1. DIAMOND MUSEUM (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
See why Amsterdam is nicknamed the “City of Diamonds” at the sparkling Diamond Museum, which opened its doors in April 2007. Their permanent collection is host to some of the world’s most stunning pieces. Learn everything there is to know about these stones from their humble beginnings as carbon atoms to the four C’s (cut, clarity, color, and carat). Their current temporary exhibits include a roundup of famous crowns and a Japanese katana sword made of Murano glass encrusted in 1,967 diamonds (weighing 54.48 carats). Hurry: The exhibit ends on December 31st.
2. ILIAS LALOUNIS JEWELRY MUSEUM (Athens, Greece)
Founded in 1993 by internationally renowned jewelry artist Ilias Lalaounis, the namesake museum is uniquely dedicated to contemporary jewelry. Extremely prolific, Lalaounis made over 17,000 diverse pieces of jewelry and was the first (and only) jeweler elected a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts. The museum holds a fraction of Lalaounis’ life work (just over 4,000 pieces created between 1940 and 2000), many of which were inspired by ancient civilizations and nature. The museum also offers jewelry-making workshops in the same space where the artist crafted his masterpieces.
3. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN (New York City, USA)
Now through January 31st, the Museum of Arts and Design will temporarily house more than 200 expressive pins from the private collection of America’s first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Coinciding with the release of her new book Read My Pins, this exhibit is an extraordinary display of the brooches she famously wore throughout her diplomatic career. More than a decorative trademark, these accessories–some fine antiques, many costume jewelry–served a much greater purpose: To convey a powerful message or mood to world leaders, including Saddam Hussein. Catch the whole story behind each pin in her new book in bookstores now.
4. SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (Washington, D.C., USA)
The 150-year-old Smithsonian Institution possesses a dazzling permanent collection–one of the largest of its kind–complete with 35,000 minerals and 10,000 gems. Among its most famous residents is the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond. The dark grayish-blue beauty (pictured up top), which likely originated in India, was once owned by King Louis XIV of France in 1668 and inspired the fictional necklace, “Heart of the Ocean,” in the 1997 megahit Titanic.
5. VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM (London, UK)
Home to one of the most thorough collections in the world, the Victoria & Albert Museum offers its visitors a profound look at the history of jewelry, starting from ancient Greece to present day. With 3,500-plus pieces on display–everything from medieval love rings to Catherine the Great’s diamonds to contemporary work from prestigious jewelers, like Tiffany and Cartier–the museum has something shiny for everyone.
Can’t make it to London? Swing by their fantastic website and click on any of their fun interactive features: Design a virtual ring, watch short videos or listen to audio tracks about significant pieces, or make a kaleidoscope using photos of the museum’s jewels.
6. WORLD JEWELRY MUSEUM (Seoul, South Korea)
Comprising of more than 3,000 jewelry pieces from 60 countries, the World Jewelry Museum is the place to catch a sampling of the world’s wealth. If the trip seems too far, consider an online tour of the museum on their website. Go back in time, 30 to 90 million years, at the Amber Wall adorned with the golden-colored fossilized resin of ancient trees. Then take a virtual stroll through the Gallery of Necklaces, where you’ll find some of the most fascinating examples of jewelry design, ranging from wedding to warrior neck wear.
Photography (top) is courtesy of Creative Commons.
Photography (bottom) is courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum