Black jewelers take center stage at groundbreaking exhibition

hen Lorraine West told her mother about a new exhibition celebrating the work of Black jewelers, she burst into tears over the phone.
West, a jeweler for more than 20 years, said she doesn't normally "get emotional" when it comes to her professional achievements, which include seeing celebrities like Beyoncé and Zendaya wearing her designs. But her inclusion in the groundbreaking show "made me cry," she recalled.
"I wasn't expecting it," she said over email. "I allowed myself to feel it and release the tears of joy and gratitude."
Known for elegant gold statement pieces that favor sophisticated settings over large stones, West said she was inspired to start designing after playing with her mother's jewelry as a child. Now, she is one of 21 Black jewelers showcasing and selling their work at "Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance."
The exhibition's curator, writer and jewelry expert Melanie Grant, said she believes this is the first time a major auction house has spotlighted "pioneering Black jewelry design."
Open this week at Sotheby's New York, the show features not only contemporary designers but overlooked African American jewelers dating back to the 1950s. Works by Winifred Mason, believed to be the first ever commercial African American jeweler in the United States, are showcased alongside those of her later apprentice Art Smith, a mid-century designer known for his modernist bronze works.

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