Barbara Witt’s uniquely wonderful jewels as little “missionaries of art” in the great worlds of fashion, design and society capture the imagination of all beholders. They are beguiling, bewitching, always intriguing and most often downright beautiful. To those believers in high style who have said “yes!” to accessories, they are magical.

     The phrase that defined jewels as “missionaries of art” was coined by no less a personage than Louis Comfort Tiffany, our greatest of all American decorative artists who was better positioned than any of his contemporaries to understand the connection between jewelry and art in all its nuances. The magnificent jewels that he created in the first decades of the twentieth century for Tiffany & Co. shine brightly in the history of art jewelry… It was Louis Comfort Tiffany who, with all the greatest gemstones in the world at his disposal, looked only at the intrinsic beauty of the materials used in his designs and not at their value… Barbara Witt is his direct descendant not only in her love of materials for their intrinsic beauty alone but in her profound knowledge of the riches to be found in the long history of jewelry design. Witt’s grasp of the beauties and the intricacies to be discovered in the dense and wonderous fabric of design history is prodigious as she knots and reweaves and reconfigures that fabric into stunning, new and seductive necklaces incorporating antique beads of every variety along with amulets, icons, votives, hair ornaments, pendants, stations and other assorted wonders of forgotten purpose. If Louis Comfort Tiffany was captivated by the fabric of history and ably orchestrated all he found there, Barbara Witt captures the essence of that fabric and brings it to back to a life of passionate adventure and beauty…

    My introduction to Barbara Witt’s art came many years ago at the apartment of the late “Empress of American Fashion” Eleanor Lambert who was seldom seen without a Barbara Witt necklace adorning one of the simple, solid pastel-color, tunic-topped pants suits she favored. Eleanor Lambert was no more a stranger to fashion jewelry and its creators than she was to fashion itself…

  Barbara asked me one afternoon at Eleanor’s to help her choose colors to delight Eleanor in a new necklace she was fashioning from an antique Chinese 24-karat gold hair ornament, a gift to Eleanor from her old friend Madame Chiang Kai-shek. She didn’t need my help. Her choice of handsome pastel colors gleaned from our hostess’s wardrobe was stunning. She is not only a master of jewelry design and master of her craft but a master of color.

    Barbara Witt’s necklaces are not only “missionaries of art,”  they are themselves splendid works of art.


-John Loring 

Design Director emeritus, Tiffany & Co.

Excerpts from the forward to Adornment
by John Loring

Design Director emeritus, Tiffany & Co.

An author, curator and frequent lecturer, Lois Sherr Dubin,

wrote The History of Beads:  From 100,000 B.C. to the Present (Abrams, 2009) the latest edition of the original classic study on the subject.  She has also authored North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment (Abrams, 1999), Jesse Monongya:  Opal Bears, and Lapis Skies (Hudson Hills Press, 2002), Arctic Transformations: The Jewelry of Denise and Samuel Wallace (Easton Studio Press, 2005) and was a contributing editor for Totems to Turquoise:  Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest, (Abrams, in association with the American Museum of Natural History, 2004). 

 

Ms. Dubin has curated exhibitions including Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest  at the American Museum of Natural History; Arrows of the Spirit:  North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego and The Beaded Universe at the Mingei and the American Craft Museum.  She was a Commissioner, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. and sits on the Board of the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center, Smithsonian Institution.  Ms. Dubin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in landscape architecture.

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