Image: Headdress Ornament (detail), Teke 1900-1910, Afghanistan, silver, gold wash, carnelian. Collection Mingei International Museum. Photo by Lynton Gardiner. 2001-03-011.

On View

Apr 23, 2006 - Sep 23, 2007

Curated By

Martha Longenecker

The exhibition was composed of examples of adornment from cultures in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe fashioned from silver, gold, enamel, gems, beads, wood, shells, ivory and bone. Although most of the objects in the exhibition came from Mingei International's permanent collection, several private collections were represented including the major collections of David and Marjorie Ransom and Daniel and Serga Nadler.

Always intended to be beautiful and valuable, jewelry has other meanings as well. It often identifies its wearer's culture, beliefs, religion or station in life. Magnificent silver crowns and torques from Guizhou, China, Yemeni necklaces, bracelets and earrings, Norwegian agnus dei pendants and a multi-strand necklace from the Samburu culture of Kenya indicated a woman's marital status. Yemeni amulet cases and a Mexican milagro necklace are protective charms. An Omani pendant with a verse from the Koran and Fatima's hands and a necklace with three crosses from Brazil reflected the wearer's religion, while also providing protection. A Yemeni landlord's necklace contained an abacus, and another necklace had grooming utensils suspended on it, attesting to their owner's station and profession.

Traditional work and contemporary design were both on view. Dramatic examples of turquoise from the American Southwest, Ladakh and Tibet — belts, necklaces, rings, bracelets, hats and breastplates; an Ainu necklace from Japan and a group of charming Inuit objects, including a delicate bracelet portraying indigenous creatures, were in the exhibition. An elegant William Spratling-designed necklace fashioned from pre-Columbian beads, looking as if it could have been made yesterday, was displayed next to contemporary jewelry designed by San Diego designer craftsmen Arline Fisch and Helen Shirk. The exhibition also included stunning shell jewelry from Oceania and intricately worked silver jewelry from Ethiopia.

Accompanying the exhibition was the Nadlers' book Silver: from Fetish to Fashion. Illustrated lectures were presented on October 22, 2006 when collector Marjorie Ransom spoke on Middle Eastern Silver Jewelry — How a Woman’s Passion Spawned a Museum Collection and on November 19, 2006, when jewelry designer, Arlene Fisch spoke about The Jewelry of Arline Fisch — Historic References and Influences. Ornament Magazine’s co-publishers, Robert Liu and Carolyn Benesh presented two lectures on March 4, 2007 — Ethnographic Metalsmiths and Contemporary Jewelry as Great Art.