Gifts From the Heart

December 4, 2014 at 8:40 am Leave a comment

A tale of two necklaces.

For a couple of decades now, I’ve been collecting jewelry for the Museum, inspired by my 1997 project, The Glitter & The Gold: Fashioning America’s Jewelry, which was about Newark’s great jewelry industry.

We have the greatest collection of Newark-made jewelry in any museum in the world, which is wonderful, as far as it goes. Since that show, however, I’ve been thinking about ways to expand the Museum’s jewelry collection to put the Newark-made things in a larger context.

Two gifts this year have enriched our collection of jewelry greatly, and both came in from people who know the Museum and care about its mission. This is the kind of gift that comes from the heart, and as such has a special meaning for me as a curator.

Pearl choker, ca. 1907

Pearl choker, ca. 1907

The pearl and diamond choker was made in the early 1900s, probably in New York City, for a young socialite, the only daughter of a powerful politician. It is an iconic form of the period, meant to be worn tight against the neck, the soft warm color of the natural pearls contrasting with the bright sparkle of the platinum-set diamonds. Although we own a Newark-made choker of gold and enamel with semi-precious stones, this is the first necklace of this type to enter our jewelry collection, and it represents the sort of high-end jewelry worn by a very small part of American society. The donor of this piece (who shall remain anonymous for now) is a descendant of the original owner, and gave it to the Museum because he knew we needed something like this to round out our collection.

Biba Schutz, “Midnight,” 2013

Biba Schutz, “Midnight,” 2013

The other necklace is brand new, made by an artist I know well named Biba Schutz, who works in New York City. It is made of oxidized silver set with “jewels” of hot-formed black glass, a process that the artist learned during a fellowship at the Corning Glass Works in upstate New York. I was talking to another artist friend about this necklace, and how much I liked it, over lunch one day. Two days later he called and offered to pay for it, because he knows the artist and loves what we’ve been doing with modern jewelry here in Newark. I was terribly touched by this, because I knew that his gesture came from the heart.

We give because we care. Or, at least, that’s when we give most generously.

Ulysses Dietz. Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts

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