May 24, 2024 - Culture

Jewelry and rare artifacts exhibition spans 5 centuries

Opal pendant surrounded by gold, hanging from a gold chain.

Marcus & Co. necklace with gold, enamel, black opal, and pearl detail. Photo: Courtesy of the Driehaus Museum by Alex Brescanu

Rare jewelry, cigarette cases, vases, and even religious artifacts are part of a new exhibition at the Driehaus Museum.

Zoom in: "Chicago Collects: Jewelry in Perspective" features more than 200 pieces of historically significant jewelry from the 17th century to the present, all culled from Chicago museums and collectors, including Richard H. Driehaus' personal collection.

Intricate, gold cross about three feet high, on a pedestal made of sculpted figurines.
The monstrance in the exhibition. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

What to expect: A 19th-century monstrance with bronze and semiprecious stones, standing on a pedestal surrounded by intricately carved figures.

  • A silver chalice Katharine Hepburn gave Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier for their wedding.
  • A brooch from the Art Deco period that included shagreen, which is the skin of a stingray or shark.
Large blue rectangle stone on a leather cuff.
Cuff bracelet, estimated to be from 1960-79. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

What to see: Brooches shaped like starbursts and a cuff bracelet around a large lapis lazuli stone with flecks of silver, both inspired by space after Sputnik launched in the late '50s.

What they're saying: "Jewelry is important for a lot of reasons. It's portable wealth. If you have to take off in a hurry, you can take your jewelry with you. It can be handed down in the family," exhibition curator Elyse Zorn Karlin says.

  • "For me to walk out of the house without jewelry is like being naked," Karlin adds. "It just seems to be that there's an innate feeling that you need to adorn yourself with something."
A gold and diamond tiara.
Frederick James Partridge for Liberty & Co. Tiara, Corn design, c. 1900 with horn, moonstone. Photo: Courtesy of the Driehaus Museum by John A. Faier

Stop by: The exhibition runs through Sept. 22 at the Driehaus Museum, which is open Wednesday through Sunday.

Tour the exhibition on our Instagram.


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