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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston showcases jewelry, metalwork in new exhibit

Museum of Fine Arts Curator Emily Stoehrer, pictured in a 2014 file photo. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

The Museum of Fine Arts is putting on the glitz.

Its latest exhibit, “Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork” will showcase over 70 objects, from gem-packed rings and necklaces to intricate metalwork and design drawings in the museum’s Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery. The exhibit runs through March 29, 2020. 

Emily Stoehrer, the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan curator of jewelry and one of three curators organizing the exhibit, said that the initial idea for the collection was inspired by the museum’s 2014 acquisition of Frank Gardner Hale’s design drawings.  Hale’s drawings, as well as some of the artist’s jewelry and metalwork, will be on display along with that of 13 other artists, many of them women and all once based in Boston.


A gold, green garnet, sapphire and opal necklace by Frank Gardner Hale, displayed in "Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork" at the Museum of Fine Arts.The Susan Donald Collection / Photograph Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Stoehrer said the curators wanted to highlight both the new acquisition and the museum’s collection of arts and crafts jewelry and metalwork. Early 20th-century Boston was a hotbed for the arts and crafts movement.

“[I]t also coincides with this larger collaborative called Mass Fashion, where all of these museums and art organizations are getting together this year to highlight fashion as made and worn in Boston,” Stoehrer said. 

The curator drew attention to the works of Josephine  Hartwell Shaw on display, including one necklace of jade, glass and gold. 

A gold, jade, and colored glass necklace by Josephine Hartwell Shaw, displayed in "Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork" at the Museum of Fine Arts.Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Mrs. Atherton Loring. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“It says something, I think, about the way that jewelry and fashion were working together,” Stoehrer said of the necklace. “She was actually the first female jeweler to be added to the MFA's collection in the early 20th century, so it's exciting to be able to pull those pieces out of storage and to be able to show them all together.”

Ultimately, Stoehrer said that part of the significance of the exhibit lies in the location, as the artists trained and worked in Boston. Some of the pieces haven’t been shown to the public in generations.


“We really hope the visitors are going to leave thinking, ‘Who knew?’” Stoehrer said.

Kaya Williams can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Kaya_Noelle.