Mystery, intrigue and coloured gemstones galore

JAR jewellery is a cult of its own: a brand without the branding, save for its distinctive jewels and high levels of secrecy. Its only boutique, on the enviable Place Vendôme in Paris, typically has no window displays at all, apart from a solo chestnut last Christmas, setting it in stark contrast to its neighbours’ lavishly bejewelled offerings. Clever or seemingly non-existent marketing aside, JAR says everything by saying nothing because it lets the jewels that do the talking.

JAR has been the work of Joel Arthur Rosenthal and his partner, Pierre Jeannet, since 1977. Born in New York City, but now a firm resident of Paris, Rosenthal initially studied Art History and Philosophy at Harvard; it’s not hard to see the historical references and feel the philosophical underpinning that draw the JAR collections together. Signature elements refer both to antique jewellery and to his own background in needlepoint: thin diamond- or gem-set lines, either curved or deliberately straight, traverse larger stones and wrap around wearers’ fingers. These lines, or threads, are often set with single-cut diamonds, each with eight facets on their crown and eight on their pavilion, to create a subtle highlighting that is more reminiscent of historic jewels than the blinding dazzle of the modern round brilliant cut.

JAR jewels do not depend solely on big stones or white diamonds, instead, statement stones are embedded amongst rainbows of garnets and sapphires. In this way, JAR plays with proportion just as he does with materials. In earlier years, he used oxidised titanium as the primary metal of his jewels in ways the fine jewellery industry had never seen. The careful craftsmanship of teams in France and Switzerland have helped JAR to push boundaries, a success recognised by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art when they honoured JAR with a retrospective in 2013. In this show, a museum-first for a living jeweller, 400 JAR jewels fascinated the public and, with only 70 jewels made a year, this collection was no mean feat.

Though the jewels very much speak for themselves, a sizeable portion of intrigue hasn’t hurt the hunted brand of JAR either.