ISSUE 102  |  Winter Lights

Jewels by JAR, Inspired by the Garden

December 11, 2013 6:00 PM

BY Lindsey Taylor

Joel A. Rosenthal, or JAR as he is known, has built a reputation over the the last 35 years in Paris as one of the world’s most exclusive and innovative living jewelers. From now through March 9, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is exhibiting more than 400 of his one-of-a-kind pieces–and it’s a truly awe inspiring show. 

An American born in New York and educated at Harvard University, JAR moved to Paris following graduation and never left. After trying his hand in a number of ventures, his passion for making jewelry took hold. In 1977, he set up shop in a tiny boutique on the Place Vendome (and later expanded to a larger space down the road) where he continues to make original pieces for collectors and clients, each one beautifully packaged in his famous pink leather boxes with JAR imprinted on the interior silk lining.

High-end jewelry is not something always covered on Gardenista, but this show we felt was worth sharing since most of JAR’s work is deeply inspired by the natural world and more specifically flowers and parts of plants. What moves me is the variety of plants he chooses to model, whether in full bloom or bud. He is less interested in straightforward blooms and more in capturing “the role of chance in nature,” says Adrian Sassoon, who wrote the essay in the show’s catalog.

Lilacs, camellias, cyclamens, pansies, poppies, tulips, roses, hellebores, lily-of the-valley, geranium, even a necklace of carved wood with acorns, mushrooms, chestnut, and oak leaves (which I’ve dubbed the forager’s necklace) are all there. Reading the catalog that accompanies the show is more like reading a quirky nurseries plant list–from pansy and violet garland bracelet to cypress tree brooch. His color sense is truly unique and every piece is an original and very modern.  Butterflies, flowers, fruit, vegetables, and animals are recurring themes in his work and are created by the use of traditional and nontraditional materials: aluminum, titanium, steel, wood, silver manipulated with alchemy, beetle wings, coral, shells– and of course a dazzling array of gemstones and pearls. 

Above: Raspberry Brooch, 2011.

Above: Poppy Brooch, 1982.

Above: Geranium Brooch, 2007.

Above: Camellia Brooch, 2010.

Above: Lilac Brooches, 2001.