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Royal Butterfly Brooch Joins Gem Collection at the Smithsonian

Cindy Chao's masterpiece brooch goes on display March 6.
Feb 15, 2013 2:34 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Cindy Chao's Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Brooch that was created in 2009 has been added to the National Museum of Natural History's famous gem collection. The brooch will be the first Taiwanese-designed piece in the collection. It was donated by the artist and will be on display beginning March 6 at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals.

The Royal Butterfly was designed with  2,328 gems with a total carat weight of 77, set with fancy-colored and color-changing sapphires and diamonds, rubies and tsavorite garnets. The centerpieces of the butterfly's wings are four large-faceted diamond slices stacked atop a pave layer of faceted diamonds, creating a pattern resembling the microstructure and scale of a living butterfly's wings. butterfly brooch

The brooch also evokes a surreal quality when viewed under ultraviolet light as it glows in the dark, the museum found. Many of the gemstones used fluoresce to emit visible light so under ultraviolet light, the Royal Butterfly comes to life with a new round of dazzling neon colors and sparkle.

It is not possible for the museum to display the brooch's alternative beauty in darkness; however, images of the Royal Butterfly under ultraviolet light will be featured on the museum's website.

"The awe-inspiring array of colorful and glistening gems and Cindy Chao's masterful design combine to create a whimsically beautiful jeweled butterfly that we are delighted has fluttered from Taiwan into our National Gem Collection," said Jeff Post, the curator of the museum's gems and minerals collection. "It is a wonderful gift that I am sure will be immensely popular with our visitors."

Chao is known for her ability to create wearable works of art that are coveted across the globe. She founded Cindy Chao The Art Jewel in 2004. And in 2007, she became the first Taiwanese jewelry artist to take part in the Christie's New York fine jewelry auction.

Chao said, "I believe that a piece of jewelry can reflect the history of an era and being included in a leading institution like the Smithsonian is a dream for any artist. It is humbling to know that millions of visitors will be able to see the Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Brooch and be exposed to my jewelry craftsmanship."

The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals is located on the second floor of the museum and remains one of the museum's most popular exhibition halls.

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Tags: brooch, collection, gem, Jeff Miller, royal butterfly, smithsonian
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