Barbara Berger is one of those rare people who lend a radiant, joyful, and generous sparkle to life. Her life has been characterized by her destiny to work in jewelry: “my grandfather, father, son, and two of my husbands all work with precious stones.” Iris Apfel, her “twin sister,” is a constant inspiration. Thanks to her all-consuming passion for jewelry, she has amassed the largest collection of fashion jewelry in the world with more than four thousand pieces, many of which feature Swarovski crystals. “Jewelry is very important for a woman because it expresses her style, personality, and emotions. She can be transformed from sad to happy just through her choice of colors and accessories,” Barbara explains passionately.
Barbara’s jewelry tells a story, and the collection she has put together over the past twenty years has been the subject of a number of international exhibitions. The latest is currently at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York and runs until January 20, 2014, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening. The way in which the pieces are presented takes us on a journey through different decades, styles, and work by master jewelers. I absolutely loved the diversity of the different fashion brooches, the link between fashion and accessories – Christian Dior jewelry sets from the 1960s alongside pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Pucci, and Paco Rabanne – sculpted jewelry by Line Vautrin, Guy Vadimon’s encrusted pompom pendants that are so “Great Gatsby,” and designs by Robert Sorrell.
Here in lies Barbara’s gift – she has the wonderful ability to bring an eclectic range of different pieces together, including work from today’s new generation of designers, such as Heaven Tanudiredja. Her exhibitions and latest book (published by Assouline) are, for jewelry enthusiasts and designers alike, a unique opportunity to understand the techniques, marriage of colors, and, more generally, the richness of design in fashion jewelry. For Barbara, precious stones are like “the sparkle of fireworks” and, through her husband and master jeweler Maurizio Berger, she has been able to “realize her dreams.”