Ear Candy: 250 Years of Style

by Reema Farooqui

A La Vieille Russie’s homage to the timeless beauty of earrings

With the world now finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, it’s time to look at beauty and art with a light and joyous heart and what could be better than an exhibition of iconic and very beautiful earrings. A La Vieille Russie’s “Ear Candy: 250 Years of Style” is an exhibition of forty earrings from their own collection. Ranging from antique pieces to contemporary jewels, you can feast your eyes on Victorian earrings set with old mine-cut diamonds, Art Deco pieces adhering to clean lines and dazzling gemstones and earrings from well known jewellery houses like Cartier and Tiffany & Co. to name a few. Truly the phrase “Ear Candy” best captures essence of this exhibition.

Earrings are a “mood” and hold a special place in the world of jewellery. An adornment for the ears they say so much. Especially in this new normal, with masks covering our faces, I find earrings to be the most effective channel of all our feelings and emotions. Fun and flirty, serious and competent, the versatility of earrings allows us to express ourselves in so many ways, simply through gemstones and style. In that sense, this exhibition comes at just the right time.

1930s Pigeon Blood Ruby and Diamond Earrings

My first thought on finding out about this exhibition was of course to find the pearl earrings and I was not disappointed. A pair of well-matched natural pearl and diamond earrings are always a winner with me. However, the pearl and multigemstone Dorrie Nossiter Arts and Crafts Earrings are in a class of their own. With curved lines and flora motifs, these earrings are absolutely not to be missed. However, even beyond pearls, there is a lot to marvel at in this collection of one-of-a-kind of earrings, from sparkling diamonds, vibrant coloured gemstones all the way to stunning craftsmanship.

Natural Pearl and Diamond Earrings

This exhibition will run from November 7th to December 23, 2020 and can be viewed in person at A La Vieille Russie’s 745 Fifth Avenue Galleries or online on their website. With the focus being entirely on earrings, this exhibition is unlike any that has been done by Ala Vieille Russie before.

I had an opportunity to ask Peter Schaffer, Gallery Director at A La Vieille Russie a few questions about this exhibition, how the idea for the exhibition came up and especially how the selection of earrings was curated.

Victorian Imperial Topaz and Diamond Earrings

 How did you come up with the idea of having a jewellery exhibition?

The idea for the exhibition came about wanting to keep some sense of a regular exhibition schedule and the desire to connect with our clients, since we have not had the opportunity to come together at fairs or at the gallery the last 8 months.

1970s Woven Gold Pendant Earrings by Georges L’Enfant

Why did you choose to have earrings as the focus of this exhibition?

 In our brainstorming, we settled on an earring show because not only did we have some really rare and unique pairs, but also because in this Zoom-era they are the perfect accessory. Earrings easily stand out even with a mask and are a great option for Covid friendly statement jewelry. In many ways face coverings have made us feel expressionless so earrings can be a great visual representation of one’s personality.

Antique Old Mine Diamond Drop Earrings

“Ear Candy: 250 Years of Style” is such a fun and creative name for the exhibition. Why do you think the past 250 years are so important for the evolution of jewellery style?

Once we narrowed in what we were going to present, we realized that earrings also told such a great story of style through the decades. Over time styles evolved with changing hairstyles and materials. For example, the fashion for long earrings in the 18th century counterbalanced the high hairstyles of the time. Similarly, long, torpedo-form earrings became fashionable in the 1830s as hair once again was worn piled high on the head. Availability of materials and technology played a role as well. At the turn of the twentieth century, jewelers mastered the use of platinum, and daintier, drop earrings became popular. And then let’s fast forward to the 1930s when the clip fitting was invented, and for the next few decades earring designs decorated the earlobe in all sorts of interesting ways. Often one of the hardest parts of mounting an exhibition is funnily enough picking the name! Through many iterations, we finally came up with Ear Candy: 250 Years of Style. This title really lent itself to a fun and creative exhibition that embraces color and whimsy.

Arts and Crafts Pearl and Multi-Gem Earrings by Dorrie Nossiter

How did you curate this exhibition and what kind of clients are you hoping will attend it?

We wanted to create a show, that while still reflective of great design, did not feel all too scholarly. We always want our clients to feel like they are learning something new and interesting when they stop by and this exhibition allows us to continue doing that while also engaging a new audience. The exhibition was curated in house and all pairs chosen aligned with their high standard of quality, craftsmanship, rarity, and beauty.  For our clients, a great pair of earrings, or a great piece of jewelry for that matter, is not determined by its signature. Instead, they have always been interested in earrings that ‘say something’ – signed or unsigned. However, with that said we do have a wonderful selection of 1950s and ‘60s earrings by Cartier that play with shape and texture in interesting ways. They’re also featuring an incredible 1970s pair by Georges L’Enfant made of woven gold that’s been flattened, making them as flexible as a piece of cloth. The combination of matte and polished gold creates an interesting swirling pattern. Another great pair is the seed pearl and mixed gem clip earrings by the English Arts and Crafts jeweler Dorrie Nossiter, who was particularly known for her earrings and is known to have said they’re “always in.” All in all this show really has a broad appeal. Lovers of great antique jewelry will revel in learning more about the makers, style and influences of the day. For those with a more modern taste, we hope this show surprises and delights. It is truly fascinating to see just how old some of these pairs are as they still look so stylish today. 

Mid-Century Sapphire and Diamond Floral Clip Earrings

So, if you haven’t checked out this exhibition, please do so. As a celebration of the enduring beauty and appeal of earrings, this exhibition showcases a sumptuous array of pieces that will appeal to all jewellery lovers. You can view it in person at A La Vieille Russie’s 745 Fifth Avenue Galleries or online at their website.

I would like to thank my wonderful friend Alexa Sayre at Stacy McLaughlin Communications for helping me in finding out more about this exhibition!

Featured Image: Peridot, Diamond and sapphire Pineapple Earrings, Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.

You may also be interested in Peter Schaffer’s conversation with us about the National Antiques and Arts Dealers Association of America.

All images used in this post are subject to copyright and are the property of A La Vieille Russie. Any person or organization not affiliated with A La Vieille Russie may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of A La Vielle Russie.

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