The New York–born, Paris-based jeweler Joel A. Rosenthal, whose small atelier is known by his initials JAR, is recognized by a relatively small number of international jewelry lovers with the right connections to get an appointment at his Place Vendôme salon to buy one of his lavish creations. Despite his elusiveness, the press-averse designer is being celebrated with a large retrospective, Jewels by JAR, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 9, 2014—an unprecedented honor for a living contemporary-jewelry artist.
While his brand isn’t as well known as favorites like Cartier and Tiffany, his outlandishly creative designs certainly warrant the recognition. More than 400 jewels dating from 1978 (the year Rosenthal opened his Place Vendôme atelier) to the present are on display. To mount a retrospective of this scale, pieces were lent by many private collectors, including Prince Charles of Wales, Gwyneth Paltrow, the celebrated jewelers Suzanne Syz and Michelle Ong, and dozens more notables.
JAR’s pieces, which emphasize colorful pavé-set gemstones, are executed front and back by a coterie of specialist artisans scattered throughout Paris and Switzerland. That work effortlessly skips between beautifully executed multi-strand diamond necklaces, elaborate oversize chandelier earrings dripping with rare blue zircons, and a stunningly realistic, nearly life-size tulip brooch studded with fiery garnets. There is a refreshing sense of whimsy to many of the pieces, such as a humble asparagus brooch carpeted with countless precious gems and a bagel brooch made of spinels and wood.
For those who simply cannot get an appointment with the jeweler in Paris, he has designed a small capsule collection of jewels available exclusively at the Met through the end of the exhibition’s run and priced from $2,000 to $7,500. The items may substitute aluminum, resin, and Venetian glass for gold and gemstones, but they display the exuberant form, outsize scale, and playful spirit of their one-of-a-kind cousins. (www.metmuseum.org)