Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Blood-Red Ruby in History


The blood-red ruby has captivated the eyes of man since ancient times. Like the flames of fire after which it was named long ago, it draws the gaze and holds it captive to its brilliance.

Before gemological labs, before dichroscopes and microscopes, before democracy, before we knew as much as we think we know now, all blood red stones were considered Kings of the Gems. Their name was different from today's name. Not the ruby we know in modern times, whose name is based upon a more modern science and history: Rubinus, a Latin word which means, rather blandly, 'red'.

No! Then, it was called Carbunculus, (now an archaic term) which teemed with the dynamic force of smoldering coals. The word is also Latin, but it is a far less clinical term of categorization. Rather, it is a visceral term of description.

In keeping with this more visceral form of identification, the Carbunculus of old was not always equal to the rubinus of our day. The tools in the gemologist's handbag were limited to the naked eye and the powers of observation. Be careful not to equate this with less scientific, however. For these rigorous gemsmen asked all the right questions:

How does the stone behave when held up to the sun?

What happens if we strike this other stone of known hardness with this new alluring red stone?

Can we engrave it with the images of our favored gods and kings?

Can we cut it into the shapes our women fancy?

Can we draw the eye of the king with it?

These and more were the questions posed by the scientists of old when holding the flaming red Carbunculus in their hands. And the answers to many of their questions were promising. But not all. All of them caught the eyes of kings. All of them shone with the brilliance of the sun. But some of the Carbunculus did not take to engraving. Some of them did not attract stray bits to themselves. Some did not weather the effects of fire intact.

We know now that this is because those fiery gems, lauded by Marco Polo, Pliny the Elder, and Theophrastus, were not all the same. A ruby by any other name may look the same, but today we know that only corundum, that pure crystallized alumina, has a hardness nearing the diamond. Only the corundum now commands the price of kings. Only corundum withstands the flames of fire after which it is named.

However, in ancient times, without the power to differentiate, garnets and spinels were often considered color variations of the corundum rubies. It is garnets that were wildly popular for the art of the intaglio, and many spinels of fine quality are mounted in the crown jewels of Europe's royalty. Those gemsmen of old were limited in their differentiation.

However, as the tools of the gemologist increased, so did the distinction between the Carbunculi, so that now we no longer confuse the three together. Indeed, they are not of the same species. Where ruby is comprised of alumina, spinel is magnesium aluminum oxide. And garnet is a vast mineral group which has silicate at its base.

Ruby is the hardest next to diamond, and it withstands the flames of fire. It is the birthstone of July. Garnet is the most varied, able to be cut in every size and shape. It is the birthstone of January. Spinel is the rarest, found in many of the same areas as ruby, but fairly unappreciated. It is not a birthstone, though it takes pride of place on the ceremonial crown of England.

All are beautiful. All come in shades of brilliant blood red. All are gemstone grade. All are worthy of our attention.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Princess Marina's Bow Brooch

Princess Marina's Bow Brooch. A gorgeous Russian heirloom
given to the Princess by her mother, Duchess Elena Vladimirovna.
Sotheby's describes the brooch as a "double ribbon bow" which
features over 100 carats in diamonds.

The story of Princess Marina's bow brooch begins in Russia (at least in light of the historical record I have access to). According to Stefano Papi, who has written a number of notable jewelry tomes (including Jewels of the Romanovs, Family and Court), he has seen photographs of the Duchess Elena Vladimirovna wearing the bow brooch.{1}

Duchess Elena, daughter of Maria Pavlovna (another of Russia's most famous jewelry collectors), is Princess Marina's mother. According to Mr. Papi, this bow brooch, along with many other pieces which belonged to Maria Pavlovna, was one of the very few pieces of Romanov jewelry that made it out of Russia intact after (or during) the Russian Revolution.{2}

Several stories relate how the bow brooch might have made its way into Princess Marina's collection. Cecil Beaton, whose admiration for Princess Marina is documented in the book Cecil Beaton Portraits and Profiles (2004), wrote also in another collection of memoirs that Princess Marina shared with him that her mother received the bow brooch from Czar Nicholas II.{3} Czar Nicholas II was Elena's cousin.

Other sources report that Maria Pavlova gave it to her daughter, Elena, from her own collection. Neither story has been verified in an official way. We know for sure, though, that Princess Marina's bow brooch was given to her by her mother, Elena. The Princess wore it often and prominently for many portraits and to many state occasions. Several of Cecil Beaton's photographs of the Princess show her wearing the brooch.

It's clear why it became one of the Princess's favorites. A sensual bow that, for all its hardness in platinum and diamonds, is reported by Lisa Hubbard of Sotheby's as exhibiting to the eye "the softness of [the] velvet, satin, and lace bows" of the 19th century.{4}

In their 2012 catalog, Sotheby's describes the historic brooch as a "double ribbon bow centered by an oval-shaped diamond weighing approximately 3.50 carats, accented by numerous pear-shaped and old mine-cut diamonds weighing approximately 38.00 carats, further set with numerous old mine and rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 64.25 carats..."{5}

The bow brooch was featured in their 2012 auction, Magnificent Jewel from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman. How it came to belong to Mrs. Wrightsman is unknown to the public at this time. However, it is no secret that after Prince George died, leaving Princess Marina a bereft widow at the tender age of 36, the court laws of Britain made it hard for the Princess to make ends meet for herself and her four children.

Princess Marina was well loved and continued for the rest of her years to serve her adopted country faithfully. She was provided a comfortable place to live and meaningful work to engage in, but she resorted on more than one occasion to auctioning off pieces of her estate in order to keep food on the table.{6}

Continuing into the 1970s, after her death, the Princess's children continued to occasionally auction pieces off pieces of her collection.{7} The public record does not indicate precisely when Mrs. Wrightsman acquired the brooch, but I like to imagine a private tea party between the two very noble ladies in which Mrs. Wrightsman made Princess Marina an offer she could not refuse for what must have been a very hard piece with which to part.

I'm sure it was more clinical than that, having more likely been acquired after the Princess's death in a bustling salesroom at a prestigious auction house. But we storytellers are allowed some latitude to at least dream, aren't we?

In 2012, Princess Marina's bow brooch was auctioned publicly through Sotheby's. Today, it belongs to another anonymous collector. This individual (or perhaps it was a company) purchased the jewel for $842,500, more than twice its material estimate.

And so once again, the delectable bow brooch has disappeared behind the heavy doors of a vault or the priceless doors of a palace or mansion. It now belongs to another history maker, and we must wait...wondering when we will once again see on public view the beautiful piece of jeweled artistry that survived several momentous world events.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Notes


  1. Hubbard, Lisa. "An Historic Russian Imperial Jewel From the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman," Sotheby's All That Glitters Blog, October 25, 2012.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Sotheby's. "Silver-Topped-Gold and Diamond Bow Brooch, Circa 1850," ecatalogue, 2012.
  6. "Wedding Wednesday: Princess Marina's Gown," The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor blog, October 31, 2012.
  7. Ibid.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Moonstone Beach

Moonstone. "Pierre de lune 7(Inde)" by Parent Géry - Own work.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Moonstone, along with pearls and alexandrite, is a birthstone option for those born in the month of June. There are actually several different stones called moonstone. The two most common stones called moonstone are a form of orthoclase feldspar and a form of chalcedony.

Both of these types of stone are used in jewelry, though only the feldspar variety emits the bluish play of color most commonly associated with the term moonstone. Whereas chalcedony is a type of quartz crystal, orthoclase feldspar is an aluminosilicate containing potassium. The feldspar forms in delicate layers creating the opalescent play of color.

It is the chalcedony variety, however, that piqued my interest this month. It did so because it is associated with a distinctive beach in Southern California called Moonstone Beach. I first learned of Moonstone Beach in a 1909 edition of Hunter-Trader-Trapper, an early 19th century journal focused on the ins and outs of hunting, trapping, and trading fur animals in the US and Canada.

The article, called "The Craftsmen of an Isle of Summer," is a delectable read, covering the various artistic trades available in 1909 to travelers amid the Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina islands (now called the Channel Islands) in Southern California. Of particular note, the island of Santa Catalina boasted a bustling town of 1500 people which played host to over 5,000 people in the summers.

Three steamers ran at regular intervals to ferry visitors and residents to and from the mainland each day. There were also several shallow water steamers, which the writer calls "monster glass-bottom boats." {1} These were strictly tourist boats, carrying men, women, and children to the various attractions these extravagant islands had to offer. One made regular visits to the sea lion rookery on Santa Barbara Island.

And one made daily trips to Moonstone Beach. From reading the article, it sounds like Moonstone Beach is on a portion of Catalina Island, "a beach several miles up the island where a little canon comes winding down to the sea." {2}

That very well may be the case, that the glass-bottom boat steamed around to a more inhospitable portion of the island, dropping passengers onto an otherwise deserted beach where they could spend hours collecting stones which, as the writer remarks, "are susceptable [sic] of a fine polish and resemble moonstones, cats eyes, and other semi-precious stones...." {3}

Those same tourists could then return to the Port of Avalon, bringing their cache along with them to turn over to the island's master lapidarists. These jewelers would polish the stones to a high shine and set them into a piece of ready-made jewelry, a ring or a pendant most likely.

Today, Catalina continues to burst to life in the summers, offering a resort-like experience that rivals Hawaii, without the volcano. Visitors can spend their day in the spas and lounges, or they can spend their day hiking, biking, parasailing, helicoptering, boating, and more. Glass-bottom boat tours are still available, and they've now added submarine tours.{4}

However, there is no mention of Moonstone Beach in the 2015 tour guide. There is, however, a Moonstone Beach on the mainland just across the harbor from Santa Catalina Island. Here, similar stones are found just a several nautical miles northeast of the island. This gorgeous stretch of beach, just north of Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is open to the public year round, though experts recommend visiting in the autumn months to avoid the summer fog. {5}

Not only is this stretch of coastline breathtaking, with its sculpted cliffs, weathered trees, and tawny beaches, its shores are also dotted with moonstones (chalcedony), jaspers, and all sorts of other quartz stones. According to John McKinney, author of California's Coastal Parks: A Day Hiker's Guide, these beautiful stones, "polished by surf and sand...were carried here by streams from the nearby coastal range."

Moonstone Beach offers far more than moonstones and jasper. It's also a prime spot for surf kayaking, surfing, rock climbing, tide pool scouting, sea cave exploration, and miles of sand into which you can sink your bare feet. {7} If you hike the bluff trails described by John McKinney, you might catch a glimpse of sea otters, and, if your'e there in January or February you might see "the giants [that] swim close to shore." {8} That would be the gray whales that migrate through in midwinter.

That is a lot to look forward to, especially if your birthday is in June. That way, if you visit Moonstone Beach, perhaps you might have the opportunity to bring home your own birthstone. If you do, then give us a call and we'll help you find the perfect setting in which to mount it.

Notes


  1. Holder, Charles Frederick. "The Craftsmen of an Isle of Summer," Hunter-Trader-Trapper, Volume XVIII, No. 5, August 1909, p.19.
  2. Ibid., p. 19.
  3. Ibid., p. 19.
  4. Catalina Island 2015 Official Visitors Guide, p. 16.
  5. Fitzgerald, Nina. "Moonstones And A California Beach," Watching For Rocks blog, January 14, 2012.
  6. McKinney, John. California's Coastal Parks: A Day Hiker's Guide. Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 2005, p. 128.
  7. Humboldt California's Redwood Coast website.
  8. McKinney, p. 128.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Restoring a Legacy" at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Art Deco platinum, carved emerald and diamond
brooch.  Austrian, circa 1937. Alphonse de
Rothschild gave this brooch to his wife Clarice
for their 25th wedding anniversary. It is on display
this weekend at the MFA Boston along with
the other recovered Rothschild treasures.

This weekend is the last opportunity (for now) to insert yourself into the living history of the Rothschild's good taste and the celebrated cultural heroes known as the Monuments Men. It is a story like no other. And the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is honoring the bravery of these men and the valor of one woman whose efforts recovered the lost treasury of her family more than 50 years after the war ended.

Bettina Looram de Rothschild was born to Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild of Vienna. After fifty years of battling with the Austrian government, Bettina secured a partial recovery of the works of art stolen from her during the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1943.

After plundering the vast holdings of the Jews in Germany in 1942, Adolf Hitler turned his sights to nearby Austria. In the first stage of his plans for world domination, he asserted his new Divisions Laws to take possession of the private holdings of Jewish estate holders in Vienna.

The Rothschilds were the first to fall prey. In all, the Nazis confiscated almost 3,500 paintings, decorative arts, jewelry, furniture, tapestries, and woven rugs from the family. Much of it was carted away on trucks and trains and housed in salt mines. Other pieces were stashed in a castle in Neuschwantstein, though these might have been the collections of other branches of the Rothschild family.

A group of brave men and women, with the help of a brave German soul named Rose Valland, found the Fuhrer's stashes and managed to recover a significant portion of the stolen items, not only for the Rothschilds, but also for the many other collectors who had been victimized.

In his book, The Monuments Men, Robert Edsel reports that between the years 1943 and 1951, Hitler's men confiscated over five million culturally significant works, including paintings, jewelry, statuary, furniture, and other works of art from throughout Europe.{1} He had these pieces stored in monasteries, castles, and salt mines, where they were crated and stacked and boxed up, but only after a careful inventory was made of nearly every single piece.

This was a precise operation, though when the pieces were discovered they were found "crammed tightly onto shelves or [in] piles of crates," some of which had never even been opened after their initial seizure.{2} The Rothschild collections were finally returned to Bettina Looram de Rothschild, thanks to Rose Valland and the Monuments Men, in 1947.

However, as they were making their way to New York, by way of Austria, the Austrian government enlisted their own seizure laws, requiring that the heiress "donate" 250 of the pieces to the Austrian government as a sort of tariff for safe transport of the rest to the United States. For the next 50 years, Bettina fought for the full return of her family's collections to the family.

In 1999, Austria passed a national restitution law, and a portion of those works were returned to Bettina. The family then orchestrated a record-setting auction through Christie's in New York, during which most of these items were sold for a total of $90 million dollars.{3}

This year, in honor of her mother's courage and fortitude, and in honor of a museum that she loves, Bettina Looram de Rothschild's daughter, named Bettina Burr, has donated 186 objects of art, originally owned by her grandparents Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild of Austria, to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

She could not have conceived of a more fitting way to honor the legacy of her forbears and the courage of her mother. A selection of these works is now on display through the end of this weekend only. To step into the gallery where history is housed is to step into the shoes of those who first conceived of the collection and into the shoes of those who gave of themselves to preserve and recover it.

"Restoring a Legacy: Rothschild Family Treasures" is a must-see exhibition for anyone interested in world history, arts and culture, or bravery and courage. For more information, we invite you to visit the MFA website.

Notes


  1. Edsel, Robert M. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. New York: Center Street Hachette Book Group, 2009.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kinsella, Eileen. "MFA Boston Acquires What's Left of Legendary Rothschild Collection," ArtNet News, February 24, 2015.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Designer Spotlight: Mellerio dits Meller

'Paon Royale' by Mellerio dits Meller. This peacock aigrette
was made for the Maharajah Jagatjit Singh Bahadur of
Kapurthala. He commissioned it in 1905 as a wedding
gift for his fifth wife, Anita Delgado.
Mellerio, known as Meller: Italian goldsmiths doing business in France. In the 1500s, a group of Lombardy tradesmen traveled regularly to Paris, France, to conduct business. In 1613, a chimney sweep by the name of Jacques Pido was working with his apprentices in the Palace of Versailles.

Hidden away inside one of the grimy flues in the palace, one of his apprentices overheard a group of men plotting to kill the King of France, Louis XIII. Upon hearing of the plot, Jacques and his men rallied together with the other members of the Lombardy Community.

The Community leaders sent a letter to the king's mother, Marie de Medici, who also hailed from Italy. That letter saved her son's life. To express her gratitude, Marie de Medici issued a decree which allowed all of the Lombardy residents (comprising three villages in Italy) to conduct their business throughout the entire realm without restriction or interference, under the protection of the King.

One of these fortunate villages was Craveggia, home to the Mellerio family who made their living as goldsmiths.{1} With the provisions stipulated by Marie de Medici, the Mellerios succeeded in establishing themselves as the premier jewelers to the royal courts of France and beyond. Three successive monarchs renewed the decree, supplying their protection to the Lombardy tradesmen through the late 1700s.

In 1815, Francois Meller built upon this foundation and established a jewelry salon at Rue de la Paix. By that time, he had already won the favor of Queen Marie Antoinette, who purchased several pieces of beautiful jewelry from the firm, including a ruby bracelet featuring seven cameos.{2}

Francois established the foundational mission, motto, and values for the family business. The Mellerio mission is to bring creativity and ingenuity to bear on every piece they fashion and to pay "faultless attention to clients' preferences."{3} The Mellerio motto: "The tradition of Mellerio is to create."{4}

And the values that have underpinned the Mellerio company for going on fifteen generations are respect and obedience to traditions, honor for family, absolute trust in relationships between family members, faith in the religion of Italy, and respect for both France and Italy.{5}

Through adherence to these values, Francois won the loyalty of every French ruler that graced the royal halls from 1815 to 1832. Proverbs 22 says, "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men."

And so Francois Mellerio stood before kings and queens, and he passed his knowledge, his values, and his character on to the generations that followed him. Mellerio dits Meller has served the royals of Europe since the 1800s and continues to serve those in noble estate to this day.

Empires have risen and fallen, wars have been won and lost, and yet Mellerio dits Meller remains firmly established on the Rue de la Paix in Paris, France, where it has stood since 1815. The exceptional quality of their work is their signature trademark. You can see it this gorgeous peacock aigrette. Known as the Paon Royale ('Royal Peacock'), it was made in 1905 for the Maharajah Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. He gave it to his fifth and favorite wife, Anita Delgado, as a gift on their wedding day.

It is fashioned from gold and platinum, featuring gorgeous enameling on the head and body of the bird. The tail feathers are decorated in diamonds, with the eyes beautifully enameled in shades of blue, green, and yellow. Like many of Mellerio's Art Nouveau bird feathers, it "bends with all the grace of the feather."{6} It is truly a piece of magnificence, as is a family company owned and operated since the 1500s.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Notes


  1. O'Hara, William T. Centuries of Success: Lessons from the World's Most Enduring Family Businesses. Adams Media, 2004, p. 103.
  2. "Mellerio dits Meller celebrates 400 years of jewellery making with the launch of a new collection," The Jewellery Editor, July 20, 2013.
  3. O'Hara, p. 103.
  4. Ibid., p. 109.
  5. Ibid., p. 103.
  6. Maskelyne, N. Story. "Report on Jewellery and Precious Stones (Class 36.)," Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867. (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode (Printers to Her Majesty), 1868), p. 598.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Exotic Dancer Becomes Queen in 1908

Anita Delgado married the Maharajah of Kapurthala India
in 1908. She was his fifth and favorite wife. She started life
as a commoner in Spain, dancing the flamenco with her sister
for a living. Photo is in the public domain.

Anita Delgado was born to a cafe owner in Malaga, Spain, in the late 1800s. In 1906, at age 16, she was dancing the flamenco with her sister in an act they performed in the nightclubs of Madrid. That same year, the Maharajah of Kapurthala, Jagatjit Singh, visited Madrid to attend the royal wedding of King Alfonso III of Spain. The Maharaja was well known for his love of entertainment and beautiful things.

He is said to have arrived in Spain decorated from head to toe in jewels and finery. Elizabeth Nash, writing for The Independent, reports that he wore a "turquoise blue turban adorned with pearls and precious stones, his chest studded with decorations, and a diamond-encrusted dagger in his belt."{1}

Upon arrival, the Maharajah requested a night out on the town. He was escorted to the Cafe Central Kursaal, where he enjoyed a spectacular flamenco performance by The Sisters Camelia (Victoria and Anita Delgado).{2}

The Indian ruler fell under Anita's spell and approached her with gifts and invitations. She accompanied him to swanky restaurants, and then after the royal wedding she and her entire family were invited to visit him in his hotel suite.{3}

Reports indicate that he proposed marriage swiftly, but that either her family rebuffed him, or she did. In all likelihood, it was her family that protested most. She was, after all, only 16 years old, and he was a 34-year-old royal foreigner.

Marriage to the Maharajah would mean a whole lot more than just running off with a handsome older stranger. For Anita Delgado it would mean leaving her homeland, converting to Hinduism, and taking a foreign people as her own. It also meant becoming wife number five to a man whose other wives still lived in his palace with him (although she would not learn this fact until a long while later).

I'm not sure the title and privilege of Maharani of India would entice me all that swiftly, either. And I'd certainly be loathe to send my daughter away for that kind of deal. But Maharajah Jagatjit Singh was not a man given to resignation. When he wanted something, he pursued it until he acquired it. And he wanted to marry Anita Delgado. His advantages: time, money, and charm.

After a time, he offered to pay a significant bride price, a sum that would ensure that her sister would dance the flamenco again only if she so desired, and it was agreed that Anita would accompany the Maharajah to France to prepare for her nuptials.

She left for Paris to the luxury of a palatial estate, where she learned two new languages (French and English). She also learned to dance according to Indian and British customs, play piano, and ride horses the "proper" way. She also learned deportment and formal etiquette for state occasions.{4}

In January 1908, Anita Delgado arrived in Bombay and married the Maharajah in Kapurthala. It was at this point that she learned that she was wife number five. None to pleased, she was appeased only by her husband's arrangements for her to live in private quarters away from the harem. He also lavished her with jewels, clothing, and other luxurious gifts, and he gave her many western liberties not otherwise afforded his Indian-born Maharanis. Anita Delgado went on to make a distinctive mark on India's upper classes.

For eighteen years, she lived as queen consort to one of India's most notable rulers. She was outfitted with luxurious costumes and countless jewels. She enjoyed her husband's favor and bore him a son. They traveled throughout India and Europe together, and truly lived in the highest style imaginable.

It seems, however, that after almost twenty years as Maharani, Ms. Delgado grew restless. According to rumors, she strayed from her husband's bed, taking up with her stepson.{5} The Maharajah's family denies many of the rumors surrounding this part of Anita Delgado's life, so it is unclear whether this infidelity actually took place.

However, public record does indicate that the Maharajah divorced his fifth wife in 1925. Though she was granted a life pension and retained her vast jewelry collection and her Indo-Punjab citizenship, as well as her official royal title, Anita Delgado was exiled for life from India.

She spent the remainder of her thirty-seven years in Europe, spending some time in her hometown Malaga, Spain, and also in Madrid and Paris, where her transformation from commoner to Maharani originally took place. Unfortunately, though she was granted possession of her jewels, the majority of her collection was lost at sea when the ocean vessel bearing the treasury sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

If you'd like to read more about Ms. Delgado's fascinating life, I have heard of one authorized biography written by Elisa Vazguez de Gey. There is also a fictionalized biography, contested by the Maharajah's family but reportedly based on facts of public record, written by Javier Moro.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Notes


  1. Nash, Elizabeth. "How to Marry a Maharaja," The Independent, November 5, 2007.
  2. Carolina, "La media Luna del elefante de Kapurthala," El laberinto de Eboli blog, October 13, 2013.
  3. Nash.
  4. Nash.
  5. Nash.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jana Brevick's 'Trace Elements 1' Brooch

'Trace Elements 1' brooch by Jana Brevick. On view now at the Bellevue Arts
Museum. Part of the show titled 'This Infinity Fits In My Hand.' Photo by Doug
Yaple. Used with permission. 

Jana Brevick's 'This Infinity Fits In My Hand' is the jewelry artist's first solo jewelry and environmental installation exhibition. Jana's work will remain on view at the Bellevue Arts Museum until August 16, 2015. The show consists of a selection from each of Ms. Brevick's collections, which have evolved over time to include her 'Tiny Universe', 'Eavesdropping', 'Moving Targets', 'Tracking Device', and 'The Elements & Diagrams' (and more) series, as well as several environmental installations and her astounding Everchanging Rings.

If I were asked to choose a favorite piece from this exhibition, I would have to declare a tie between 'Trace Elements 1' (the brooch pictured above) and her dynamic Everchanging Ring. The 'Trace Elements 1' brooch is a revised periodic table which features the following pure elements, set in rounds on a sterling silver mount: aluminum, iron, nickel, copper, zinc, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, indium, tin, iridum, platinum, and gold.

Perhaps its the elemental nature of the piece, or the orderly nod to science, but this brooch truly moved me. I would definitely wear it out and about, particularly if I needed grounding or if I wanted to broadcast my uber smart side.

The brooch belongs to Jana's 'The Elements & Diagrams' series, a series that aims to examine "the properties of minerals used commonly in metals."{1} Being wearable, the brooch affords the pleasure of experiencing these metals, and their metaphysical properties, in an interactive way. Because of the purity of the elements used in this series, those who have worn this and other pieces from the series have commented on how different they feel from other jewelry. I would love to experience that difference.

I would also love to experience the thrill of owning one of Jana Brevick's Everchanging Rings. It is a customized ring, typically made of gold, though I imagine Ms. Brevick would use any metal of your choice. The ring's owner wears the first incarnation of the ring for a time determined by him or her. When the time comes for significant change in their life, s/he returns the ring to Jana, who melts it down and works it into a new incarnation. Each stage of the ring's progression is carefully documented in photographs and words in a book that Jana makes to accompany the ring.

There are so many things I love about this concept, and the first to note is that Jana is as expressive in words as she is in metals. The book is as interactive and meaningful as the manifestations of the ring. The second thing I love about this concept is the marking of significant seasons in one's life with a special jewel.

We are so often never the same, though unchanged at our core, after powerful and transformative events in our lives (like marriages, births, deaths, etc.). In the same fashion, this ring is also the same at its core yet altered in its expressed manifestation at various stages of its journey. In a culture that has downplayed the importance of rites of passage, I think Jana Brevick's Everchanging Ring is a much needed concept to mark the important transitions in our lives.

So there you have it, my two favorite Jana Brevick pieces on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum. If you would like to visit the museum, you may click on the hyperlink to learn more.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Notes


  1. As quoted from the display case at Bellevue Arts Museum.