Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: New exhibit at the MFA is a real gem

This brooch, on display as part of “Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern,” once belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln, who pawned it after her husband was assassinated.

The Museum of Fine Arts is all about the bling. Featuring about 75 pieces spanning four millennia, the new exhibit, “Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern” showcases jewelry from around the world and attempts to shed light on how various cultures have defined the concept of treasure.

When this reporter first went to view the exhibit, which wasn’t officially open at the time, patrons attempted to peer through doors, wondering audibly, “Wow, I wonder how much that one costs!”
Besides obviously expensive jewelry and artifacts, “Jewels” also features pieces such as an “empty” diamond ring, which artist Liesbeth Fit says may cause the viewer to “question perceptions of beauty and glamour.”

She muses, “Might diamonds be as empty as the wire frame?”

Curator Yvonne Marko-witz says she “loves the provenance of pieces,” and the exhibit has no shortage of stories.

From a necklace purchased by Samuel Colt to Coco Chanel’s favorite bracelets — including jewelry the bereaved Mary Todd Lincoln hocked after her husband’s death — each piece’s story only adds to the glitter.

The exhibit is the first installation of a permanent jewelry gallery. Next year, it will feature costume jewelry that Markowitz calls “the story of what you can create when you are free to work with items that aren’t costly, [allowing the artists to] unleash their whimsy and imagination.”


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