Wednesday, February 4, 2015


In deep midwinter, Miami is Mecca for dealers and aficionados of pre-owned baubles with impressive age, heritage, and/or beauty. For five days in late January exhibitors and a few thousand jewelry enthusiasts take up the lion's share of booths at the Original Miami Beach Antique Show (OMBAS). Two days prior to this year's OMBAS, U.S. Antiques Show hosted its second annual Jewelry History Series. The brainchild of Elyse Karlin (author/curator/co-director of ASJRA) and Gail Brett Levine (gemologist and current head of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers), the conference is open to "retailers, wholesalers, appraisers, new collectors, old collectors or anyone with an interest in learning about the history of antique jewelry." 


Scheduled to give our talk on the second day, we boarded our flight to Miami/Fort Lauderdale seconds before winter storm Juno closed airports, and spent our first hours in South Beach acclimating to al fresco dining in January. Unseasonably cool daytime temperatures (60s-70s) discouraged donning monokinis, but most outdoor cafes are equipped with braziers large enough to melt an iceberg. The neighborhood looks like a giant stack of deco trinket boxes, making it the perfect venue for a gathering of jewelry geeks. On the sidewalk outside the Convention Center dealers hoisted blue plastic tubs filled with treasure under a matching sapphire sky. 

Our slideshow followed Manz's trajectory from artist-goldsmith in the early 1900s to "jeweler's jeweler" in the 1920s and 30s. Other talks covered designers who drive the auction market today, historical interpretations of recurring motifs like the Medusa or bow-knot brooches, and the evolution of costume jewelry in the 20s and 30s. A panel of four experts—a dealer, a historian, an appraiser, and a curator—offered different points of view on the technical merits, collector appeal, and market value of various designer and period pieces. 
The final day included a walkabout tour of four exhibitor booths and a closing "networking" reception attended by several dealers and an Antiques Roadshow appraiser. As one conferee summed up: "How lovely to spend 2 days in Miami Beach and talk non-stop about jewelry." 


carving and casting

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