Gem and jewelry exhibits in North America

Gold mask, c. 5th-6th century, from Secrets of the Silk Road (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum)

Whether you’re in the mood for avant garde design, breathtaking gems, or historical treasures, here are some temporary exhibits of gems and jewelry well worth a trip this year.

Secrets of the Silk Road, through March 28, 2011 at University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Some 125 ancient artifacts discovered at the cross-roads of the legendary Silk Road in Western China suggest an area active for thousands of years with various languages, lifestyles, religions, and cultures.

Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, through April 3, 2011 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, explores the world of the maharajas from early 18th century to mid-20th century with more than 200 works of art created for India’s kings. Highlight: the Patiala necklace, a ceremonial piece containing 2,930 diamonds made in 1928 as part of the largest single commission Cartier ever executed.

Zip necklace/bracelet, 1952, by Van Cleef & Arpels (photo Tino Hammid)

Arline Fisch: Creatures from the Deep, January 14-April 3, 2011 at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, TN. Jewelry artist Arline Fisch combined her mastery of wire-weaving with blown air and lighting effects to create the illusion of an underwater world of sculpted, window-size jellyfish for this amazing traveling exhibit.

Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, Feb. 18- June 5, 2011 [update: EXTENDED to July 4] at Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, NYC, has more than 250 jewels, timepieces, fashion accessories, and art objects demonstrating VC&A’s ever-evolving style and design innovation.

Lunaria necklace by Jennifer Trask at the Forbes Gallery

Jewelers of the Hudson Valley Exhibition, April 9–June 25, 2011 at The Forbes Galleries, NYC, showcases the work of jewelry artists from New York’s Hudson Valley region including Jamie Bennett, Pat Flynn, Arthur Hash, Tom Herman, Sergey Jivetin, Myra Mimlitsch-Gray and Jennifer Trask.

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, through May 8, 2011 at Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, has 70 reliquaries used by medieval Christians for the bodily remains of saints. Mainly from Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, these sacred objects are made of wood, stone, ivory, precious metals and gems, but it’s the perceived power of their contents that makes them fascinating.

Fabergé miniature of the Russian Imperial Regalia at Houston Museum of Natural History

Treasures from the Hermitage: Russia’s Crown Jewels, May 10-Nov. 27, 2011 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, will have more than 150 objects from the Treasure Gallery of The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. You’ll find ancient gold jewelry and gem carvings collected by Peter the Great (1672-1725) and masterpieces by Carl Fabergé inspired by that collection, 16th-century cameos and pendants collected by Catherine the Great, and rare gems presented as gifts to the Russian court.

Dangerous Beauty: Minerals of the Hindu Kush, through June 30, 2011 at the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, shows gems from the mineral-rich mountains Afghanistan and Pakistan, where artisanal miners brave high altitudes and threat of political violence to unearth emerald, aquamarine, ruby, tourmaline, peridot, kunzite and morganite.

Paper Planes of silver by Maeve Roseveare Oranjezicht, Cape Town (Dichotomies in Objects exhibit)

Dichotomies in Objects: Contemporary South African Studio Jewelry from the Stellenbosch Area, through April 3, 2011 at the National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN, has 150 pieces of experimental jewelry by 18 South African jewelry artists.

All That Glitters: The Science and Splendor of Gems and Minerals, through April 2012 at the San Diego Natural History Museum, focuses on the gems and minerals of California, such as tourmaline, orange garnet, benitoite and topaz, and includes a collection of 13 rare-gem butterfly brooches and a few treasures from Fabergé, Tiffany, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Brooch of gold, ruby and taxidermied hummingbird, English, c. 1870 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Facets of GIA, through April 2012, at the GIA headquarters in Carlsbad, CA, shows a range of gems and jewels, from ancient Egyptian to contemporary. Get there by May 1st to see, as well, the impressive display of jewels by Austin studio jeweler Zoltan David.

Jewels, Gems and Treasures: Ancient to Modern, July 19, 2011-Nov. 1, 2012 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, will be the first exhibit in the new jewelry gallery, showcasing the breadth of the museum’s jewelry collection from ancient Nubia to present-day Bulgari. You’ll find pieces worn by Mary Todd Lincoln, rare Arts & Crafts designs, and a suite of 19th-century jewels made from taxidermied hummingbirds.

2 comments for “Gem and jewelry exhibits in North America

  1. pat
    April 27, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Great articles, thanks for sharing this information!

  2. October 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    After reading this, I am certainly saddened to be based in the United Kingdom :( I would have certainly visited many of these jewelry events.

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