Rosenthal is a reclusive designer that has made some amazing, intriguing and highly sought after designs. When you look at the jewels that appear at auction at Christie’s, it’s hard not to be impressed by them, but you can find Tiffany, Cartier and Bulgari almost anywhere. As much as I find myself dreaming of another life where I could blithely add those beautiful gems to my collection, the truth is, even those glitzy, glamorous designs pale in comparison to something truly unique from JAR.
A collection of 17 items from JAR appeared at auction recently, They included a stunning 32 carat apricot diamond ring, and a pair of earings with a topaz centerpiece accented by diamonds and rubies. These pieces head turners for sure! They certainly turned mine!
What is it, though, that makes Joel Arthur Rosenthal’s work so popular? Well, exclusivity is a part of it. He works with only the best craftsmen from France and Switzerland, and they hand-make the pieces, turning out just 70 or 80 pieces a year. Each piece is one of a kind, and a lot of the pieces are made with a particular buyer in mind. The real exclusivity, though, comes from the fact that he will refuse to sell a piece of jewelry to someone if he thinks that the item would not suit them.
Rosenthal has a strong circle of friends, including collectors and dealers, and he has persuaded them to only answer questions if he approves them. He’s a mysterious figure, avoiding interviews whenever possible, which just adds to his allure.
He’s a smart man too, having graduated from Harvard in 1966. He worked as a scriptwriter, then worked on needlepoint for a while which is how he met the designers that set him on the path to making jewelry. At first, he used less expensive stones; coral, moonstone, and very small, colored diamonds. Gradually, he worked on making near-invisible settings, and then he figured out ways to highlight the colors of gems. As his work became more desirable, he built relationships with jewelers and dealers, and then created the empire he has today.
In 2002, Rosenthal displayed his jewels to the public in a unique exhibit that I so dearly wish I’d been able to see. The 400 pieces were displayed in crowded cases, the lights were dimmed, and viewers instructed to go from case to case with flashlights. By all accounts it was an incredible experience. I already know that owning a JAR piece is on my bucket list, but for now, I’ll content myself with hoping to see the next display!