Monday, March 11, 2013

The Royal Butterfly Brooch

I stumbled across this Smithsonian Magazine blog post earlier this week regarding the Royal Butterfly Brooch by Cindy Chao, a Taiwanese jeweler. The brooch recently became the first piece by a Taiwanese artist to be included in the National Gem Collection. After reading about it, I couldn’t wait to visit the National History Museum to see the new addition.  The piece appeals to so many aspects of my personality, my love for Asian art, brooches, and my own Taiwanese heritage.  I thought it would be a great way to brighten an otherwise dull lunch hour.

The butterfly brooch seemed modest compared to some of the other pieces in the collection.  I was surprised to read that it weighed 77 carats and contained over 2,300 gems. I almost completely missed the four large diamonds that make up the flat panels of the butterfly’s wings.  A lot of other pieces in the collection were of course stunning to look at, but not something I could ever envision myself owning or wearing.  Many of them were originally owned by royalty and I'm sure were worn for extravagant, official ceremonies hundreds of years ago.  Even though Cindy Chao's pieces can range from $15,000 to $1 million, the brooch felt a little more relatable and less ostentatious.

I'm glad the Royal Butterfly Brooch is part of the National Gem Collection. The "wow" factor of 80 carat earrings is always fun, but it’s also nice to see more simple, classic beauty that people can envision wearing. I'm now an instant fan of Cindy Chao's work. Although, I'll probably never be able to afford one of her pieces, I hope to own something similar one day.

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