December 20, 2002
18th and 19th centuries sparkle in CW exhibition of rare, antique jewelry
Throughout history, personal adornment has reflected the mores and popular tastes of the times, whether it is in the display of wedding rings, watches, earrings or nose rings. In “Jewelry: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection,” visitors to Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum will be treated to a rare exhibition of approximately 20 pieces of 18th- and 19th-century jewelry from the Colonial Williamsburg collections, most of which have never been exhibited to the public. The exhibition opens Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002, and will run through December 2003.
“Jewelry” will feature English and American items, including a small gold ring—excavated from Colonial Williamsburg’s 18th-century Historic Area—made by local goldsmith John Broadnax for his young daughter Mary. Charming ornamentation from the collection—necklaces, earrings and brooches—will be on view. Supporting graphics of oil portraits from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum will show how jewelry was worn in the colonies. Mourning jewelry, in the form of brooches and several rings, including one that is believed to hold the hair of George Washington, will provide further insight into the aesthetic sensibilities of 18th-century Americans.
“Precious and semi-precious stones—diamonds, rubies, emeralds, topaz and garnets—were just as highly prized in the colonial period as they are today, as were gold and silver,” said Marilyn Melchor, guest curator. “Yet visitors may be surprised to discover that some of the prettiest pieces actually were costume jewelry and derived their value entirely from their aesthetic appeal.”