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This spring, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is featuring a new attraction at the iconic Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, the 11,000-square-foot space that boasts 5,000 specimens from 95 countries. The area set to open its first temporary exhibition space: the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery, which will host "Beautiful Creatures" this spring. Curated by jewelry historian Marion Fasel, the exhibit will showcase 120 astonishing pieces of jewelry created during the mid-19th century to present day, like Jean Toussaint's famed sparkling panthers and Fulco di Verdura's imaginative butterflies. These items have been created by some of the world's most storied jewelry houses and designers, including Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Suzanne Belperron, and Tiffany & Co., and have been worn by collectors and luminaries like the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Twiggy, and Rachel Lambert Mellon.
Animal motifs have been present in jewelry since ancient times, often used as amulets. The Greeks were known for incorporating snakes into their jewelry designs, and scarabs were famously used in Egyptian jewelry. Animals in jewelry have also been used to communicate messages. Bird designs were meant as a symbol of hope during WWII, butterfly jewelry was used to perpetuate the women's suffrage movement, and jewelry featuring beasts during the 1960s saw an all-time spike (the latter can be attributed to David Webb's enamel creations, particularly a zebra bracelet that made its debut under Diana Vreeland's editorial reign and kicked off his soon-to-be menagerie of creatures).
The Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals is set to reopen this spring once the pandemic allows, with the "Beautiful Creatures" exhibit opening in conjunction. For more information on the museum, the exhibit, and updates on its opening, visit amnh.org.
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