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The new Wertz Gallery at Carnegie Museum: Gems and Jewelry is a 2,000 square foot addition to Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems dedicated to gems, the crystals from which they come, and jewelry comprised of these precious stones. 

"Gems and Jewelry" is permanent; "Luxe Life" will be at the museum through Jan. 6, 2008

Carnegie Museum Wertz Gallery dramatic gems

By Kellie B. Gormly found at pittsburgh tribune Friday, September 28, 2007

'Summer Breeze' Carnegie MuseumA 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.
Justin Merriman/Tribune-Review

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 antique diamond necklace Carnegie MuseumA 17th-century diamond necklace is on exhibit in the Wertz Gallery.
Justin Merriman/Tribune-Review

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.

Kellie B. Gormly can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

Wertz Gallery is named in honor of Ronald W. Wertz, longtime president of the Hillman Foundation. The creation of Wertz Gallery is part of the year–long expansion and renovation of Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, which first opened in 1980, and which presents and exhibits minerals in the manner of sculpture, showing them for their beauty as well as their physical properties and industrial uses.

Mauboussin bracelet CarnegieThis 1930s Mauboussin bracelet was once owned by actress Mae West.
Justin Merriman/Tribune-Review

The original Hillman Hall did display gems and jewelry but often on a temporary basis. The expanded Wertz Gallery gives the collection its own space and many new gems and pieces of jewelry that have never been on exhibit will be on display. Approximately 500 gems, crystals, jewelry and other pieces of gem art will be on display in the permanent collection of Wertz Gallery. In addition, Wertz Gallery will also host special temporary and traveling exhibits from collectors around the world.

related: vintage enamel flower or flower parts for jewelry making


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