The Galerie des Bijoux at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs features a display of some 1200 pieces that provide an exemplary overview of the history of jewelry from the Middle Ages to the present day. Organized chronologically, the exhibits include rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches, alongside a presentation of jewelry-making techniques.
The gallery, designed by the architect Roberto Ostinelli, occupies two exhibition spaces on the museum’s second floor, on either side of the grand staircase. The first space contains the collection of antique pieces; the second houses the contemporary collection. The two spaces are linked by a glass footbridge spanning the area above the museum’s entrance hall.
The jewelry pieces are showcased behind large glass windows that completely cover the gallery walls. The display begins with jewelry from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and continues with some beautiful 18th-century pieces and a wide range of 19th-century designs from the collection donated in 1924 by the jeweler Henri Vever. Art Nouveau is represented with some outstanding pieces by René Lalique, Georges Fouquet, Lucien Gaillard and the Maison Vever, while designers such as Raymond Templier, Jean Després, Jean Fouquet and the great jewelry houses of Place Vendôme, Boucheron and Cartier, illustrate the Art Deco era and the 1930s. A selection of Chinese, Japanese and Indian jewelry is showcased in column display cases in the center of the exhibition space.
The presentation continues on the other side of the footbridge with pieces from the 1940s onward by French designers such as Line Vautrin and Albert Duraz, and jewelry by artists including Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Henri Laurens and Jean Lurçat. The new forms introduced in the 1960s and 70s are illustrated with minimalist designs by Torun, Jean Dinh Van, Costanza, Henri Gargat, Ettore Sottsass and a number of Scandinavian artists. Since the 1980s, jewelers such as Gilles Jonemann have developed a spirit of independence among young French designers, whose work is well represented from this period to the present day. The presentation ends with a selection of impressive pieces by European designers, many of which challenge the traditional view of jewelry. Jewelry houses and independent designers alike have introduced new forms and modernized their collections.
In addition to the chronological display, a wall of drawer display cases (opposite the antique pieces) highlights the extraordinary range of raw materials that can be used in jewelry making: from precious and semi-precious stones, gold, silver and substitutes such as steel, cast iron and nickel silver, to organic materials such as coral, ivory, mother-of-pearl, horn – and even hair or fish scales, with plastic materials and rhinestones to illustrate the diversity of materials used in costume jewelry. Finally, a restricted-access section focuses on the various stages in the design and production of jewelry, and on its various typologies.
The jewelry collection has continued to grow over the years thanks to generous donations and to purchases made by the museum.
Private individuals, collectors, dealers, designers and jewelers have all contributed to the museum’s large collections of antique and modern jewelry. The decision to create a jewelry gallery prompted further donations and loans from jewelers and famous jewelry houses (such as Cartier, Boucheron, Chanel, Jar, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mellerio and Lorenz Baümer), together with major loans from the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain-Centre National des Arts Plastiques, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Musée des Arts et Métiers and the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.