A pomegranate brooch, a necklace dripping with emeralds, a ring symbolizing a Hindu festival. These two exquisite jewelry exhibitions in Manhattan will sweep you off your feet!
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: July 20, 2023
With near record-breaking temperatures of summer heat, consider dodging the heat by visiting a couple of exhibitions in Manhattan where air conditioning will provide some comfort while you marvel at glittering, masterfully crafted, miniature precious jewels.
This summer, the “Garden of Green” at the American Museum of Natural History and “Jewels in a Gem” at the Hispanic Society are on view at two cultural institutions on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And, both have been recently renovated and re-opened after months of construction and refurbishment.
Van Cleef & Arpels Cydonia necklace.
The American Museum of Natural History made some “history” of its own with the completion of its new Gilder Center that connects various buildings and wings of its campus into one flowing space for easy access and navigation. One-of-a-kind experiences, an insectarium, butterfly vivarium, floor-to-ceiling collections displays, and more are now fully inter-connected, whereas before, visitors had to navigate passageways and tunnels between buildings.
Inside the new entrance is the glittering Hall of Gems and Minerals with a petit salon reserved for exceptional exhibitions of high jewelry. “Garden of Green” is a dazzling celebration of the beauty of green gemstones, emeralds, jade, peridot, chrysoprase, malachite and green chalcedony. There are 44 pieces of stunning jewelry—32 on view in the US for the first time ever—designed by the heritage house Van Cleef & Arpels.
Van Cleef & Arpels Pongal ring.
Emeralds have many special qualities, the most significant being their color. “Emerald” has been a standard for green among colored stones for thousands of years. Chromium, vanadium, and iron are the trace elements that cause emerald’s color. Emeralds’ inclusions (referred to as fissures) and brittleness make them the most fragile among precious gemstones and makes them vulnerable to damage during cutting, polishing, and setting, or even during careless daily wear. Plus, because color is so important in establishing an emerald’s value, the cut must maximize the effect of hue, tone and saturation.
Every piece of jewelry in this special exhibition is a standout. So many tantalizing gems! Look for the Pongal ring (2012) which recalls the bright greens and reds of the Hindu festival that marks the winter solstice with its stunning 27.81-carat emerald from Colombia.
Van Cleef & Arpels Emerald & Diamond necklace previously owned by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.
From the Les Jardins Collection, check out the undulating curves of the Cydonia necklace (2009) that evoke the branches of the quince tree; accented by a string of floating butterflies set with rare pink diamonds, the necklace and earrings cascade with diamonds and together boast a total of 951 emeralds.
The emerald and diamond necklace and bracelet set—commissioned by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV for his wife in 1971—boasts yellow gold, diamonds, and 477.58 carats of stunning Colombian emeralds. This intricate set can be transformed from a luxurious tiered necklace into a pair of matching bracelets and a stylish pendant-clip.
‘Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels’ is on view at the American Museum of Natural History until January 2024.
Luz Camionis Peach brooch.
Further uptown, in the area called Washington Heights (yes, that Heights from the musical “In the Heights”) is the palatial 1904 mansion of American scholar, philanthropist and Hispanic and Latin American art collector Archer M. Huntington, which became the permanent collection called The Hispanic Society Museum & Library. The collection is unparalleled in scope and quality with half a million items that illustrate the culture and history of Spain, Portugal and Latin America from antiquity to present day. It has also, since its inception, remained free of charge.
Luz Caminois is considered the first female master jeweler in Spain. She has spent the past 50 years mastering contemporary and antique jewelry techniques, developing an expansive collection of unique pieces which can be found in the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Luz Caminois Sweet Orange Blossom brooch.
Her large-scale brooches and earrings are owned by prominent individuals including designer Carolina Herrera, Patty Cisneros, Beatriz Santo Domingo. The exhibition celebrates her 50-year career and is cleverly combined with Joaquin Sorolla’s vibrant mural paintings, a celebration of his centennial.
Her jewelry catches the realism of flowers and fruits with an accuracy that is spellbinding. For example, her peach brooch made from enamel, diamonds, colored sapphires set in gold is a luscious as a ripe peach. The sweet orange blossom brooch has gold stamen en tremblant (they move as if blown by a breeze), diamonds and tsavorites. The ruby red enamel pomegranate brooch is cut open to reveal juicy seeds made of rubies, garnets and spinel.
Luz Caminois Pomegranate brooch.
‘Jewels in a Gem: Luz Camino at the Hispanic Society Museum’ is on view until September 3, 2023.
There are always plenty of museums to visit in New York City, but these two will leave you with some extra special memories, no purchase necessary!
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.