Unique Exhibit Of Czech Garnets In The U.S.A.
For both National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, IA, U.S.A. [with acronym NCSML] and National Museum, Prague in Czech Republic [with acronym NMCZ], it was really a very happy event when NMCZ was for the first time in its recent history ready to send the exquisite collection of its artistic and industrial works of the garnet jewelery abroad. The selected country was the U.S.A. It was only natural that the arrangement for such a display of the collection of Czech garnet jewels (including rings,necklaces, tiaras, earrings, &c.) was preceded by many months? negotiations between both afore-mentioned organizations. It was agreed upon that the whole exhibition from Prague would be carried out on the basis of a temporary lending contract. Prior to the despatching of the consignment from Prague, NMCZ completed in Prague all the individual exhibits from different parts of Czech Lands. As soon as all the pertaining transport needs were solved, and upon arrival of the consignment in the USA, it was possible to arrange for the lay-out of the exhibits rooms of NCSML and subsequently, ponder over the opening of the exhibition. It was started on March 3rd, and it was open to visitors until September 25th, 2005. Indeed, the opening exbihition was really very festive. That is to say, it was preceeded by introductory speeches of leading persons of both museums. Thereafter followed a reception, in which 225 persons participated. The prevailing number of all the approximately 300 exhibits was created by a collection of artistic and industrial works of Czech garnets.. In addition to the already extensive NMCZ collection of exhibits from Prague, the NCSML enriched their display by borrowing further garnet jewels, on lending basis, locally in the area of Cedar Rapids, IA.
As for the historical origin, appreciation and cataloguing of the Czech garnets from Prague, the NMCZ catalogue was authored by Dr. Dana Stehlikova. She made a very thorough scientific reserach in that regard. It involved the era of the 12th.-13th century up to the sixties of the 20th century Besides the very interesting text of that catalogue, one can also see that it was completed by beautifully colored pictures of many garnet jewels. Also, you can find there three portraits of persons, who were historically participating in spreading the glory of the Czech garnets in their surroudings. At the conclusion of this catalogue, you can find several pages of very detailed description of the individual jewels..
Because of the very interesting features and descriptions of the artistic and industrial works with garnets of this catalogue, we are herewith taking the liberty of quoting several excerpts from its text: "The "Bohemian garnet" is a technical term and concept, and was designated as "pyrop" (derived from Greek words: pyr=fire, and ops= eye) These types were further classed together with other red-hued precious stones Under the Latin term, it was described as "Carbunculus" (=burning charcoal), also called karbunkul or karbunkl, in Czech Zrnakoc. The Bohemian garnet is one of he largest group of garnets of which about sixteen varieties of garnets are known. In the early modern times, the methods of garnet prospecting, mining and processing were steadily improving. The techniques and mastery of gem-cutters and engravers were also improved and took place in cutting mills. The Bohemian garnets served additionally as decoration of large vessels, tabernacles and clocks. There existed a prevailing liking of precious stones, imported from overseas. The garnets? small size was compensated for by their mounting in flat silver filigree. A favorite complement on the occasion of creating of these jewels were very often" small river pearls. Boheman garnet-cutters and their products arrived in Bohemia from the centers of the gem-cutting craft in Germany, notably from the area of Baden and Nurmberg. The Turnov and other cutters expanded to perfection the colored-glass gemstone imitations. During the second half of the 18. century, the gem-cutting began to come gradually back to Bohemia. This trend was encouraged by the protective measures decreed by Empress Maria Theresa nad her son Joseph II. These orders banned the exporting of the garnet material from the country and protected domestic enterprises. As a result, domestic mining companies and grinding plants were created, especially in the region of Litomerice, at the foothills of Krkonose Mountains and the town od Svetla nad Sazavou. Thus,the expansion was developed the expansion of the gem-cutting cottage industry in rural areas. At the end of the 18th .century, one can notice the first boom of the garnet-processing industry, resulting in rising demand and a prospering foreign trade with Germany, France and Italy. Often, multiple strands of garnet beads and bracelets were worn on both hands. Particularly the bracelets were believed to help blood circulation and cleansing of the blood. A large assortment of products was a condition of a successful business. Old samples were maintained on the market even for such a long time as a half century. It is certainly interesting to learn that garnet jewels were allegedly the subject of love and passion. Even healing effects were attributed to them.?
This outstanding exhibition was visited in total by about 12,840 persons. In its conclusion, two "Garnet Tea Parties", were arranged, one on Saturday, Sept.24 and another on Sunday Sept. 25. On such occasion, there were 168 participants Besides, on Sunday, Sept.25, all docents were offered to see once more the exhibition for the last time. Within a period of subsequent 5 days, all the exhibits were packed and sent back to Prague.
In conclusion, it may be stated that this unique exhibition was a real success and it caused a keen interest in many visitors, particularly women. Even after the closing of the exhibition, some additional belated visitors were eager to see the exhibit, However, it was unfortunately too late. Nevertheless, they can at least buy in the NCSML Gift Shop a copy of the CMCZ catalogue in English, so that they can create for themselves an idea of the exhibits, which were so wonderful to admire.Charles J. Opatrný
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