Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact: Leigh Kish
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (office), 412.526.8587 (mobile)

April 13, 2010


Pittsburgh Adorned: Classic to Contemporary Carnegie Museum of Natural History Wertz Gallery: Gems & Jewelry in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
June 12–October 17, 2010

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…For thousands of years, jewelry has adorned its wearers on their journey through life.  Pittsburgh Adorned: Classic to Contemporary presents more than 80 exquisite pieces from private local collections and Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History and celebrates the many passions—including love, status, and even politics—that jewelry evokes. On view June 12–October 17, 2010 in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Wertz Gallery: Gems & Jewelry, the exhibition is curated by Sarah Nichols, former curator of decorative arts at Carnegie Museum of Art. Pittsburgh Adorned is divided into three sections, each highlighting a different approach to jewelry: Materials, Designers, and Style and Meaning. Orr’s Jewelers is the presenting sponsor.

“It has been a real privilege to see so many wonderful collections and so many different and personal approaches to jewelry. Putting this show together has certainly strengthened my belief that jewelry is not only about the intrinsic value of the materials or the brilliant design and workmanship but the emotions, meanings and traditions we—the wearer and the giver—invest in it. Contemporary pieces become personal once they leave the store or gallery and historic pieces are reenergized and reinterpreted with each new owner,” says Nichols.

The Materials section focuses on historic and contemporary jewelry from many parts of the world, and constructed from materials that delight and surprise. In contrast to works made of more traditional gold and gems in other areas of the show, this particular section focuses on pieces fashioned from materials that have deep associations with the city of Pittsburgh: glass, steel, and aluminum.

Other pieces are created from materials from the realm of nature, such as brightly colored feather necklaces from the Amazon and a bracelet made from the bones of a lion.

The Designers portion of Pittsburgh Adorned presents works by leading names in jewelry design. Particular emphasis is placed on designers from the 20th century, such as David Webb (1925–1975)—who was very popular with Pittsburgh collectors—and other New York designers such as Barry Kieselstein-Cord (b. 1948) and Angela Cummings (b. 1944), whose pieces have adorned celebrities. The Designers section also features artists better known for their work in other media, such as American sculptors Alexander Calder (1898–1976) and Harry Bertoia (1915–1978), and Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994), all of whose pieces may be seen as a microcosm of the artists’ large-scale work.

Also featured are internationally renowned designers from Pittsburgh who have helped establish the city as a thriving center for jewelry design. Three bracelets from local designer ROY (b. 1962) whose work is represented in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and six pieces by Ronald McNeish (b. 1935) are highlighted.

Style and Meaning
The Style and Meaning section of the exhibition examines how prevailing artistic tastes, interests, and even political concerns of the last two hundred years have influenced how jewelry has been designed and worn. Here the exhibition illustrates how trends in jewelry mirror the chronology of the larger design world, beginning with Renaissance revival in the 19th century, through the aesthetic movement, art nouveau, art deco, and, finally, modernism. A significant number of art deco pieces are presented, reflecting the preference many Pittsburgh collectors have for this classic style.

This section also emphasizes the symbolic meanings that jewelry often embodies and expresses. For example, 19th century Victorian mourning brooches were worn to signify the wearer’s grief over the death of a loved one. The exhibition features a mourning brooch in the shape of anchor, and another with gold rope and knot features, both of which may be in remembrance of someone lost at sea. Also of note are pieces—such as a brooch engraved with initials—made from Whitby jet, a black mineraloid that was highly prized by the Victorians for its color and for the ease with which it could be carved and polished. Whitby, England, later became home to the most skilled artisans working with the material, and the epicenter of the mourning jewelry industry.

Vivid Stories Exploring Classic Trends and Private Passions
The works in the exhibition are as multifaceted as the gems contained within them, with each piece offering its own vivid stories of history, desire, and material culture. Many pieces in the exhibition could easily span all three categories. A striking modern brooch constructed of gold, diamonds, and a piece of meteorite appears not in the Materials section, but in the Style and Meaning section because of its design, a hallmark of the fashionable organic 1960s style. From classic trends to political statements to private passions, Pittsburgh Adorned: Classic to Contemporary reveals the fascinating range of significance that jewelry embodies.

"Orr's Jewelers is pleased to be associated with an exhibition that showcases Pittsburgh's contributions to the art and design of jewelry and celebrates the craftsmanship that exists within each piece of fine jewelry," says David Gordon, owner of Orr's Jewelers, presenting sponsor of Pittsburgh Adorned.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,