Lizzadro Museum exhibits 'showy' Smithsonian jewelry

ELMHURST – They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but Dorothy Asher took explicit care to look for other gem stones when cultivating the Lizzadro Museum’s current “Modern Designer Jewelry from the Smithsonian” exhibit.

“I looked for things that were showy,” Asher said.

She avoided the “big four” as she called them, namely diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires in general. Instead, she looked for large pieces with colorful gems through more than 100 works available from the Smithsonian Gem Collection.

“The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, so we are able to work closely with the curators,” Asher said.

After about six months, she’d assembled a collection of 11 designer pieces that focused on American gem stones. A few diamonds and emeralds made their way into the exhibit next to an oversized turquoise Najavo bracelet and a pearl ring.

“There’s a big departure from just the jewelry store jewelry,” Asher said.

While she appreciates the beauty of jewelry sold in most stores, she really liked the uniqueness of many of the items she handpicked. One of her favorites is the award-winning “South Sea Glow,” designed by Adam Neeley. Three golden South Sea cultured pearls and two white Akoya cultured pearls are set in hand-fabricated Elektra Gold, transitioning from 24-karat yellow gold to white gold.

Asher explained not only are the pieces beautiful, but they show a wide variety. Another of her favorites is an emerald designed by Julius Cohen around 1965.

“If you didn’t know any better, you would say that necklace could be designed and worn today,” Asher said.

Geologist Sara Kurth’s favorite piece is called “Nautilus” and resembles the spiral shape of a sea shell.

“It just shows you what else can be done with stone,” Kurth said.

Raised in Glen Ellyn, Kurth remembers visiting the museum as a child. In fifth grade, she decided to be a scientist, but it wasn’t until college that she found her passion for geology.

“I think it’s modern,” Kurth said about the jewelry exhibit in comparison to some of the other museum works.

Grandaughter of the museum’s executive director, Asher grew up surrounded by stones. Her grandfather John Lizzadro, an avid lapidary hobbyist and collector, opened the museum in 1972.

Today, Asher and Lizzadro are the most involved family members, and while Asher had an interest in lapidary art from a young age, she didn’t start out as the museum director she is today.

“I’m here because I love the creativity and the job,” said Asher, a gemologist.

“I hope that people in Elmhurst take advantage of the cultural institution we have here,” Asher added. “It’s right in their backyard.”