Many years ago, actually the sale took place on October 10, 2006, the actress Ellen Barkin was getting divorced from Ron Perelman and she decided to sell most or almost all of the jewelry he had given her. Ms. Barkin’s split from Mr. Perelman is another story. Christie’s was the auction house of choice for the 91 lots of jewelry. The sale total was over $20 million dollars. Of the 91 lots, 17 pieces were from the jeweler JAR which stands for Joel Arthur Rosenthal.
Joel Arthur Rosenthal was the only child of a Bronx postal worker and a biology teacher. He graduated from Harvard in 1966 and moved to Paris where he met his boyfriend and future business associate, Pierre Jeannet, a Swiss psychiatrist. His first business venture was a needlepoint shop where he experimented with unusually colored yarn. His clients included designers from Hermes and Valentino.
As the story goes, one day he asked if he could design a mount for a gemstone, hence opening up a new career path. He had a brief career as a salesman at Bulgari in New York and then returned to Paris in 1977 and started designing his own work on inexpensive stones like coral, moonstone and small colored diamonds. The rest as they say, is history.
JAR became a very select, almost secretive jeweler. His shop in Paris’ Place Vendome had no display window and no regular hours. He did no advertising but managed to sell to Elizabeth Taylor, Elle Macpherson, Barbara Walters, Ann Getty, Lily Safra, Jo Carole Lauder and Ellen Barkin. Don’t worry, there are many other famous names that own JAR pieces. In May of 2012, Lily Safra sold off 18 JAR pieces, all went for double, triple the estimates. Mr. Rosenthal has shown himself to be a very smart salesman as well as an exceptional artist.
JAR has always been about quality not quantity. The craftsmen in Switzerland and France that make his creations, only make 70 to 80 pieces a year. It has been said that about half the jewelry JAR produces are special orders. The other half are his own one of a kind designs.
Although his work has enjoyed a cult-like following among the fashion cognoscenti for decades, JAR remained something of a best-kept secret until the landmark sale of the Ellen Barkin collection at Christie’s, which drew so many exceptional examples of his work into the spotlight.
He reserves the right to refuse to sell an item if he doesn’t think it would look good on the intended. Rumor has it he has exercised this right.
Over the 30 years he has been making jewelry, JAR has accumulated a tight circle of friends, dealers and collectors who speak of him in worshipful tones and don’t answer questions without his approval.
He focused on pave, a technique for setting small stones so close together that they form a vertiable pavement of jewels. He pieces are usually built around exceptional gemstones. He is a master at blending the colors of gemstones.
November 20,2013 through March 9, 2014, Jewels by JAR will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibit will feature more than 300 works by one, Joel A. Rosenthal. The exhibition will be the first retrospective of his work in America; the only other major exhibition of Rosenthal’s work was held in 2002 at Somerset House in London. In London, four hundred pieces lent by 145 JAR faithful were crowded into small vitrines. He insisted that the lights be dimmed and that flashlights be given to his guests, who groped and gaped their way from case to case.
The exhibition in New York is made possible by Phaidon Press Limited, Nancy and Howard Marks, and The Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Foundation.
Mrs. Jones will definitely be attending this exhibit.
JAR’s diamond, pink and green tourmaline poppy flower brooch, circa 1982, owned by Lily Safra. Price realized at Christie’s sale $1,272,245, from an estimate of $510,000-710,000. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s colored sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1989, owned by Lily Safra. Price realized at Christie’s sale, $106,830. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s natural pearl and diamond ring, owned by Lily Safra. Price realized at Christie’s sale $391,709. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s ruby camellia flowerhead brooch, circa 2003, owned by Lily Safra. Price realized at Christie’s sale $4,319,591. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s topaz, ruby and diamond earrings, owned by Ellen Barkin. Price realized at Christie’s sale $710,400. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s engagement ring for Ellen Barkin. Price realized at Christie’s sale $1,808.000. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s morganite, aquamarine and diamond earrings, owned by Ellen Barkin. Price realized at Christie’s sale $204,000. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
JAR’s amethyst and emerald ring, owned by Ellen Barkin. Price realized at Christie’s sale $20,400. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.