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Making the Most at Museum and Gallery Visits

Making the Most at Museum and Gallery Visits

Museums and large art galleries are treasure houses of historic collections and famous art from many periods in history. Often there is less than a quarter of the collection on display at any time due to space.

In the film, European Vacation, the family exhausts themselves by trying to see every major art piece and famous painting in as many galleries and museums as they can cram in during a two week visit to several cities in Europe.

While their antics were hilarious, cultural overload and tiredness was the result of their futility in trying to see and do it all. This can sometimes be the unfortunate reality of such once-in-a-lifetime visits. Accept that in a limited time it is just not possible to see and do everything. But with a little planning, maximum enjoyment can be gained and over-tiredness avoided.

The best pieces in any collection are usually always on display due to popularity. However, to avoid disappointment, it is wise to check before a visit that a specific work of art is available, as it may be on loan to another museum for a traveling exhibition, or taken away for repair work. Some museums will have free entry at certain times but most will have either a ticket entry or bigger cities will offer museum passes to several.

Use the internet to search for the major cultural attractions for your chosen destination. Museums and galleries are often some of the best marketed and advertised attractions; check local papers, TV, radio and billboards. Tourist centers and libraries will carry leaflets and brochures for all there is to see and do. Hotels and guesthouses will also carry a selection and asking locals can also provide good insider tips on the best value, what is worth the trip and what to avoid.

Gallery Guides and Information Booths

On arriving at the museum or gallery, the first place to stop should be the information booth. They will have floor plans, exhibitions guides, information on when the next guided tour will take place and some even offer highlights tours.

Often there will be audio guide CD players in several languages, available for a small rental fee, which will play information about key pieces in the collection. These can provide good background information about a piece.

However, the most important thing to do is look. Look at the item and try to understand it. Who made it and why? What is it for? Is it confusing or upsetting? Why is the piece in the collection? Is it a good or bad example?

Sometimes it is enough to just walk around and enjoy the beauty of the pieces. Other items can totally baffle and may require further information or provoke further investigation. If a guide is around, ask questions. The guides are often volunteers and will know the collection very well. They enjoy talking about the collection and can often provide insightful information and added depth and understanding.

While a visit to a museum is educational, it should also be enjoyable. It can be fun to guess what an item is before reading the information plaques provided. Often the information center will provide activity packs for children or suggested routes around the collection if time is short.

Remember to take frequent breaks and rest stops. Often there will be restaurants and cafes in the building or eating areas provided if you prefer to bring your own refreshments.

Museum Themes, Interactive Exhibits

Many museums will have a specific theme such as war or industry periods showing farming equipment, aircraft, pioneer museums or science museums. These can be much more interactive, with hands-on activities, videos and lectures. They can often spark new interests or begin a family history search.

Many individuals and teams of specialists have researched, catalogued and preserved the collections. More recently, much effort has gone into presenting the collections using multimedia to enhance the enjoyment, and help visitors see, learn and understand about history, cultures and the world.

Top 10 priciest pieces of jewellery in the world

Top 10 priciest pieces of jewellery in the world

#1 2009’s World-Beating Blue Diamond Ring

The top spot, perhaps unsurprisingly goes to a blue diamond. Master jewellers Chopard set the flawless oval gemstone into a ring consisting of a diamond band set in white gold. Blue diamonds rarely occur in nature, and are caused by traces of boron in diamond’s lattice structure.

Diamonds lacking visible nitrogen impurities, which tend to discolour them with a dirty yellow tinge, are rarer still. This one is a vibrant icy blue.

The most famous blue diamond in the world, the Hope Diamond, named after one of its owners of that name, now resides in the Smithsonian museum. It was once set in a necklace by Louis XV, and was supposed to be cursed, with the many supposed victims of the curse including Marie Antoinette.

The curse was a complete fabrication, based on the false idea that it had been one of two eyes of a statue in a Hindu temple, but this was never the case.

The Hope is actually greyer than the subject of this list which, whilst not showy, is impossible to ignore. It resembles an engagement ring which, whilst a fairly hefty investment, would be unlikely to be greeted with a ‘no’. It is valued at £9.8m.

#2 Heart of the Kingdom Ruby

British jewellers Garrard have set this patriotically named piece on a diamond necklace. The central jewel weighs a substantial 40.63 carats (eight and one eight grams) and derives from Burma. The clear, deep red gem has been cut with a small dint at the top to yield the shape referred to by the name.

Burma has been the source of other great rubies, notably the DeLong Star ruby which now resides in the American Museum of Natural History.

That ruby was once stolen, ransomed for $25,000 and dropped off in a phone booth. This one would likely fetch more, being valued at £8.48m.

#3 The Winston Earrings

The famous jeweller Harry Winston of California loans out close to $1bn worth of jewellery to stars for Oscar night. It should therefore be no surprise to see his name associated with a piece on this list.

The 2006 earrings, which are set in platinum, are accurately described as ‘Diamond Drop’, in reference to the sizeable droplets of white diamond hanging free from somewhat smaller diamonds above.

They weigh 60.1 carats between them and are valued at £5.25m. And no, you have to buy them as a pair.

#4 2007’s Greatest Blue Diamond Ring

The then record breaking price of £4.84m was obtained for a flawless fancy vivid blue diamond set in a simple ring in Hong Kong. The squarish cut gem which weighs 6.04 carats has an unusual dark hue and is particularly sparkling.

#5 Beyoncé and Jay Z’s wedding ring

Lorraine Schwartz provided an 18 carat emerald cut diamond-in-platinum ring to seal the knot between the stars.

#6 Paris’ Diamond Engagement Ring

The ring which was intended to unite the two Paris heirs: Hilton and her then fiancé, shipping millionaire Paris Latsis is 24 carat emerald cut, and thought to be worth £2.85m.

#7 De Beers ‘Marie Antoinette’ Diamond necklace

De Beers think that the famous French queen would have loved its 181 carats necklace with a mix of cut white and fancy vivid coloured diamonds down the centre. The price tag is £2.24m.

#8 Fergie’s wedding Necklace

The Black Eyed Peas singer topped off her wedding with a gold necklace heavily slung with diamonds, designed by H Stern – a small matter of £1.92m.

#9 The Chopard Haute Joaillerie Diamond and Emerald necklace

The alternating of clear white and deep green gems gives a beautiful, shimmering, watery effect. The 191 carats of Columbian emeralds dominate the rose cut diamonds, and the effect is impossible to ignore, even from the far side of a room.

Although not officially priced, they would be expected to sell for £1.85m

#10 Tiffany’s Majestic Diamond Pendant

With an attention-seizing main pear-shaped white diamond of 41.4 carats surrounded by smaller, clear circular and pear diamonds, Tiffany’s proudest neckwear seems something of a bargain at £1.54m.

Kazuri Fair Trade Jewellery – Summer Fashion 2010

Kazuri Fair Trade Jewellery – Summer Fashion 2010

Kazuri jewellery is hand made in Kenya by local women. The fair trade Jewellery made by Kazuri is bright and vibrant, Kazuri is a Swahili word meaning ‘small and beautiful’. The jewellery definitely lives up to its name, every piece is made from many individual beads that are all ‘small and beautiful’. Each bead is carefully hand-crafted by one of 400 women who create the jewellery in a small village outside Nairobi. The jewellery is made from ceramic, the process involves forming clay into beads, firing them and then hand glazing them with a vibrant range of different coloured paints, firing them again before stringing.

The Kazuri enterprise was started in 1975 by Lady Susan Wood. Lady Wood was born in a mud hut in the Belgian Congo to missionary parents. From a young age she was accustomed to living under difficult circumstances, a year after her birth her parents decided to return to England. To make this journey they had to travel on foot across central Africa, to board a steamer to Alexandria and then another boat to England. She and her siblings remained in England at boarding school whilst her parents returned to the Congo. During the second world war she trained at Oxford as a nurse, this is where she met Michael Wood who she would later marry.

Jewellery with Jen Putzier

Jewellery with Jen Putzier

How did you used to make products before Ponoko?

The process for constructing the finished jewelry it much the same – my two hands + materials. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t dabbled with all sorts of jewelry making processes – from bead weaving, glass fusing, lampworking, Precious Metal Clay (PMC) to metal-smithing. I’ve tried it all.

As my style evolved, I increasingly became frustrated with pre-made components. Everyone had the same box of crayons, it seemed, and I wanted to do something to express my own style and set myself apart from the pack.

How would you describe your design process?

I have little scraps of paper floating around with ideas I thought were just fantastic. Some of them are…and some of them are indecipherable now! I consider myself quite fortunate that I have inspiration around me daily – between my job as curator in a history museum and my typography obsessed graphic designer husband I swear it’s coming out my ears.

Stage two is doodling. Or half doodling. One reason you never see my doodles is that I am incapable of drawing things symmetrically. So I work in halves, quarters, thirds – whatever my design needs – then I take it to the computer to mirror it to see the complete design, trace it, and see what I think. If it’s good, I will spend hours, if not days, obsessing over every single anchor and bezier curve until the design is to my satisfaction. “Nudge” is my friend.

What are your material preferences?

I mainly use acrylic, black, for my jewelry. I really like the simplicity of it, the shininess of it, and the consistent quality and strength. I also am in love with bamboo. I love that it is a renewable resource, and how amazingly lightweight it is. Some of my products, like the Mustache Love Pin look smashing in the wood grain.

Have you been surprised by anything in the Ponoko process?

I’m continually surprised by how much I love being a Prime customer! I order maybe once a month, and it’s absolutely worth it to me. Also, I was surprised that there is steady traffic (and buyers!) to the Ponoko showroom. A pair of my earrings made into Lucky magazine thanks to it. I need to get better about utilizing it more!

India’s Gem, Jewelry Exports Gain 55% in February, Council Says

India’s Gem, Jewelry Exports Gain 55% in February, Council Says

Exports of gems and jewelry from India, the world’s largest supplier, advanced 55 percent in February to $2.3 billion, an industry group said.

Shipments rose from $1.5 billion in the same period a year earlier, according to preliminary data published by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council on its Web site.

Exports in the April-February period climbed to $25 billion, 10 percent more than the previous period.

Last chance to see Belsay Hall sculpture

Last chance to see Belsay Hall sculpture

Art fans have just a few weeks left to see a celebrated sculpture before it leaves Northumberland next month.

Stella McCartney’s stunning three metre high leaping horse Lucky Spot is to be removed from display at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens on April 18.

The sculpture made from more than 8000 Swarovski crystals was created by the internationally renowned fashion designer specifically for the Grade I historic site in 2004 as part of Fashion at Belsay.

One of the venue’s most popular attractions was returned by popular demand last Easter and attracted thousands of additional visitors .

Rob Flower, head of visitor operations for English Heritage in the North East, said: “We were fortunate enough to be able to bring Lucky Spot back to Belsay last spring.”

Lucky Spot’s current home will be closed for two weeks for the installation of its replacement. Contemporary arts exhibition, Extraordinary Measures, will open on May 1.

Running until the end of September, the exhibition will take visitors of all ages into a world of dark enchantment.

Highlights among the specially commissioned installations – most of which are being seen for the first time in the UK – will include the premiere of new hyper-realistic sculptures by Ron Mueck in the 19th Century rooms and photographs of tiny day-trippers facing everyday dramas within the gardens of Belsay, as documented by urban artist Slinkachu.

To mark Lucky Spot’s departure, English Heritage is giving visitors over the Easter holidays the chance to win a selection of prizes, if they are able to find the hidden ‘Lucky Spots’ dotted around the castle, hall and gardens.

Low sales make jewellers look beyond gold

Low sales make jewellers look beyond gold

Jewellers in Mumbai are trying various alternatives to attract the attention of consumers who have virtually stopped buying gold jewellery due to the huge rise in its price.

Kamlesh Shah, director of jewellery brand ‘Incollection’, is launching a collection of wooden jewellery for the Indian markets.

“Unlike gold, which needs skilled craftsmen, wooden jewellery is made using a machine.

The effect is smooth and classy,” he said.

Shah has already procured the machine from China, which is the largest manufacturer of innovative jewellery in the world.

“The jewellery costs just a fraction of cost (of gold jewellery) and we expect it to be popular with the younger generation in India,” he said.

A range of jewellery made of mixed metals is also in the works, Shah added. “We are also launching a range of products made from mixed metals, which include silver, gold and platinum that give a yellow gold kind of effect,” he said.

“Unlike jewellery made from silver which turns black, mixed metal jewellery retains its luster,” he pointed out, adding this collection would be marketed in Hong Kong, too.

Prashant Sarawgi, brand director, Episode, a company which specialises in silver jewellery said the company has seen consistent demand for silver jewellery over the last five years. “Compared to gold, silver offers returns to the tune of 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year. We expect the trend to continue in the future as well. With the prices of gold going beyond the reach of the common man, we expect the demand for silver to remain,” he said.

According to Sarawgi, silver products in India have not been marketed well and hence many do not know about the returns they offer. “A decent gift in gold would not come for less than Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. But you can get a decent silver artifact for Rs 5,000,” he said.

The Gitanjali group, which is one of the largest players in the organised jewellery market, had launched the Revv, a collection of jewellery made of alternate metals like stainless steel, tungsten and titanium, as far back as four years ago.

Hasmukh Bafna, president, Gold Chains & Jewellery Wholesalers Welfare Association, said those who buy jewellery made from alternative metal are basically impulsive buyers. “The percentage of consumers who opt for such jewellery is very less, say around one per cent. There is no resale value for such products,” he said.

‘Best of’ photo exhibition in Troy; emerging artists featured in Hudson

‘Best of’ photo exhibition in Troy; emerging artists featured in Hudson

While the annual Photo Regional may be the best barometer of what’s happening in the medium, the “Best of” exhibition series at the Photo Center of the Capital District in Troy, now in its second year, is becoming the gauge of emerging talent.

With 25 artists, “Best of 2009” is rough around the edges, but that’s its charm. The 52 frames jam the center’s cluttered space with a salon feel. It’s easy to miss the pictures lining the tight and winding hallway leading to a “Do Not Enter” sign on a back door.

Exposed pipes and some works hanging on an odd partition — wobbly as walls in an office cubicle — add to its casual, unfinished feel.

A majority of the frames are landscapes — many of the tried-and-true variety — yet nearly all exhibit a high level of technical execution. There are no real surprises, but some do push the medium. As last year, many artists have taken up photography recently; about one-fifth of the entries were unknown to organizers.

Like the Photo Regional, the “Best of” is organized through an open call. Submissions are whittled down to the best of a single artist. In a new twist, the works not making it to the walls are shown in a video compilation. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their three favorites in keeping with the center’s mission of developing new photographers.

In keeping with that spirit, here are my three selections:

“Hotel Movement” by Diane Reiner. A black-and-white geometric image that toggles between the ideas of existence and buildings, work and play, home and travel caught by a keen eye for the moment.

“Storm King at Dusk” by Lynn Palmiter. The Hudson River Valley has been the subject of some great art over the years, and this image adds a level of foreboding and mystery.

“Merging Earth and Sky” by Cheryle Gowie. Using a long exposure, the black-and-white image literally drags the sky to the tree tops, while its use of watercolor paper with various coatings frays the ends into jagged forms.

‘Emerging Artists 2010′

Most of the artists don’t have regular gallery representation; none went to a formal art school. They seem content to stay on the fringes of the art scene, breaking academic rules of color, form, material and composition with brooding, unabashed glee.

They are gathered in an exhibition called “Emerging Artists 2010” at the Limner Gallery in Hudson through March 27.

The pen/ink and digital image “DJ Change” by Gavin Weir has an Obama-esque figure spinning tunes at a decadent party with dollar bill-laden donkeys and elephants grinding and bumping on stripper poles. “Mary” by Tamara Staser-Meltzer is a caustic paper collage showing a deconstructed Jesus’ mother as anything but a virgin.

E. Thurston Belmer’s “A Red Home” takes the form of a homey and sedate 19th-century portrait, but startles with its pain and longing, while the highly graphic head shot on oil and canvas in “Obey” by Tim French conjures up fear and loathing in an autocratic society. There’s a rough quality of youth to the exhibition, and a wide variety of skill.