Jewels, Gems, and Treasures
Ancient to Modern

Gem (jìm) n. 1. A pearl or mineral that has been cut and polished for use as an ornament. 2. Something that is valued for its beauty, perfection, or worth. What is a gem? Today, in the West, we have come to regard diamond, pearl, emerald, sapphire, and ruby as the most precious of materials. That has not always been the case. Throughout the course of world history, other substances have commanded equal attention, including materials that are largely ignored today. Kingfisher feathers, tiger claws, jet beads, and mica appliqués were at one time worn in different parts of the world with great pride. Some materials, such as coral and rock crystal, have served a protective role, in which they were perceived as being able to guard their wearer from dangerous circumstances or malevolent forces. Other substances, especially those that are rare and available to a select few, are signifiers of wealth and power.

"Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern," the first exhibition in the Museum's new Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery, will examine the various roles and meanings associated with a wide range of gem materials.

Gallery 104
July 19, 2011 - November 25, 2012