By  on April 20, 2009

This is going to be a week of firsts for New York’s National Jewelry Institute. On Friday, the nonprofit organization, which focuses on the research and preservation of fine jewelry, will open its first watch exhibition on “Time and the Jeweler’s Art,” at The Forbes Galleries. “Our whole thing has been masterpieces of American, French or ancient jewelry,” says Judith Price, founder and president of the NJI, “and we wanted to do that with watches, while keeping the theme of jewelry [as a] decorative art.” The show runs through June 27, and will feature 40 contemporary timepieces from companies such as Harry Winston, Timex, Vincent Bérard and Patek Philippe. Highlights include Van Cleef & Arpels’ diamond, mother-of-pearl and platinum “Snowflake” design and Piaget’s satin, diamond and 18-karat white gold “Puzzle” watch with movable parts on the dial. But there’s more to this exhibit than shedding a curatorial light on timepieces; it also marks the city’s inaugural “Sparkle Week,” another NJI initiative, which starts today. Think of it as Restaurant Week for the jewelry industry, complete with an official proclamation by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Roughly 70 retailers will be participating. Perks range from in-store bubbly (Leviev) to discounts (30 percent off at Michael C. Fina and Robert Lee Morris) to free gifts with purchases (Jennifer Miller). William Barthman Jewelers in downtown Manhattan, meanwhile, is raffling off a pair of Yankees tickets. “We’re in tough times,” says Price. “The idea was to get people in the stores.” In fact, the current economic climate factored into the decision to hold a watch-oriented exhibit. “When we were working with the city, we felt it would be better if we didn’t do anything on really high-end jewelry,” Price explains. “Watches were somewhat more democratic.” The NJI has canceled its second exhibition of the year, usually held in the fall. Instead, the organization plans to sponsor a showcase for jewelers presenting during Paris Fashion Week. “Anyone who stays at the five luxury hotels — Le Meurice, the Ritz, Le Bristol, the Plaza Athénée and the Four Seasons George V — will be invited. We hope to attract new potential clients for the designers,” says Price, adding that Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune will be honored then, as well. As for the NJI’s April 2010 presentation, Price says it will be a major one for the seven-year-old group. Dubbed “Notorious and Notable: Fashionable Women of the Twentieth Century,” the show will run for three months. “We’ll have the costumes and jewelry of Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Mary Rockefeller, Louise Nevelson, Lauren Bacall, Helena Rubinstein, Anita Loos, Mrs. Claus von Bülow and others,” says Price. “People want to look at what made these women fashionable.”

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