Jewelry: the meaning behind the glimmer

“Across Time: The Symbolic Meanings of Jewelry” was the name of an event I attended Oct. 12 in Manhattan.

And the eight annual conference of the Association for the Study of Jewelry & Related Arts, a daylong event held at a private club off Fifth Avenue in midtown, lived up to its evocatively romantic name.

WAG was there at the invitation of ASJRA co-director Elyse Zorn Karlin. Her name may be familiar as the Port Chester author, curator, historian and fellow jewelry lover has been featured in previous issues.

This was my second time at the conference, and I again found myself surrounded by designers and scholars, authors and gemologists, collectors, dealers and curators – all with a deep interest in jewelry.

Karlin and ASJRA co-director Yvonne Markowitz, the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan curator of jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, again put together a glittering lineup of speakers.

They touched on everything from ancient rulers to U.S. presidents to Hollywood icons, talking about gold and silver, pearls and garnets, topaz and coral, amber and sapphires, moonstones, opals and so, so much more. Tales of love and power, history and technology were woven together in presentations that touched on the British crown jewels to the history of wedding rings, on suffragist jewelry to Medici symbolism. The depth was fascinating, the variety making for a fast-paced and far-reaching day.

The day also included an update on “A Story to Wear,” a documentary-in-the-making about the history and meaning of jewelry. (Funding, particularly from the corporate world, is sought. For more, visit

And education, an ongoing theme of ASJRA, was also touched on.

As Karlin noted, “Before we go to the big jewelry store in the sky, we hope to have some university give a degree in jewelry study.”

Now wouldn’t that be nice?

For more on ASJRA and its jewelry-related activities, including its Adornment Magazine, visit


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