Beautiful Creatures

June 12, 2021 — September 19, 2021


Free for Members. 
This exhibition is located on the 1st floor, inside the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

Serpent necklace with larger jewels dotted along its back.
American designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal has created only a few snake necklaces. This one was made in 1990 and features JAR’s signature blend of pavé-set precious and semiprecious stones in a silver and gold setting. 
FD Gallery

Beautiful Creatures presents more than 100 animal-themed precious jewels created by the world's great jewelry houses and artisans, from Cartier's iconic panthers to Suzanne Belperron's butterflies, featured in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery.

This exhibition is featured in the new permanent Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals and is free with any admission.

What You'll See in Beautiful Creatures

Creatures of the Sea

Wonderful and mysterious creatures of the sea have been commemorated in all kinds of imaginative jewels. Many were made as a fond memory of beach holidays or an emblem of appreciation for ocean wildlife. 

Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s starfish design reflected his interest in the symbolism of the animal. Starfish represent renewal because they can reproduce lost appendages.

Jeweled brooch in the shape of a starfish next to two jeweled pins in the shape of butterflies.
Artist Salvador Dalí added surrealist details to all of his fine jewelry creations, including the Étoile de Mer brooch. This starfish has branches sprouting from the body and includes two butterfly pins that were conceived as part of the design. 
Jake Armour, Armour Photography

See the Étoile de Mer brooch, Verdura lion's paw shell brooches, and other jewels inspired by creatures of the sea in Beautiful Creatures. 

Creatures of Land

Elephants, giraffes, lions, panthers and zebras stampeded into fine jewelry collections in the 1960s and continued to roam through them in the 1970s.

Their presence was due in part to the extensive media coverage of conservationists seeking to protect endangered animals in Africa. The news put the creatures foremost in the minds of jewelry designers.

Jeweled lion rests on a coral "branch".
This lion brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels originally belonged to philanthropist Brooke Astor, whose patronage of the New York Public Library has led to speculation that it might have been a nod to the marble lion statues that flank the main branch’s entrance on Fifth Avenue. 
© Sotheby's

See the lion brooch and jewels inspired by other African mammals, snakes, and insects from Cartier, JAR, Tiffany, and others in Beautiful Creatures.

Creatures of Air

Thanks in part to engaging displays at natural history museums, including this one, many people developed an interest in insects and their relatives at the end of the 1800s. This fascination brought a whole menagerie of arthropods into the realm of jewelry. 

Over the last 150 years, designers have continued to transform the jewel-like qualities of insects into naturalistic and artistic creations.

Gold butterfly brooch encrusted with colorful gems.
Butterflies were in the zeitgeist in France during the mid-1930s, as a symbol of change. One of the most innovative jewelry talents of the era, Suzanne Belperron, conceived a series of striking butterfly jewels, including this brooch.
David Behl/© Belperron

See more dazzling butterfly, dragonfly, and bird jewels from Boucheron, Cartier, Hemmerle, Wallace Chan, and others in Beautiful Creatures.