The bold and the beautiful: Glitz and glam galore adorn HMNS at the Bulgari gala

Traveling from all over the globe, top Bulgari executives joined local Museum and jewelry enthusiasts for a night celebrating gorgeous gems in our dazzling city – the opening gala for Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

The night began in the 3rd floor exhibition space (now open to the public; click here for tickets), featuring 150 pieces of sparkling Bulgari necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and minaudière, including precious pieces from the Elizabeth Taylor Heritage Collection.  J. Ben Bourgeois Productions transformed Herzstein Hall into in a graceful garden space with scenes of the Spanish Steps, floral chandeliers, and elegant candlelight. City Kitchen Catering pleased the palate with a three-course dinner, featuring jumbo lump crab meat, saddle of lamb, and mascarpone strawberries. In an ethereal ivory floral headpiece, Elizaveta (you may recognize her from this Scandal promo) led a trio for a set that perfectly complemented the romantic elegance of the evening. 

The chairman of the evening, Windi Grimes, joined President Joel Bartsch in welcoming guests and introducing Nicola Bulgari and Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari.  Ever the belle of the ball, Grimes thrilled guests with her own surprise touch – DiVine, a “living vine” that gracefully moved throughout the exhibition and dinner space. It was the cherry on top of the awe-inspiring evening.  

Photography by Priscilla Dickson.

Joel Bartsch and Naomi Watts

Joel Bartsch and Naomi Watts.

 

 

Joanne King Herring and Nathalie Diamantis, Bulgari VP of Retail and Wholesale

Joanne King Herring and Bulgari Vice President of Retail and Wholesale Nathalie Diamantis.

  

DiVine, Monsour Taghdisi and Henry Richardson

DiVine, Monsour Taghdisi and Henry Richardson.

 

Anne Shepherd and Carson Seeligson

Anne Shepherd and Carson Seeligson.

 

Pat Breen and Lynn Wyatt

Pat Breen and Lynn Wyatt.

 

Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Karol Barnhart, and Laurie Morian

Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Karol Barnhart, and Laurie Morian,

Sam and Melinda Stubbs, Sharyn and Jim Weaver

Sam and Melinda Stubbs, Sharyn and Jim Weaver.

 

Sabina Belli, Bulgari Managing Director, and Naomi Watts

Bulgari Managing Director Sabina Belli and Naomi Watts.

 

Greggory and Patrick Burk, HMNS Chairman of the Board

Greggory Burk and HMNS Chairman of the Board Patrick Burk.

 

Ashley Menzies and Claire Thielke

Ashley Menzies and Claire Thielke.

 

Event Chairman Windi Grimes and Joel Bartsch, HMNS President

Event Chairman Windi Grimes and HMNS President Joel Bartsch.

HMNS’ 100th year comes to a close…

And what a year it’s been!

All throughout 2009, we’ve celebrated our hundredth year in Houston with a dedicated web site, a series of 100 fun family events; a showcase of our 100 favorite/most amazing/coolest artifacts; a video series with our longest-serving staff (the record is 39 years!), and a contest (which you can still enter for a chance to win a 2010 Museum membership!)

You can also check out 100 years of Museum history here: from our very first Museum bulletin in January 2010 through historic scientific expeditions, ambitious building projects and blockbuster exhibitions, it’s been quite a trip!

But we’re even more excited about what’s coming next – in our second century of science.

In fact, we’ve just broken ground on perhaps our most ambitious project yet: an expansion that will double the amount of public exhibition space that will be available for temporary and permanent exhibitions – including what we intend to be the world’s finest Hall of Paleontology; double the number of classrooms available for educational programs; and triple the amount of available collections storage space, to ensure the conservation and care of our collections for decades to come.

President Joel A. Bartsch talks about what’s next for the Museum in this video – and how you can help.

Help us continue and expand our mission of science education for even greater numbers of children and adults. Donate to the expansion today – and join our Cause on Facebook to help spread the word!

Happy New Year!

If I Owned a Jewelry Store

Ed. Note: At the age of nine, Joel Bartsch was shown a pyrite crystal, and became fascinated with gemstones and crystals from that point forward. After college, he worked in five museums around the country, returning to his native Houston in 1991, where he is now president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Bartsch founded a gem vault at the museum, which boasts one of the most extensive collections of minerals in the country, including a 1,869-carat natural emerald crystal, the largest ever discovered in North America. This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2008 issue of In Design Magazine.

My jewelry store would be a fascinating place to visit.

It would be underground, first of all. When people see gemstones that are cut, polished, and finished, the stones are so far removed from their natural environment that people really don’t make the connection between the fabulous jewel they’re wearing and Mother Nature. So, my store would be located under the earth – if not in a working mine, then at least in a replica. It would have crystals sticking out of air pockets in the walls, just as they’re found naturally. The whole thing would be like walking into an underground version of Aladdin’s cave, with several different caverns – all the rubies would be here, the emeralds here, the diamonds over there – and everything reinforcing the awe and mystery surrounding the origin of crystals.

Gem Crystal
Creative Commons License photo credit: lifelive~

I wouldn’t carry any jewelry that was anywhere near normal. Now, I love white, colorless diamonds as much as anybody. But they’ve become commodities. So I wouldn’t carry ANY white diamonds – only super-fancy colors, like purples and pinks. None of my store’s gemstones would have any enhancements. Really, once you have to explain to customers that it’s been thermally-enhanced, or irradiated, or had a laser treatment to remove inclusions, it sounds like a synthetic production. Again, I want to reinforce the link between these marvels and nature itself, which only adds to the value.

As for my customers, I would allow them in by appointment only… of course, kids are welcome at any time. Kids still have a sense of wonder and excitement about nature. If you show them the simplest piece of amethyst, they react with a big “Wow!” But when you see adults in a jewelry store, they act so unaffected, like they don’t want the salesperson to know that they like anything. So, adults would only be welcome in the store after they’ve passed a written test.

Gem
Creative Commons License photo credit:
Stephen Witherden

A test, you say? Let me explain. Back in the 17th century, there were lists of rules for visiting museums. In those days, museums weren’t public; you had to already have knowledge of a subject before you were allowed inside. My store would be the same way.

That may sound harsh, but really my point is that I want people coming in who truly appreciate what jewelry is. Perhaps they’d take a stonecutting course, or goldsmithing, or gemstone panning, all of which I would offer in the store. After all, the best customer is an educated customer. They may still have issues with the price, but at least they will understand how rare and unusual these gemstones are.


Finally, I would have a bevy of jewelry designers available for customers once they’ve chosen a gemstone. The designer would sit down with these customers and sketch out ideas, which would drive home the point that the design process adds more value to a piece of jewelry than anything else. Let’s face it: gold, silver, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds – in today’s world, they’re commodities, like five pounds of beans or 50 pounds of flour. What really creates value is the design process.

Faberge was once asked, “How do you decide how much one of your pieces is worth, compared to your competitors?” He answered, “If you want to know what my competitors’ jewelry is worth, just put it on the scale.” The point he was making was that they had no design sense – that the only value in their pieces was the weight of the diamonds or gold. The reason his jewelry was so highly priced was that it had a tremendous amount of creative value added to it.

At the end of their time in my store, when my customer has a fabulously beautiful piece of jewelry that they helped design, made up of totally natural stones and materials, and they’re doing it down in this crystal cave in a natural setting, not only will they have a grand appreciation for the finished piece, but they’ll have an incredible story to tell about the entire process.