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Review: Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry/Field Museum

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With the Grainger Hall of Gems under renovation, the Field Museum has partnered with the National Jewelry Institute to present this one-room teaser chronicling the ancient bling of the Near and Middle East. The 130-piece exhibition, upstairs in the intimate Kimball and Brooker Gallery, bridges the gap between “then” and “now.” The entire exhibit has the feel of a small, sparsely lit display on Jeweler’s Row; one can’t help but coo at the rings and necklaces, partly hoping some are available for purchase. Gold, glazed quartz, ruby, garnet, shells and filigree—ancient jewelers, much like their modern counterparts, understood the human need to flaunt gemstones and precious metals as beautiful adornment. The Islamic world’s history of Muslim expansion is punctuated with earrings and bangles festooned with elaborate geometry, granulation and goldworking. Hammered gold and twisted wire bedecked the people of the Levant, while the crossroads of Mesopotamia utilized blue lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and Egyptian faience. The Greek writer Herodotus wrote, “Of all the troops, the Persians were adorned with the greatest magnificence…they glittered all over with gold,” reminding us that people have always adorned themselves with stunning jewelry, a fact that hasn’t changed much in the last 5,000 years. (Laura Hawbaker)

“Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization” runs at the Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore, (312)922-9410, through July 5.

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