr. Joseph Sataloff, died on Sept. 26. He was 89 years old.
Dr. Sataloff of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, was first and foremost a physician, an Otolaryngologist. He was an accomplished surgeon in micro-surgical ear operations, and a university hospital professor. He made historic contributions in the early stages of hearing conservation, including as scientific advisor to then President Nixon in developing hearing protection standards for the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
In addition to his fame in the medical field however, Dr. Sataloff was an international expert in antique and estate jewelry, specifically in Art Nouveau.
An author of several books on hearing and hearing loss, Sataloff’s book titled, Art Nouveau Jewelry: A Practical Guide to Its History and Beauty, including a compendium of international hallmarks, is still considered the definitive reference standard for antique and estate jewelers.
“He literally and figuratively wrote the book on Art Nouveau,” says Diana Singer, D&E Singer, antique, period, and estate jewelry expert in New York.
“Dr. Joe,” as he was called, was a passionate collector of the finest and most classic examples of Art Nouveau jewelry. Over the years, pieces from his jewelry collection have been donated to museums, and have gone on tour.
“He was one of the prominent collectors of Art Nouveau jewelry,” Singer said. “He had a deep and profound respect for it, long before it became the collectable fashion.”
“The collection,” says Joyce Jonas, “is not to be believed. It is immeasurable. He started buying in the 1950’s.” Jonas, jewelry historian and president of Joyce Jonas & Associates, in New York, personally views the collection as “staggering.”
“Dr. Joe and Ruth generously donated to several museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston,” writes Janet Zapata. Zapata, jewelry historian, consultant, and author of several books on the decorative arts, wrote the memorial on Sataloff for the American Society of Jewelry Historians Fall newsletter. “Dr. Joe was not only passionate about jewelry, but also encouraged scholars and anyone interested to pursue their passion, always ready to answer a question or tell a story. He loved life,” writes Zapata, “and it was infectious.”
“In addition to Art Nouveau, he was an expert in jade, Faberge, and hallmarks,” Jonas said. And he was driven to sharing his jewelry knowledge with others. Jewelry Camp was Sataloff’s creation. Started in 1979, the Maine conference on Antique and Period Jewelry and Gemstones, otherwise known as Jewelry Camp, brought in experts from all over the world. “He wanted to educate people,” says Jonas. Jewelry camp was started, as Jonas said, “to fill what Dr. Joe felt was a void in jewelry scholarship.” It was an opportunity to learn, make friends, and simply enjoy. “He relished every minute of life; and had a true passion for people and jewelry. He’d personally greet everyone by name, making them feel special. He was a wonderful man. Even when he was giving you advice, he was doing so as a friend.”
Jonas bought Jewelry Camp from Sataloff in late 1992. Camp now continues as The Antique Jewelry & Art Conference, www.jewelrycamp.org, under the new ownership of Edward and Sandy Lewand.
Dr. Sataloff received his bachelor’s degree in 1940 from the University of Pennsylvania, and then graduated with a medical degree from Hahnemann University Hospital, Philadelphia, in 1943.
He is survived by his wife Ruth, daughter Jody and son Robert, and five grandchildren.
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