Stan Hywet Hall ranks among the top 10 historic houses in the U.S. in usable footage (65,000 square feet). Add the Gardens to its name and you've got a gigantic estate that was built 1912-1915 by F. A. Seiberling, founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. It was given by the family to the City of Akron and is being maintained as a local museum and historic site.
All that former opulence speaks of big money and a luxurious life, as the current exhibit of period jewelry in the famed house's Music room so shiningly shows.
Lady of the manor Gertrude Seiberling — like rich women of her time — collected lots of fine and fashionable jewelry. Curator Jennifer Ferone worked with jewelry historian and expert Elyse Zorn Karlin, publisher of "Adornment, The Magazine of Jewelry and Related Arts," to gather pieces of Seiberling family jewels and others like those seen in photographs of Mrs. Seiberling.
The result is a fine and highly interesting (and historical) exhibit called "Finer Things: Jewelry and Accessories from the 1880s-1930s." More than 150 items are shown in flat cases organized by time period from the Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts style, through the Art Deco period.
Each piece tells of the development of the art of jewelry making. A Victorian hair comb not only speaks to female hair fashion, but also of the discovery of gold and precious stones in the U.S. and Australia.
An ornate belt buckle from the Art Nouveau Style goes right to the rage for sinuous lines and the depiction of flowers done in enamel.
Another work underscores the Art Deco Period's fondness for less precious materials, like jadeite in a cluster clip.
Added interest in this era comes from collector Robin Deutsch and her sizable amount of Art Deco works. Her highly researched pieces illustrate the flair for the use of artistically fashioned costume jewelry of the period — like sapphires paired with paste and sterling to make a brooch.
Aside from individual pieces, there are some extremely interesting family items. In particular, F. A. Seiberling was a Lincoln groupie of sorts. To that end, a friend gave him a small locket that has a photograph of Seiberling's wife on the left hand side and snips of hair from the head of Abraham Lincoln on the night he was shot. What a present.
Visitors can see the exhibit as part of a guided tour of the hall and grounds, but only briefly. They may return at the end and linger over the exhibit or do a self-guided tour and head straight for this particular collection.
"Finer Things:Jewelry and Accessories from the 1880s-1930s," at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path, Akron; 330-836-5533; www.stanhywet.org. Through October 7, Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. $14 (self-guided tour)-$19 (guided tour).