Joel Arthur Rosenthal may be the master jewelry artisan of our era, and yet you have probably never heard of him. Before you start feeling bad to have overlooked him, don’t bother: his mass obscurity is entirely by his own design. Which is not to say he’s wallowing in ignominy. Rather, Rosenthal’s name is perhaps the best kept secret of the world’s very rich and very famous.
A Contemporary Fabergé
Working under the moniker JAR, this mysterious Bronx-born recluse has been described as the modern-day Peter Fabergé by Diane Von Furstenberg. A Harvard grad, he got his start as an aspiring screenwriter, then dabbled in a number of other career options before landing–serendipitously–in the jewelry business.
Over the past 30 years, JAR’s renown artistry has given him unparalleled status among the celebrity set and industry elite. He keeps shop in Paris with no signage, display or operating hours, and the doors are open only to the upper echelons of high society: Elizabeth Taylor, Ann Getty, and Jo Carole Lauder are among the fashionable few who have been granted rare access. With workshops in Switzerland and France, JAR produces less than 80 one-of-a-kind pieces a year, most of which are custom designed with a particular person in mind, often according to his whim. And potential buyers beware: if JAR doesn’t think a piece suits you, he reserves the right not to sell it to you.
JAR is most lauded for his extraordinary work with pavé; he typically sets vibrant gemstones against his own custom dark metal alloy for striking contrast. And while fine jewelry often loses value when it changes hands, JAR’s museum-worthy work is so coveted that it can double in value when resold. Not that it happens very often, as a JAR piece of wearable art is generally considered one of its owner’s most prized possessions.