Barbara Berger Unveils Her Famed Costume Jewelry Collection at MAD

Monday, July 1, 2013

“It’s our first costume jewelry exhibition in our history and we hope that it is not our last,” said Museum of Arts and Design Chief Curator David McFadden at the opening party for their newest exhibit, Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger, which is on view through September 22nd.

The exhibit is sponsored by the storied American costume jewelry house Miriam Haskell, a brand that – much like Berger herself – pioneered the making of bold fashion statements through jewelry that rivaled couture designs.  Haskell COO Gabrielle Fialkoff welcomed editors, close friends and supporters like Robert Lee Morris, Candy Pratts Price, Freddie Leiba, Alexandra Lebenthal, and Liliana Cavendish for cocktails and an intimate viewing of the carefully curated collection (450 pieces from Berger’s 4,000 accumulation) that ranges from vintage Dior, Chanel, YSL, and Balenciaga to more contemporary pieces by Billy Boy and Dolce & Gabbana.  According to Berger, the exhibition was between 8 to 10 years in the making, and she praised MAD “for having the vision to say that ‘vintage is contemporary.'”

In honor of the exhibit, Miriam Haskell donated a vintage (circa 1950) gilded metal and pearl grape cluster necklace, the first piece of costume jewelry inducted into MAD’s permanent collections. “What a perfect confection that is,” mused Ms. Cavendish. “Every piece is more exquisite than the next.”

The daughter of a diamond merchant, one could say that Berger’s passion for jewelry began in the womb, even if her collection has always been more about whimsy than total carat weight.  Wearing a thick, statement cuff bracelet by Iradj Moini, she told AVENUEinsider that her collecting “career” began at 13, when she purchased a pair of Chanel earrings at a flea market in Paris. “I shared the cost and wearing rights with my best friend, Maxine.” An astute businesswoman, even then.

When pressed to name a favorite piece from the collection, Berger initially demurred – “each designer has a special vision” – but “if I had to choose, I’d probably choose the swan hatpins by Schiaparelli from the 1930s.”

For those unable to check out the exhibit, a companion coffee table book, courtesy of Assouline ( has also just been released.


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