Nature of Diamonds in Chicago

Michelle Ong's "black lace" cuff bracelets (Siegelson NYC)

Michelle Ong's "black lace" cuff bracelets (photo by Doug Rosa)

If you haven’t seen The Nature of Diamonds exhibit, you’ll have one last chance in Chicago, where it opened last week at The Field Museum. Along with fun facts about the history and geology of our favorite sparkly – and some famous examples from Tiffany and Boucheron – you’ll find funky contemporary pieces from the wonderful Michelle Ong of Carnet. In her “black lace” cuffs, 3,184 diamonds reflect against blackened silver, platinum and white gold.

Designed in honor of the Millenium, the Milky Way necklace is bulky enough to make even 2,000 diamonds look scattered – as in a night sky.

Milky Way necklace designed for Brinkhause Jewelers (Phillip Hersee Photograph)

Milky Way necklace designed for Brinkhause Jewelers (Phillip Hersee Photograph)

You’ll find plenty of royalty in the history of diamonds, kings and queens having cornered the market for centuries. There was a period where queens seemed to be competing to see who could wear more diamonds and pearls on every part of their bodies. If Elizabeth I took the prize for pearls, Marie de Medici of France (1573-1642) may have trumped her with diamonds. A portrait of the second wife of Henry IV of France shows her wearing a bodice ornament of diamonds and pearls, diamonds sewn into her dress and diamonds scattered in her hair.

The most recent crown on display, however, comes straight out of Hollywood: a diamond tiara Salma Hayek wore in 1998. It represents a distinct shift in the idea of royalty – or at least over-the-top celebrity glamour.

Tip of the Iceberg ring (Royal Ontario Museum, 2008)

Tip of the Iceberg ring (Royal Ontario Museum, 2008)

And, finally, a very cool (in every sense of the word) and highly irreverent take on the diamond ring: the “Tip of the Iceberg” features an uncut diamond partially-obscured and set in a way that makes it appear to float.

The Nature of Diamonds runs through March 28, 2010 at The Field Museum.