If you have ever been curious about the role jewelry has played in the history of the United States, you may be able to satiate your curiosity with a visit to the American Folk Art Museum in New York. The National Jewelry Institute, a nonprofit organization, is currently presenting its inaugural exhibit, titled “Masterpieces of American Jewelry”, through January 23, 2005.
The exhibit will highlight the creativity and design excellence of American jewelry from its beginnings in the late 18th century through the 1980’s. Through this show one can not only appreciate the craftsmanship of American designers but, unlike other forms of art that focus solely on the creators, jewelry also demonstrates the tastes of the consumer.
The show features five themes that reflect our nation’s humor, patriotism, pastimes, landscapes and sophisticated high style. These are showcased in five major categories and one-hundred-twenty-five pieces that were all manufactured and distributed in America.
The Americana genre praises the American spirit through jewelry depicting historical events. From the War of 1812 and the suffragette movement and single American flags as expressions of national pride, there are many examples of patriotism through jewelry.
The Nature movement yielded many pieces inspired by plants and animals from around the globe. There are landscape-inspired pieces that take the theme one step further by using only native stones to the U.S. like Montana sapphires and turquoise mined in Arizona.
Humor, though seemingly an odd subject to inspire jewelry design; has been a redundant theme through the decades. Wit and good old fashioned American optimism has held strong throughout even our most trying of times. One of the more popular examples of this enduring spirit was displayed in the pins, by Raymond C. Yard, during Prohibition that depicted rabbit waiters carrying trays of cocktails.
The “Pastime” pieces reflect how Americans liked to spend their free time. Whether it is fishing, hunting or watching sports, this part of the exhibit contains many tributes to hobbies and pastimes. Most notably showcased is Americans fascination with Baseball. The diamond bracelet former New York Yankees manager Joe McCarthy commissioned for his wife (to commemorate World Series wins in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1943) sits next to a charm bracelet, complete with bat and ball, from the Grand Rapids Chicks, one of the 1940s all female teams.
The last category is “High Style”. This section features some of society’s leading ladies and their fantastic jewels. The sampling includes photographs of eleven women who distinguished themselves by creating a personal style that infused the highest standards of art with their individual spirit. The women showcased are Mary Pickford, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Clare Boothe Luce, Barbara Paley, Countess Mona Bismarck, Georgia O’Keeffe, Loretta Young, Millicent Rogers and the Duchess of Windsor.
This exhibit tells of our shared past and how our patriotic and whimsical personality is depicted through our choices in jewelry. Don’t miss this unique glance at our past.
Written by Wendy Adeler Hall
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