Joel A. Rosenthal, better known as JAR, is perhaps the most eminent jeweler of our time, yet his name will likely not resonate with too many. That is mostly due to the nature of his process: the uncompromising jeweler ascertains that each JAR piece goes to the right customer – this is the only jewelry house in the world that chooses its clientele. Furthermore, it is particularly aberrant to spot a JAR pieces on the red carpet, as Rosenthal sternly avoids such promotional ploys. But in an atypical turn of events, the Bronx-born craftsman has agreed to a retrospective collection exhibit at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his 35 years of creating glittering butterflies and flowers has been abridged with a 400-plus illuminated, intensely colored jewels on display.
It is truly a remarkable parade of gems, not just jewelry, but also accessories like fans or handkerchiefs, picture frames, decorative boxes, even a captivating bejeweled glass jar made for an international client. The two chronic themes in his work are flowers and butterflies, most often in the form of brooches. Rosenthal is a sculptural jeweler – his shapes are irregular and imperfect, always depicting real objects, as they appear in nature. Using a technique called pave, he sets the stones with slight gradations in shade, which then creates his signature painterly effect.
In a press preview, Jane Adlin, the exhibit’s organizing curator and associate curator of modern and contemporary art, delightfully explains the jeweler’s unique approach to design: “JAR mixes fine, perfect gemstones with stones of lesser quality, but the outcome is an extraordinary piece of jewelry. I’m thrilled to have the ultimate pleasure of letting visitors finally see JAR’s work,” she adds.
The exhibit is on view at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art now through March 9, 2014.