Met Curator to speak on history of American jewelry at May 18th McFaddin-Ward House Lecture
Beaumont, TX; May 5, 2023 – Beth Carver Wees, curator emerita of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will present Jewelry for America: History and Evolution of Jewelry in America, a free McFaddin-Ward House lecture, on Thursday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s Visitor Center Lecture Hall (1906 Calder Avenue, Beaumont).
For the past 20 years, Wees has overseen the Met’s collections of American silver, jewelry, and other metalwork, and organized the exhibition, Jewelry for America,which was on view in the Metropolitan’s American Wing from June 2019 to May 2021. Her lecture will chronicle the development of jewelry made and owned in America from the Colonial period to the present day, noting the social, political, and economic factors that influenced its production, as well as the materials and processes involved.
“Jewelry is one of the world’s oldest art forms, underscoring the human desire to adorn ourselves,” said Wees, who holds degrees in art history from Smith College and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. “As we follow the history of our nation, we see jewelry fashions developing to keep pace with our economic growth, the discovery of new materials, and evolving fashions.”
The earliest jewelry worn in America was of a sentimental nature, related to love and marriage or to death and mourning. A domestic industry took root in the early nineteenth century with Newark, New Jersey, becoming home to some 200 manufacturers, and the iconic firms of Gorham and Tiffany & Co. were established. Collectively, the pieces featured in the Jewelry for America exhibition tell the story of how American jewelers absorbed and reinterpreted lessons from a vast global history to create a rich and varied body of work.
“One aspect of studying jewelry that especially resonates with me is memory,” Wees said. “Every piece we wear holds memories of people, places, and occasions. Through jewelry we appreciate and celebrate the cycles of our lives.”
McFaddin-Ward House lectures are free and open to the public, but space is limited. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Built in 1905-1906 in the distinctive Beaux-Arts Colonial style, the McFaddin-Ward House reflects the lifestyle of the prominent family which lived in the house for 75 years. The museum features free tours, educational programming, year-round events, a carriage house, and gardens.
For more information, visit mcfaddin-ward.org.