Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Debuts New Book Exploring History of Oscar Heyman Jewelers
BOSTON (January 26, 2017)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announces the publication of Oscar Heyman: The Jewelers’ Jeweler, the first illustrated history of Oscar Heyman & Brothers, a firm that has designed meticulously crafted adornments for some of America’s most elite jewelry houses since 1912. The brand’s extensive clientele list includes Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Shreve, Crump & Low and Black, Starr & Frost. Enhanced with new photography of vintage and contemporary pieces, as well as design drawings from the firm’s archives that are works of art in their own right, the book reveals Oscar Heyman’s important role in the story of high-style American jewelry. Available on April 1, 2017 in the MFA Shops, retail bookstores and online, Oscar Heyman: The Jewelers’ Jeweler is produced by MFA Publications, the publishing imprint of the Museum. It was authored by Yvonne J. Markowitz, Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator Emerita of Jewelry at the MFA, and Elizabeth Hamilton, an independent writer and researcher and a graduate of Parsons the New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The book is one of several titles dedicated to jewelry that have been produced by MFA Publications in recent years, which also include Jewels of Ancient Nubia, Artful Adornments: Jewelry from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Jewels of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin, Jewelry by Artists: In the Studio 1940–2000 and Imperishable Beauty: Art Nouveau Jewelry. Support for this publication was generously provided by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf and Oscar Heyman & Brothers, Inc.
“For more than a century, Oscar Heyman & Brothers, known as ‘the jewelers’ jeweler,’ has maintained a national reputation for outstanding ornaments set with superior gemstones,” said Markowitz. “Until recently, the Oscar Heyman name was unknown outside the jewelry world, as the company preferred anonymity and discretion, but today the brand is synonymous with dazzling, high-style jewels. I’m pleased to highlight its prosperous history with the release of this new publication.”
Oscar Heyman & Brothers has been a family business since its establishment, now in its third generation. The company’s founding brothers, Oscar and Nathan, apprenticed at a workshop that produced high-style ornaments for the Russian court jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé before leaving Eastern Europe for New York City. Within a few years, they established their own firm, distinctive for dynamic and contemporary designs, impeccable manufacture, technological sophistication and high-quality materials. Eventually, the other Heyman brothers joined the growing business, which remains entirely autonomous—maintaining in-house production of jewelry from inception through completion—to this day.
“It’s inspiring to see how far Oscar Heyman has come since my grandfather and great uncles started the business in 1912 and how it thrives today,” said Tom Heyman, Partner at Oscar Heyman & Brothers. “With this book from the MFA, readers will come to appreciate our rich history and unique combination of engineering capabilities, technical skill and artistic style, which enable us to continue to create one-of-a-kind pieces. We want to thank authors Yvonne Markowitz and Elizabeth Hamilton for their dedication and passion to the art of jewelry. We applaud them for profiling the distinct art of fine jewelry craftsmanship.”
The new publication tells the firm’s history from its beginnings at the turn of the 20th century and traces its growth and innovation decade by decade. Nearly 70 ornaments are highlighted, demonstrating how the business adapted new aesthetics in response to the changing desires of consumers. The earliest examples include a 1929 platinum, diamond and emerald brooch from the MFA’s collection. Originally owned and frequently worn by the heiress and art collector Marjorie Merriweather Post, the brooch fuses design elements of Art Deco and the Edwardian era. A similar stylistic mix appears in a platinum and diamond pendant that features flanking cornucopias and a central oval element with a large round diamond, retailed in the 1920s by Raymond Yard and now in the Neil Lane Collection.
Major milestones detailed in the book include the firm’s participation in two New York World’s Fairs. In 1939, Oscar Heyman & Brothers manufactured ornaments for four prominent retailers on display at the House of Jewels, one of the most extravagant exhibition pavilions. Although unknown to the public, the firm’s involvement in the exhibition solidified its reputation among clients, as many retailers recognized the signature floral designs, exquisite craftsmanship and superior gems. The next New York World’s Fair, held in 1964, did not have a dedicated jewelry pavilion, but Oscar Heyman & Brothers designed the official commemorative necklace in partnership with the Linde Star Company.
The publication also includes 15 design drawings from the Oscar Heyman Archive. These include designs for patriotic World War II ornaments, such as brooches featuring the American eagle, as well as for a stunning diamond and emerald necklace that was made in 1956 and gifted decades later to Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor by singer Michael Jackson. The Oscar Heyman Archive is continually referred to by the firm’s current designers as they reintroduce iconic pieces of jewelry and adapt designs to contemporary trends.
Jewelry at the MFA
The jewelry collection at the MFA is one of the most comprehensive in the world, spanning 6,000 years and featuring adornments that represent a wide array of materials, techniques and functions. More than 20,000 objects range from Neolithic Chinese jade to ancient Egyptian beadwork to gems and jewels from 21st-century designers, as well as the most comprehensive collection of 20th-century studio jewelry ever assembled. The first curator of jewelry in an American art museum was appointed at the MFA in 2006, funded by the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation and named in honor of Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan, a mother and daughter who are avid jewelry collectors and passionate supporters of the study of jewelry history. The MFA’s Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery—one of only a few galleries in the US solely dedicated to jewelry—offers a permanent space for the display of ornaments from all cultures and time periods.
About Oscar Heyman
Since 1912, Oscar Heyman & Brothers, Inc. has been creating exquisite fine jewelry for extraordinary women. Oscar Heyman jewelry showcases the striking elegance of colorful gemstones and the dramatic beauty of the women who wear them. Each piece is meticulously crafted by American artisans using European techniques passed down through three generations of this family business. The result is an enduring legacy of heirloom-quality design that truly transcends time. Oscar Heyman continues to balance a rich history with a modern point of view through the beauty of their designs, which meet the most exacting standards.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, representing all cultures and time periods. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–5 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–10 pm. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and individual youths age 17 and younger. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25). MFA Members are always admitted for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, call 617.267.9300, visit mfa.org or follow the MFA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.