On a recent trip to the sprawling city of Los Angeles, I was reminded of how much culture thrives in this West Coast metropolis. Along the busy streets, banners announced a special exhibit at the Getty Villa Museum, Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World. As Archeo is filled with hand-knotted Persian Gabbeh rugs, I knew this exhibit was one I had to see. What I didn’t realize is how connected this history is to our incredible collection of Philippe Spencer fine jewelry. I grabbed my son, who recently relocated to L.A., and set off to make a day of it.
We brushed up on our history as we immersed ourselves in each exquisitely curated room. Ancient Iran, historically known as Persia, was the dominant nation of Western Asia for over twelve centuries, with three main successive dynasties- the Achaemenid, the Parthian, and the Sasanian––controlling an empire of unprecedented size and complexity until the Arab conquest in 651 CE.
This exhibition highlighted a collection of vessels, weapons, sculpture and jewelry that conveyed the wealth, power, and interconnectedness of ancient Iran, Greece, and Rome. These superpowers each constructed their own iconography which influenced that of their rivals.
My favorite part of the exhibit were the beautifully engraved gemstone rings. Images were cut into the surface of chalcedony, amethyst, and agate gems all set in pure gold mounts. These served as a form of personal identification when pressed into wet clay. Prized for their rarity, brilliance, and craftsmanship, they were an important marker of status. I was struck by how Archeo’s new collection of fine jewelry by master goldsmiths Philippe Spencer carries on the ancient technique of hand-forging gold. Each exquisite ring in our collection has been made using the same, time-honored methods that date back 4000 years, when each piece of jewelry was an original work of art. The artistry and craftsmanship follow a direct lineage from these ancient civilizations.
I see the Philippe Spencer pieces a little differently now, with a new understanding. A deeper appreciation for that which surrounds us: isn’t this always the goal of travel?