Few designers have managed to earn such acclaim while remaining as utterly elusive as Joel Arthur Rosenthal, otherwise known as JAR. His temperament and character are almost as infamous as his designs are famous. Loathing publicity, refusing interviews and notoriously picky when it comes to press
(it’s reported that he once poured a glass of water on the head of a reporter from the New York Times), JAR has built a brand which allows the stunning jewels to speak for themselves. His work has earned him the nickname: the Fabergé of our time.
The Beginning of JAR
Joel Arthur Rosenthal was born in New York in 1943, but his artistic journey truly began in Paris. After studying art history and philosophy at Harvard, he moved to the French capital in the late 60s. While living in Paris he worked many different jobs, first as a screenwriter, and then as a needle-stitcher. He was known for experimenting with yarn in atypical colours – an early sign of his artistic nonconformity. As a needle-stitcher, he had an impressive list of clientele including Valentino and Hermès. Drawn to unique colour combinations, the world of jewellery and gemstones quickly enticed Rosenthal. It began when he asked if he could attempt to set a diamond and it spiralled from there.
He worked briefly at Bulgari in New York and collaborated with Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery designer, Fulco di Verdura, before moving back to Paris. Here, he opened his eponymous studio at 7 Place Vendôme, where it remains to this day. It is nondescript, with no sign or shop window to hint at what lies behind its discreet black door. Only a select few have been invited in.
Over the years, JAR has cultivated a select group of clientele, including celebrities, royalty, and discerning collectors. His creations have adorned the likes of Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Caroline of Monaco. He is notably known for his extreme exclusivity, with many high-profile ‘would-be’ clients being turned away. As such, jewellery by JAR is very hard to come by and very rare. Understandably, once someone owns a piece it’s unlikely that they will want to part with it!
Each piece produced by JAR is meticulously handcrafted, often taking months if not years to make. As such, he only completes around 70-80 pieces a year. Therefore, one of the best ways of getting your hands on a piece created by JAR is via auction.
The JAR Style
JAR’s designs are a harmonious blend of traditional techniques and avant-garde creativity. He draws inspiration from nature, art, and his own vivid imagination. His pieces often feature intricate floral motifs, organic shapes and vibrant, unexpected colour combinations. He is an artist whose creations have transcended the world of fashion and have become timeless works of art. His commitment to excellence and his ability to transform gemstones into fantastic adornments have left an undeniable mark on the world of high jewellery. So respected in the jewellery community – he is the only living jeweller to have a retrospective dedicated to them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2013, the huge exhibition presented 400 of his pieces, many on loan from the private owners.
A stunning example of JAR’s craftsmanship. These delicate enamel pansy earrings are emblematic of JAR’s approach to jewellery and his habit of taking inspiration from the natural world. The pansy is instantly recognisable as JAR’s work. In 2002, to thank his clients for loaning their pieces for a large exhibition at Somerset House, JAR made each of them a pair of pansies in coloured aluminium.
Since then, the pansy has become an iconic symbol of JAR.