UPPER EAST SIDE — Paris-based artist Joel A. Rosenthal, known professionally as JAR, crafts pieces of jewelry that are more than ornamental — they're veritable objets d'art.
More than 400 pieces by the esteemed jeweler and designer go on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Wednesday, in the first retrospective exhibition that the museum has dedicated to a contemporary designer of precious stones.
The exhibition is a homecoming for Rosenthal, a New York native raised in The Bronx who graduated from Harvard University before relocating to France.
"Rosenthal spent much of his early life visiting the museums in the city, stirring in him a passion for art, history, and all things beautiful that has stayed with him throughout his life," the Met said in a statement.
The exhibition — JAR's first retrospective in the United States — showcases more than 30 years of Rosenthal's dedication to his craft. Having begun his career as a needlepoint artist, Rosenthal soon moved on to gemstones, opening a jewel shop with his partner, Pierre Jeannet, in 1978 on the Place Vendôme in Paris.
JAR's pieces vary dramatically in materials and shade, the Met said, noting the team's adeptness in "selecting stones for their color compatibility, complementary range, or contrast." The jewelers create uniquely textured, highly reflective pieces through a technique called pavé (French for "paved), in which stones are set so tightly together that they create the illusion of an unbroken surface.
JAR favors butterfly and flower motifs and designs many piece asymmetrically, reflective of the delicacy of his models.
At once flinty and fragile, JAR's singular pieces "place him among the ranks of history's greatest jewelers," the Met declares.
"Jewels by JAR" opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and runs through March 9, 2014. More information is available here.