Review by Melinda L. Lewis
Jewelry collectors have an unrelenting curiosity about fashion adornment, and when a new exhibit comes to town, featuring their most coveted “muse,” the news spreads like wildfire. Of course, when those exhibits feature collections of celebrity-status collectors, the viewing becomes a “must-do-event” for the year. This summer in New York, collectors from around the world will be able to view 600 pieces from Barbara Berger’s personal collection of over 4,000 pieces of fashion and costume jewelry.
The accompanying book to the exhibit, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger (Assouline Publishing), features 231 pieces—her selection of the “crème de la crème” of her collection, with introduction and text written by costume jewelry historian, author, and guest curator of the exhibit, Harrice Miller.
The exhibit, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger opens at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), located at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City on June 25, 2013. The exhibit will remain open through Sept 22, 2013.
About The Book: Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger
Larry Vrba, “Fourth of July” Necklace, c. early 1990s, image courtesy of Assouline Publishing, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger
Although most costume jewelry books feature lower to mid-range jewelry for the novice to intermediate collector, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger
showcases the most spectacular pieces of fashion and costume jewelry, which even the savviest of collectors would vie to have in their possession. These are the kinds of treasures which cause any jewelry lover’s heart to patter.
This book gives voice to the often unspoken words of passion and truth that connect seasoned costume jewelry collectors and those whose curiosity has just begun, together at their core.
As one reads the words of Iris Apfel and Barbara Berger, one feels “seen” in the often misunderstood world of the jewelry collector. As diverse as the reasons are for each collection amassed, all share the same predilection and love for costume jewelry — In this resonance, the context is set to take delight in a visual tour of one woman’s passion that has spanned decades.
Maison Gripoix Necklace, c. 2000. Courtesy of Assouline Publishing, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger.
Two stories are woven together throughout the book: the story of the costume jewelry, and the visual tale of Barbara’s love for fashion adornment.
At the beginning of the book, author and jewelry expert Harrice Miller writes a 2,500 word summary of the jewelry and fashion industries—a necessary comprehension for any student of the fashion jewelry industry, and a great refresher for longtime collectors. This, along with information on the designers of each piece, provides a useful picture of the industry as a whole.
The jewelry itself takes the reader into a world of beauty. Every community has a select few who attain superstardom in their respective genres, and Barbara’s personal collection makes her the queen or goddess of the collecting world. The book offers a window into Barbara’s aesthetic, including a number of little-known and contemporary designers to pique the interest of the sophisticated collector; as well as spectacular jewelry from better-known names in the collecting community. However, those pieces attributed to a particular designer are left unexplained as to the attributing factors—a missing resource that would be invaluable to collectors.
It’s All in The Details
How a book is graphically illustrated often determines its success and praise among collectors. Photographing jewelry is an art unto itself, and the images by Pablo Esteva certainly convey the artistic grandeur of the jewelry itself. The photography throughout the book is compelling—drawing the eye into the unique detail that costume jewelry has to offer. The photographs, ranging from fanciful figurals to necklaces, rival the Royal jewels with spectacular color. The spreads, featuring both the full image of the jewelry, as well as close-up shots, are the most beneficial for the learning collector. However, some of the up-close shots, although artistically stunning, leave out the detail that is necessary for a complete understanding of the complexity of the piece.
Miriam Haskell Tassel Necklace, c. 1950s. Image courtesy of Assouline Publishing, Fashion Jewelry: The Barbara Berger Collection.
At the back of the book is a cleverly designed index featuring thumbnail images of the pieces featured in the book. Many of those images display the full pieces, which were not originally shown in the artistic spread. The eight-page index also provides a very useful condensed resource for the dating and descriptions of the pieces, which serves as a valuable quick-go-to reference.
The Barbara Berger Collection
This book is a must-have visual treat for both the jewelry aficionado and the new collector. It’s an expression of a hobby in its art form and would grace any coffee table.
For some, the tactile experience of a book is just as important as the visual, and Assouline spared no expense with high-quality paper and spot varnishing to bring out the most exquisite details of the images. The quality of this book is thoughtfully represented with each page turn and one can feel, hear, and see the love Barbara Berger has put into her lifelong collection.