Volume I, Number 3, Spring 2005

© Copyright 2004

 

Interview with Elise B. Misiorowski

Elise B. Misiorowski, The Director of the Museum at the Gemological Institute of America, (G.I.A.), has granted our Guild this exclusive interview to afford us a peek behind the scenes at the mysterious and sophisticated world of the gem arts.

Elise started working at G.I.A. in September of 1979 in the diamond lab, doing research and as a diamond grader. She ended up in the Research Library in 1984. At that time the collection totaled only 1,500 volumes and was housed in a small room. As librarian in charge of acquisition, she helped transform the library from its humble beginnings to the finest Gemological and Jewelry Library in the world, with over 20,000 titles and a collection of extremely rare books, some going back to the 1400's. At the nucleus of the library is the world-renowned John and Marjorie Sinkankas Gemological and Mineralogical Collection of books and other periodicals with over 14,000 items.

Elise worked at the Library until 1997, when the G.I.A. moved from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. Having developed a subject specialty in antique and period jewelry during her years in the G.I.A. Library, she went on a sabbatical, writing and lecturing for the trade. On July 2, 2001 G.I.A. asked her to come back and be the Director of their Museum.

I asked Elise what the focus is for exhibitions at this Museum. She said it is to educate and expose people to aspects of jewelry and the gem trade that they may not be familiar with.

The G.I.A. Museum features a lecture series, hosted by the Gem And Jewelry Society of San Diego. They link their series to the changing exhibitions and a general theme, like the Four C's of the diamond trade, Cut, Clarity, Carat weight, and Color. Another theme was Gem Mining and 2002's theme was "Precious Paths - Surprising Links to Gemology," to illustrate four ways in which gemology touches other fields.

One of the lectures, "Animal Motifs in Jewelry from 1830 - Present," was given by Janet Zapata, an art historian who spoke about the use of animal figures in jewelry, and signed her newly published book on the subject, 'The Jeweled Menagerie.' Elise told me that the response from the public has been "tremendous". The show was featured in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, which brought a lot of people to the lecture and book signing, and many visitors to the gallery since then. I asked her how she chose this theme. She said. "I chose this, because even if people don't respond to jewelry, they do respond to animals. Especially for children, but also for all ages." Having been to the lecture and seen the show I commented on the centerpiece of the exhibit. It is a rather large bronze Pegasus floating on an alabaster cloud. The artist's name is Daniel Toledo from Orange County. He is a wildlife artist who works in bronze, pen and ink, and dry point. He studied at G.I.A. to learn how to make jewelry and now he works in 24 carat gold with diamonds. Quite a few of his bejeweled masterpieces are also on exhibit. Daniel follows a long tradition of jewelry making artists from Hans Holbein to Picasso, Dali, and Braque.


Pegasus by Daniel Toledo

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Daniel Toledo .......................... . . . ....................................Daniel Toledo

I then asked her the question. "Why, when a sculpture is created out of gold, like in the National Award Show here, is it not considered fine art, whereas an identical work made of plastic is?" Elise said. "That is the question of the century, I have no idea." I then followed up with. "Why, when a sculpture is made of plastic or found objects it is called cutting edge fine art, whereas similar designs made of high quality gem material, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, and jade is considered only a craft?" She then explained. "Hopefully, our exhibits will begin to alter that perception. To reward excellence within the gem and jewelry trade, several industry organizations, such as the Diamond Promotion Service, the American Gem Trade Association, and the Platinum Guild International, have developed competitions that recognize quality of workmanship in jewelry design, fabrication, and gem cutting." An exhibit entitled 'The Best of the Best', was held featuring examples of award winning jewelry.

"Bahia" by Glenn Lehrer & Lawrence Stoller (G.I.A. collection)

I also asked her how she felt about other Art Museums and their policy toward what is considered as art. She told me. "Luckily, we can determine our own collection policy within AAM and our Museum Advisory Committee guidelines."

I asked her about other shows and she went on to talk. "One of our exhibits was called 'Gems in Art, Art in Gems', to expose people to the many ways gems are used as a material for artistic expression.

Grouped into six general categories, the first is cameos and intaglios, one of the world's ancient art forms. This group included 19th century examples and contemporary work, by artists such as Hans Ulrich Pauly from Idar Oberstein, in Germany.

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Hans Ulrich Pauly ..............................................................Hans Ulrich Pauly

Category two is natural figurative sculpture encompassing the human form, animals, birds, and flowers. Work by Thomas McPhee from Vancouver, Harold Van Pelt from Los Angeles, and Susan Allen from Connecticut was featured here.

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Thomas McPhee....................... ......... ....................... .....Thomas McPhee

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Susan Allen....................... ......... ....... . . . . ................. .....Susan Allen

Category three is fantasy and abstract sculpture, featuring works by Bernd Munsteiner from Idar Oberstein, Steve Walters (one of our own Guild artists) and Glenn Lehrer from California, Michael Dyber from New Hampshire, and Bart Curren from Washington.

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Michael Dyber. .......... ... ........ . ......... ................. ..... . .. ...Bart Curren

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Glenn Lehrer........... ........... . ......... ...................... . .. ...Bernd Munsteiner

Objets d'art is category four. Defined as assembled objects that are strictly decorative, this group featured work by Gil Roberts from Virginia, Lawrence Stoller from Oregon, and modern Russian micromosaics made with natural gem materials.

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....Gil Roberts......... . . . . . . ................ ............. ...... . . .... Lawrence Stoller

Objets d'virtu is category five. These are objects with a function beyond being purely decorative. We featured gem-inlaid boxes by Nicolai Medvedev from Tashkent via New Jersey, and scent bottles by Michael Christie from Connecticut, among many others.

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Nicolai Medvedev........... ........... . ......... ................... . .. ...Nicolai Medvedev

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Michael Christie........... ........... . ......... ........ .............. . .. ..Michael Christie

Category six is jewelry. For this exhibit, we have narrowed the definition of jewelry to include only those pieces where the focus is on the artistic impact rather than the gems themselves. For example, Marianne Hunter from Los Angeles incorporates enameling, carved gemstones, pearls, and poetry; Christoph Krähenmann from Santa Barbara via Switzerland incorporates gems cut by several different artists in his work. Several other world famous artists were featured as well."

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.....Marianne Hunter.............. . ......... .......... .................. . .Christoph Krähenmann

"We also have shows going one in our upstairs gallery, one of the shows was called 'Opal and the Dinosaurs, Discover the Link'. It featured opalized fossils from Australia and this was the first time this collection had been shown outside of Australia."

I then asked Elise if she would like to add anything, and she said. "This is just the beginning. I am hoping that once the public becomes aware of what we can offer, we will build a real appreciation for Gemology and the Jeweled Arts."


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