What Is Jewelry Exactly? The Met Explores…

“Jewelry: The Body Transformed” opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, and showcases four thousand years of gorgeous, lavish jewelry organized by six curators who brought together 230 pieces.


In a statement from the show, Max Hollein, director of The Met, said, “Jewelry is one of the oldest modes of creative expression—predating even cave painting by tens of thousands of years—and the urge to adorn ourselves is now nearly universal.”



The exhibition pays tribute to the “most personal and universal of art forms” and draws from the Met’s collection—including rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings, and headdresses—starting as early as 2600 B.C.E. to the present day.


A few of the works on display include Shaun Leane’s Yashmak, a beautiful piece of body armor created originally for Alexander McQueen in 2000—the design is made from metal plates and red Swarovski crystals. Also of note is an ancient floral collar from Tutankhamun’s embalming cache.


In an interview with Daily Front Row, Melanie Holcomb, one of the show’s curators, talked about the fundamental importance of accessorizing throughout human existence.


“It’s such a fundamental human impulse to adorn the body,” she said. “We don’t have the talents that would have made 130,000 year old jewelry, but it goes back that far. It’s right there. Anthropologists think about adorning ourselves and language as one of the fundamental tools, fundamental acts, that make us human.”


The exhibit is divided into groups based on what body part they adorn, with the remaining galleries organized by the symbolism of how jewelry is worn. The Divine Body, for instance, displays adornments that were linked to spirituality and immortality, and The Resplendent Body room looks at the wearing of jewelry for “ostentation,” or simply put, the desire to be glamorous.


“Jewelry: The Body Transformed” runs from November 12 to February 24, 2019.

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