Malachite, gold, pearls—these are just a few of the precious materials we use to adorn ourselves. They say luxury and refinement while declaring our good taste and broadcasting to others our disposable income. They can spark moments of contemplative reflection by reminding us of family members and loved ones, and occasionally, they announce our membership in clubs and organizations or proudly declare our political affiliations. The pins and bracelets, necklaces and rings that glitter on our wrists and hands or shimmer on our clothing say a great deal about who we are and what we aspire to be. But most significantly, jewels and ornaments delight us, and others, with their rich colors and gleaming surfaces. Not all adornment, however, need to be made from the costliest materials to serve the same purpose. Fabric ribbons, rhinestones, and even human hair braided and twisted into armbands and brooches accentuate our bodies and apparel and speak eloquently about our character and desires.
More than one hundred works of jewelry and personal adornment dating across four centuries will sparkle and shine in the exhibition Bejeweled and Bedazzled: Jewelry and Personal Adornment. Drawn from the collections of the Albany Institute, these personal effects will tell stories about the individuals who owned them, where and why they were purchased, and what they reveal as works of art and embellishment.
Throughout the exhibition, paintings, prints, and photographs as well as other rare materials drawn from the Institute's collections will broaden our investigation into these small but precious items. Bejeweled and Bedazzled is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the Institute's collection of jewelry and objects of personal adornment.
Photo 1: Seed Pearl Parure in Morocco Leather Case, Unidentified maker, Unidentified Philadelphia retailer, c. 1830–1840, Seed pearls, topaz, gold in gilt embossed Morocco leather case with silk and velvet lining, embossed paper foil, metal, Albany Institute of History & Art, bequest of Miss Evelyn Newman, 1964.31.59
Photo 2: Rhinestone Floral Hair Comb, unidentified maker, c. 1800–1830, Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Miss Evelyn Newman, 1948.36.2
Photo 3: “Ceramic Charms” Set of Jewelry, Marion Weeber for Cohn & Rosenberger (later Coro), 1940, Enameled brass, plastic, Albany Institute of History & Art, bequest of Marion Weeber, 2001.1.37.1-.3