Dazzling Display

Published December 9, 2013

Garnet-studded asparagus-stalk brooches, a tarnished silver sheep’s head encircled in curling strands, a diamond butterfly pin with blue aluminum wings—such meticulously executed pieces demonstrate the lavish precision of JAR, the pseudonym of Paris-based jeweler Joel A. Rosenthal. The following he’s amassed over his 35-year career might well be described as an eccentric’s cult. “Jewels by JAR,” now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the Bronx-born jeweler’s first American retrospective. The exhibition presents more than 300 unique pieces, ranging from signature natural shapes, like flowers and butterflies, to singular objets d’art, like a diamond-encrusted ocean wave. Rosenthal graduated from Harvard in 1966 and soon after moved to Paris, where he opened a discreet store on Place Vendôme in 1978. Famously enigmatic, the master jeweler rarely gives interviews and doesn’t lend his work out for fashion editorials. Yet in the Met’s catalog, he addresses his clients and fans: “We thank you beyond diamonds, beyond words.”