"Gems and Jewelry" is permanent; "Luxe Life" will be at
the museum through Jan. 6, 2008
new, 2,000-square-foot gallery opening today at the Carnegie Museum of Natural
History sparkles and glitters with fancy jewelry, both modern and antique, and
a kaleidoscope of gemstones.
"Summer Breeze," a gold pendant set with
citrine, amethyst, ruby and opal stones and designed Paula Crevoshay and
Arthur Lee Anderson, is on exhibit at the Wertz Gallery at the Carnegie Museum
of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems.
The new Wertz Gallery -- an add-on to the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
that is part of the Oakland museum -- features both a permanent jewelry and
gem exhibit and a traveling one. "Wertz Gallery: Gems and Jewelry,"
which is permanent, features numerous glass cases full of precious and
semi-precious gemstones, including diamonds, amber, topaz and sapphires.
"Luxe Life: Masterpieces of American Jewelry" -- which has been
to many museums and is on display through early January -- features
extravagant pieces of jewelry, ranging in age from mid-19th-century to modern.
Both exhibits, which feature pieces donated from private collectors, will
dazzle museum visitors with their pure beauty, says Marc Wilson, head of the
section of minerals.
"They are going to see top-quality jewelry and gemstones displayed in
a beautiful setting, and learn how to evaluate them," Wilson says.
Debra Wilson, collections assistant, agrees.
"We want to make it attractive enough and glittery enough so that
everybody's going to like it, whether they like jewelry or not," says
Wilson, who is married to Marc Wilson.
"Gems and Jewelry" includes a wall with glass cases that
demonstrate how to determine a gem's worth according to the four C's: carats,
which is weight; color and its intensity; clarity; and cut, for which there is
an exact, scientific formula.
Probably the most popular part of "Gems and Jewelry" is the large
case full of each month's birthstones, Debra Wilson says.
"Everyone loves birthstones," she says. "One thing we try to
do in this exhibit is show the range of colors in birthstones."
People might be surprised to know that sapphire, for instance, is not just
the deep blue for which the September birthstone is most known: The stone
comes in every color except red. If the same stone type, called corundum, is
transparent and red, it's called a ruby, July's birthstone. Pearls, June's
birthstones, don't come only from oysters; they also come from conch and melo
shells. Garnets, January's birthstone, aren't always maroon or blood-red; they
come in several shades, including green.
"Gems and Jewelry" has a few very old pieces, including an
intricately carved, full-bodied diamond necklace. The ornate piece dates to
the 17th century.
17th-century diamond necklace is on exhibit in the Wertz Gallery.
The "Luxe Life" display features glass cases with items such as
bracelets with amethysts and a giant topaz, gold pins in the shape of owls and
foxes; a diamond choker in the shape of a belt; German figurines carved from
gemstones; and a huge necklace with multiple, circular spiral pieces, circa
1950s, with a matching tiara.
Charlie Scheips, a New Yorker who is working as the guest curator for
Pittsburgh's "Luxe Life" display, displayed many of the pieces in
cases that look like dioramas with natural landscaping. One large case, for
instance, looks like a tropical landscape, and two more look like lunar and
mountainous landscapes. Scheips says he wanted to match the exhibit with the
museum's scientific theme.
"I thought, 'Why don't we take inspiration from the museum
itself?'" says Scheips, an art historian and art businessman.