As a Jewelry Specialist, I split my time between New York and Philadelphia, which means that I am spoiled for choice when it comes to the selection of museums and institutions in both cities. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend “The Body Transformed,” a new jewelry exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. With more than 200 jewels on display, the lavish exhibit is a condensed visual history of ornamental jewelry, ranging from 2,600 B.C. to present day. There are works by Alexander McQueen, Elsa Peretti (perhaps best-known for her designs for Tiffany & Co.), Alexander Calder, and Shaun Leane, as well as many objects from the museum’s Bronze Age, Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman collections. All of the jewels on display had a three-dimensional form that, when worn, brought more life to both the piece and the wearer. The exhibit truly highlighted jewelry as sculpture.
The exhibit was of special interest to me, because included in the array of dramatically-lit glass cases was a piece that had passed through Freeman’s in the winter 2015 Fine Jewelry auction: a plique-à-jour enamel, conch pearl, diamond, platinum and eighteen karat gold brooch, by Marcus & Co., circa 1900.
It came to us through a Mid-western client and was nearly scrapped for gold weight. I identified it as a rare enamel piece by Marcus and Co., and assigned it an auction estimate of $30,000-50,000. It sold for $161,000. The brooch features a foliate motif with translucent plique-à-jour leaves and petals, accented with single and old European-cut diamonds, terminating in an articulated cluster of conch pearl buds; it’s signed Marcus & Co.
Other highlights from the exhibition were a Dreicer and Co. natural pearl and diamond necklace, which belonged to a single woman and ‘bon vivant’ living in Paris, according to her heirs, and a beautiful natural pearl and diamond necklace by Cartier.
The exhibition runs through February 24.