Google+ The Daily Jewel: "Jewels of the Connoisseur" at the #Bowers Museum


Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Jewels of the Connoisseur" at the #Bowers Museum

I usually cover reviews of shows, books and exhibitions on my Views & Reviews blog, but this exhibit was exquisite and I wanted to do a little bragging about the fabulous museum we have here locally in Orange County.

We have been SO blessed in the Orange County to house a Museum that honors the art value of Jewelry. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has played host to the Van Pelts, Faberge and even the jewelry of the Headhunter.   

The Jewels of the Connoisseur ran in the Pimco Foundation Gallery from July 27, 2013 through October 6, 2013 showcasing jewelry created from gems so rare that only true connoisseurs even know they exist. 

FYI - Photos can all be enlarged by clicking on the photo

The Pimco Foundation Gallery is a small but really well lit space (a very important factor that I didn't understand until a recent visit to the de Young Museum in San Francisco) that was literally chock FULL of 50 pieces of Jewelry designed to hold the rarest and most unusual gems. 
Sphene Butterfly Photo Credit: Robert Weldon 

There were full suites of sphene (one in the brown and one in the green body jewels) in Riviere Style Neckpieces - that were true to the term - a river of faceted sphene graduating to the center focal.

There was an assortment of the collectors' famous Butterfly Brooch Collection (it didn't seem to be the entire collection, but it could have been).  The Sphene Butterfly pictured seemed to me to be a new addition to the collection as the Sphene Butterfly I remember featured a large green Sphene.

Demantoid Garnet complete with eye visible horsetail inclusions - Rainbow Moonstone (not rare but so uncommon to see in faceted gems) - Hauyne (a vivid blue gem discovered in Vesuvian lavas and named for the French Crystallographer René Just Haüy) - Natural Baja Pearls and not just one as a focal but strands!  

Quoting from the exhibit PR:  "Every gemstone is created in a unique geological environment that shapes its quality, color and appearance. While some places are associated with common gems, emeralds from Colombia, rubies from Burma (Myanmar), or diamonds from South Africa for example, the world's rarest gems come from little known locations and are found in very small quantities. Often named after the person who discovered them or the location where they were discovered, gems like benitoite or kunzite are found in very small quantities and only a fraction of those found have the ability to be cut or faceted for use in jewelry. In fact, such jewels are so rare that few outside of the most avid gem collectors know that they exist."

Smithsonian Collection 448.64 carats faceted by Buzz Gray
Photo: Kenneth Larsen
A highlight of the exhibit is the largest, gem quality cut morganite in the world to the best of the collectors' knowledge.  A morganite from the same pocket as this one was obtained from the lenders in 2011 and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.  The stone at the Smithsonian (pictured) weighs 448.64 carats while this stone weighs 1,377 carats. Morganite, or pink beryl, gets its delicate peachy pink hue from trace quantities of manganese. Discovered in 1911, renowned gemologist George F. Kunz (at the time employed by Tiffany & Co.) named the find after his patron, financier J. P. Morgan. Madagascar is famous for its deep pink morganite gems, but many fine stones are found in Brazil, Afghanistan, and California. 

The stone in the collection of The National Museum of Natural History was faceted by Elvis “Buzz” Gray in a modified cushion cut. It is from Brazil and is the finest and largest morganite in the National Gem Collection to date. - See more at:

"Jewels of the Connoisseur is a presentation of some of the world's most uncommon gemstones. This collection has been assembled over decades by Buzz Gray and Bernadine Johnston who have played many roles in the world of gems and jewelry, including miner, gem dealer, gem cutter and jewelry designer. Their passion for collecting has always been driven by the opportunity to source the rarest of gems and their collection has grown over the years allowing for the creation of jewelry and art pieces."


The Bowers Museum has earned an international reputation through its world-class exhibitions, including Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, Secrets of the Silk Road, and Mummies Death and the Afterlife: Treasures from the British Museum, as well as its own extensive art 
collections from throughout the Americas and the South Pacific. In addition, the Bowers’ Kidseum, located one block south of the main museum, engages children through extensive activities designed to encourage creativity and inspire imagination. 

You can also enjoy a leisurely luncheon at award-winning Tangata. Outdoor seating is also available, overlooking the Bowers historic mission-style courtyard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Browse the rare and exotic at the Bowers Museum Gallery Store. It’s more than just a shopping trip—it’s a cultural experience. 

BOWERS MUSEUM, in Santa Ana, is centrally located in the heart of Southern California. 
Address: 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706 
Tickets and Information/ 714.567.3600

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