Behind the glittering façade

For a glimpse into the enduring influence of the past on jewelry design, visit a new exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in Manhattan.

The past, as we know, certainly influences the present.

And that’s proven once again walking through “A View from the Jeweler’s Bench: Ancient Treasures, Contemporary Statements.” The exhibition devoted to the influence of the past on modern jewelry design continues through July 7 at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in Manhattan.

Sasha Nixon, who earned a master’s degree from Bard Graduate Center in 2018, has curated the exhibition that we advanced in our March issue. As predictions of snow prevented us from attending the press preview, we were quite determined to head down to the Upper West Side gallery soon after the opening to catch up.

At first, we never thought we’d make it into the show itself, as the introductory area was simply captivating. “Jewelry Stories” is a digital, interactive element created in conjunction with the show. By tapping on the image of a piece of jewelry, you could hear about its significance, as described by its owner. One woman noted the effect of her piece (“Wearing it makes me feel fancy”), while others described who gave it to them or where they bought it, sharing memories along the way. Visitors are invited to share their own stories via #jewelrystoriesbgc.

Finally stepping into the gallery proper, we realized the show was equally intriguing, exploring how ancient and antique jewelry forms and techniques are still tapped to create contemporary works of art.

The creative process is the focus, evidenced by the jeweler’s bench set up at the entrance. There, you can marvel at the tools and sketches, elements and inspirations on display before continuing on to see specific examples of jewelry – and their influences – created by 12 contemporary jewelry designers.

From “The Lure of Ancient Gold” to “Cameos and Memory,” sections explore contemporary designs shown with historic inspirations – a clever way to draw comparisons but also showcase modern sensibilities and approaches.

The Bard Graduate Center Gallery is at 18 W. 86th St. in Manhattan. Exhibitions that also continue there through July 7  include “Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars” and the tour-de-force show “The Story Box: Franz Boas, George Hunt and the Making of Anthropology.” For more, visit

– Mary Shustack



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