In the pantheon of contemporary jewels, JAR–named after its founder Joel Arthur Rosenthal–creations stand out as perhaps the most distinctive and covetable.
Rosenthal, who has been termed “the Fabergé of our time,” is notoriously private and single-mindedly dedicated to his craft, stating “I don’t care what the world thinks of me. But do I care, very deeply, what the people I care about think.” He was raised in the Bronx and spent many a day during childhood at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History exploring their mineral and gem galleries. Rosenthal’s journey to jewelry, however, was anything but straightforward. He originally desired to be a painter and studied at the High School of Museum & Art in New York before spending a semester at City College studying linguistics and, finally, transferring to Harvard where he studied art history and philosophy.
In 1966, Rosenthal moved to Europe, where he met the man who would become his partner, Pierre Jeannet. The two men opened a needlepoint store in Paris and Rosenthal, who had always maintained a fascination with jewelry, worked briefly for Gianni Bulgari as well. In 1978, with no formal training and no financial backing, Rosenthal and Jeannet opened their atelier off the Place Vendôme in Paris where they continue to operate to this day. With a small team of artisans in his Paris, and now also southern France and Geneva workshops, JAR produces only about one hundred to one hundred and twenty pieces annually.
Rosenthal’s modus operandi has remained the same since JAR’s founding: he creates a limited number of unique jewels a year for a select group of clients. He does no advertising and is very particular about who buys his work; all new clients are introduced to him by existing ones. Some of the jewels are bespoke creations while others may result from a moment of inspiration or, alternatively, years of consideration. Famously, he acquired a six carat pink diamond at auction and kept it for over twenty years while figuring out the best way to utilize it and enhance its natural beauty. A true artist, he chooses gems for their colors and shading rather than their intrinsic values, and he is renowned for his painterly approach to their use. He even developed a new metal alloy, blending silver, gold, and nickel, creating a darker background to better enhance the color and brilliance of his precious jewels.
JAR has only had two public exhibitions, the first was held in 2002 in London and the second was a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2013. With a true artist’s eye and dedication to quality and his vision, JAR deftly combines the sculptural and decorative possibilities of jewelry, and his creations remain some of the most sought after on both the primary and secondary markets today.