Garden of Green Gems

Living in NYC, I relish opportunities to view first hand exquisite and rare exhibitions of jewelry. At the American Museum of Natural History, the beloved French high jewelry maison Van Cleef & Arpels is currenty showing stunning jewels in shades of green, from raw Emeralds to banded Malachite. Aptly titled: Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels, the exhibition was a welcome spot of new life that I took in on a recent rainy fall day.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Zainabad Necklace - 791.07 carats Colombian Emeralds, white gold, diamonds

Three Stranded Emerald Necklace once owned by Doris Duke

These three strands of 181 Emerald beads, all matched for color and size, can be separated and worn individually. It was once owned and worn by American billionaire heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke. (She passed in 1993, the year I entered Duke University, founded by her father James Buchanan Duke, and she has always been a subject of fascination for me.)

Doris Duke who famously loved to wear rare jewels

Doris Duke, 1940


 Evening bag, 1920 - Jadeite jade, platinum, diamonds, pleated silk 

Evening bag from 1920 with Jadeite Jade, platinum and diamonds

The Art Deco style of the 1920's is one of my favorite design influences, and this evening bag is a gorgeous example. The green Jadeite Jade illuminated by rows of rosecut diamonds set in platinum perfectly complements the chic black accessory. 


Aries and Aquarius pendants, 1976 - Malachite, yellow gold

Aries and Aquarius Pendants in Malachite and Yellow Gold

As a babe of the '70s (1975) and an Aries, (April 17th), of course I'm drawn to these Zodiac pieces. I love how in each of these pendants, the green banding of the Malachite stone creates a fitting backdrop for its subject. The curved body and power of the ram is magnified, as is the feeling of water and the tumultuous sea. The patterns in the stones are created by copper deposits within the mineral. The shade of vibrant green was cherished by the ancient Egyptians, who ground the stone to powder and applied it as eye shadow. 


Emerald Set, 1955 - Emeralds, platinum, white gold, diamonds

 Diamond Emerald Necklace, Earrings, Bracelet Set

The fluidity of the jewels draped so elegantly is what I love in these pieces. The ability of the jeweler to take rigid materials and create such curves intrigues me. I've played with this concept in creating my wraparound cuffs from a sheet of flat metal. The trend for jewelry appearing like a scarf or a tie was first made popular in the 1920's. In the post war boom of the 1950's, an extravagant set with matching earrings and bracelet was the perfect combination for a night out on the town.


Squirrel, Mouse and Baby Bird Pins - Green Chrysoprase, ruby, yellow gold

Animal Pins by Van Cleef & Arpels

My Grandma Lillian used to wear little bejeweled animal pins like these on the shoulder or lapel of her sweater or blazer. As a little girl, the whimsy spoke to me; I loved seeing such cute motifs rendered in fancy materials. These pieces on exhibit feature ovals of Chrysoprase set askew on cartoonish figures. Playful animal pins were introduced by Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1950's to attract a younger clientele. 


This special exhibit is on view at the American Museum of Natural History until January 2024, so there is still time to take in these exquisite gems and more! 

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