Jane Mitchell & Jeffery Bland — Gem Collectors
Jane Mitchell was a successful focused career woman who found an interest and a passion for gems. She had been to Idar-Oberstein, Germany but first heard about its "hidden" gem industry while studying to become a gemologist through the Gemological Institute of America’s program. Mitchell had read about this European cutting center and heard about the revolutionary cutting style of Bernd Munsteiner. While on a business trip to Zurich, she found a lovely jewelry store and asked where she might find pieces like the ones she was admiring. She was then given a recommendation to visit the Henn’s gallery.
When she arrived, she realized she had found the treasure she had been hunting for. The incredible carvings and gemstones, the types of pieces she was looking for and had read about, were there on display. This was the first time for her to see works by Bernd Munsteiner, a friend and business associate of the Henns. It just so happens that during this first meeting with Jürgen Henn, she was visiting on the day that the deal for the Dom Pedro crystal was being handled by Jürgen’s son, Axel, in Brazil. She new something "big" was happening, something "magical," as Henn excused himself several times to take important calls from his son. Over the next several years, Mitchell had reason to contact the Henns repeatedly, each time she’d inquire about the "crystal." She found out that Bernd Munsteiner was cutting this important aquamarine and thought it was a very nice marriage, "a known talent applied to a fantastic material to create something unique for all to enjoy."
Jane Mitchell and Bernd Munsteiner at the Henn Gallery with the completed Dom Pedro. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.
After the Dom Pedro was complete, it traveled to gem shows and museum exhibits and was showcased by the German government as an ambassadorial piece to display the craftsmanship and workmanship of the talent from Idar-Oberstein. When the Dom Pedro was in the United States, Mitchell wanted to introduce more Americans to this well kept secret of this gem industry that not many people knew about and thought it would be fascinating to plan an event. In 1996, Mitchell organized an exhibit in Palm Beach, FL where the Dom Pedro was on display "outside of a case." Dom Pedro continued its journey being exhibited in museums around the world, from Dubai to Hong Kong, until finally the aquamarine was in jeopardy. The consortium was breaking up and the Brazilian owner wanted to sell the piece or have it cut into gemstones to be sold commercially. When Mitchell heard this news she thought what a terrible end to such an amazing piece. She agreed with Jürgen Henn’s philosophy that "what Mother Nature makes large and beautiful, man should not make small." Mitchell admired Henn for his belief that nature creates some of the most perfect material that exists on earth and his desire to save these large pieces because of their rarity. Mitchell and her husband, Jeffery Bland, felt that this was an opportunity to make a difference and decided to save the Dom Pedro. This was their role.
After the deal was done in 1999, the Dom Pedro went to Germany and then to several museums including Houston and Paris. Mitchell said it was interesting to see the reactions from people viewing it in different museums. "It has such a beauty – the color is so beautiful – it’s immediately appealing – it strikes awe in people to think that it came out of the earth." This convinced Mitchell and Bland that it should be in a museum, not a private collection. "Let people enjoy it – how would they ever see such a spectacular work of nature unless it’s on display. If it’s in the ground, no one knows it exists. If it’s in a bank vault safely, nobody sees it. If it’s in a private collection, not many know it exists." Much consideration and discussion ensued as to where the Dom Pedro should call its "home."
"I admire the dedication to this kind of art and beauty, and I hope the world will support this kind of work on in to the future."
Mitchell and Bland met with Dr. Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, to discuss the possibility of donating the Dom Pedro to the Nation. Mitchell believes that "it took all of the different aspects to come together for something larger to occur: it took the material or natural crystal, it took Jürgen Henn to have the vision to save it, it took a risk to transport it back to Idar-Oberstein, and it took a risk for Bernd Munsteiner to cut it. Many people used their talents and abilities, their vision, to achieve it. It’s been interesting to be a part of the life of the gem."
Mitchell and Bland took their time visiting many museums and determining that the Dom Pedro should be on display rather than in a personal collection. Everyone involved thought it was the right decision and were thrilled that the museum would be the Smithsonian. Mitchell has said, "I can’t think of any other scenario that could have provided this end result." Now Dom Pedro had found its home and the end of its journey. Mitchell’s hope is that young and old alike will stand in front of the Dom Pedro and be struck with awe and dazzled by its beauty and brilliance. She wants people to take a moment to reflect on nature and think about beauty. "This type of gem art is passed down from generation to generation. It is being lost to the world. I admire the dedication to this kind of art and beauty, and I hope the world will support this kind of work on in to the future." The Dom Pedro aquamarine is something very special – it is a gemstone – it is art – it is an amazing example of a new kind of work.
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