Time to book a winter break in New York. Of course, the shopping, the sightseeing and the ice-skating call, but, more urgently, we need to catch the new blockbuster exhibition that is now open at the The Met Fifth Avenue in Central Park, Jewelry: The Body Transformed. The gallery has curated a dazzling array of 230 pieces from around the world and an incredible range of time periods and cultures. Stunning, intricate neck collars from Egypt are displayed alongside Babylonian medallions, regal gold earrings festooned with winged lions and elephants from India and art deco pearl necklaces that would have been strung around the necks of 1930s flapper girls. It’s a jewellery nerd’s dream.
This is a smash-and-grab raid on some of the most spectacular jewellery boxes in the world, rich in history, stories and spectacle. It explores deeply one of our favourite subjects at Arlette Gold – why we wear jewellery and what it means. “Adornment is often one of the most meaningful activities that we engage in” says Melanie Holcomb, The Met Curator, “the show aims to remind us that jewellery has a kind of agency that both carries meaning and that does something”
The exhibition is grouped into five themes. We’ve dipped into their trove to find a favourite piece from each.
The Divine Body: explains how jewellery is linked to and signals divinity. In the past people wear buried wearing their jewellery, ready for the next world. This necklace, pendant and bead set are from the Babylonian period; 18th-17th century BC. Each bead and pendant represents a deity, or symbol of deity including a protective goddess, sun and storm god, and the goddesses of love and war.
The Regal Body: explores how jewellery is linked to royalty, to assert rank and status. We are fascinated by the detail on this Crocodile Heads bracelet from Nigeria in the 17th- 19th century. The crocodile was associated with Olokun, the god of the sea – the ocean was a major source of wealth as the country traded extensively. The pieces, with their distinctive textured crocodile skin and the watchful gaze of the beast captured masterfully, were worn by the oba and chiefs of Benin at palace festivals.
The Transcendant Body: jewellery’s mystical power to conjures spirits, appease gods and channel ancestors is brought to the fore in this section. This breastplate from the Solomon Islands during the late 19th – early 20th century was created from turtle shell – reminding us that materials wrought from land, sea sky were thought to invoke ancestors.
The Alluring Body: jewellery has a major role in crafting the female body. ““Allure is something around you like a perfume or like a scent – it’s like a memory, it pervades” said former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. We love this classic, seductive four-strand pearl necklace created by Florence Koehler around 1905.
The Resplendent Body: in which we discover how jewellery attracts the eye, how it catches the light, shines and reflects, why we we wear jewellery to be looked at and desired. This Tiger Claw necklace from 19th century India is certainly eye-catching!
Jewelry: The Body Transformed is open until 24 February 2019.
Get the look. Five Arlette pieces that echo those found in the exhibition:A Weathered Penny Resin Curve Earrings
ORA Pearls Classic Pearl Earrings
Rachel Jackson London Sunrays Ring
Wildthings Collectables Gold Coin Necklace
Wolf & Moon Talisman Hoops