The Newark Museum is a quiet, peaceful oasis in New Jersey’s largest city. Newark, “The Brick City,” is known for its sand, ports, a very large and busy international airport, as well as having a prosperous manufacturing history that includes leather and the invention of patent leather. At one time, Newark was the center of fine jewelry manufacturing, similar to Providence, Rhode Island, where costume jewelry making was the livelihood of many families.

In the middle of the city stands a stately brick building with a 19th century mansion, The Ballantine House, as its next-door neighbor. Originally a residence, Ballantine House is part of the Newark Museum and offers a glimpse into late 19th century daily life in a well-to-do household.

Housed alongside intricate marble statues, stunning American paintings, beautifully crafted American furniture, a scientific wing, and a Tibetan-Asian collection so extraordinary that even the Dalai Lama visited to see it, the museum’s main building houses a collection of jewelry and other intricate handwork spanning 500 years. Being a veteran of the jewelry industry, my visit to the museum was with a view to seeing the jewelry. My intentions were well rewarded with many beautiful pieces on display. A Spanish cross, circa 1650, made of gold and amethysts with an intricate lace border, captures a time of grandeur and sacred ornamentation. The Great Barbarian’s Trapeze, a fibula brooch made by William Harper in 1998, is a pure fantasy of gold, enamel, pearls, tourmaline, fire opal, topaz and chalcedony. With this brooch standing nearly 10 inches tall, a museum visitor could easily be alone with this piece for a while and enjoy the unusual design and exquisite workmanship.

An 1875 replica of an Etruscan-style necklace and earrings from Rome are mementos of the time; the apparatus had been purchased for a friend, the daughter of Thomas Edison, in the mid-1870s. Many Kremmentz pieces are also on display, fittingly, since the Kremmentz Company was founded in Newark.

The carefully curated and wide-ranging jewelry on display in the museums helps tell the story of fine jewelry making in Newark and around the world and is well worth a visit.