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Contemporary Interest in Gems and Jewelry

Yet what makes a stone a jewel, and why are some more valuable than others? How has the course of history been shaped by our insatiable desire for them?

Join Aja Raden, author of the New York Times best-selling book Stoned, for a stimulating conversation with Executive Director Kate Markert about contemporary interest in jewelry and gemstones and an exploration of topics such as why pearls were once worth more than diamonds, why diamonds are now the engagement stone of choice, and why green stones such as emeralds remain so precious. 

Event Timeline

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Self-guided touring of the mansion and Spectacular
6-6:30 p.m.: Members-only wine-and-cheese reception. Join today!
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Lecture
7:30 p.m.: Book signing. Stoned and Smithsonian Gems are available in the museum shop.


About the Speakers

Aja Raden studied ancient history and physics at the University of Chicago and, during that time, worked as the Head of Auction Division at the famed House of Kahn. For over seven years, she worked as the senior designer for Los Angeles-based fine jewelry company Tacori.

Raden is an experienced jeweler, trained scientist, and well-read historian, and her expertise sits at the intersection of academic history, industry experience, and scientific perspective.

She lives in Beverly Hills, California, and is the author of the New York Times bestseller Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kate Markert is Executive Director of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, where as the result of a strategic planning process, a special exhibition program and revitalized gardens has spurred a 50 percent increase in attendance over 5 years and tripling of the membership. She has been Director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut, Associate Director of the Walters Art Museum and Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Kate is co-author of The Manual of Strategic Planning for Museums, first published in 2007, as well as the revised and expanded edition, The Manual of Strategic Planning for Cultural Institutions, which will be published this spring. Kate holds a Master of Arts in Art History and a Master of Business Administration. Kate is on the Visiting Committee of Longwood Gardens and is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and Directors of Large Gardens.


About the Spectacular Lecture Series

Join us and explore centuries of appreciation of gems and jewelry in this fascinating four-part series. Learn about how they captivated diverse cultures through history and continue to enthrall contemporary audiences. Gain insights of what makes a stone great, revel in the glamour of jewelry design in the 1930s and 40s, and immerse yourself in the Merriweather Post collection, arguably one of the most impressive jewelry ensembles of the twentieth century.

Spectacular Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection was conceived of and organized by Hillwood’s chief curator and director of collections, Liana Paredes, who also wrote the publication of the same name. Liana passed away at her home on March 16, 2017. 

Thursday, October 5: Spectacular: The Merriweather Post Collection of Gems and Jewelry by Kate Markert

Thursday, October 12: Smithsonian Gems by Jeffrey Post

Thursday, October 19: Hollywood Glamour: Jewelry from the Silver Screen by Emily Stohrer

Thursday, October 26: Contemporary Interest in Gems and Jewelry, a conversation with Aja Raden and Kate Markert