Smithsonian Cup Returns to National Museum of Natural History After a Decade on Tour

Buccellati Chalice Back on Display for First Time Since 2001
July 18, 2014
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Smithsonian Cup

More than a decade after its initial display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Cup, crafted by Gianmaria Buccellati of the Italian jeweler, House of Buccellati, is now back on view in the museum’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. The Cup was originally dedicated to the Smithsonian in honor of the “Buccellati: Gold, Silver and Gems” exhibition, which opened at the museum in October 2000. Since then, it has been on loan to several institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2002, the Boca Raton Museum of Art in 2005 and at the Kremlin in Moscow from 2008 to 2009.

“Over the past 13 years, the Cup has served as a traveling ambassador for the Smithsonian,” said Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection. “We are delighted to have it home for a while and to be able to once again exhibit it here at the Natural History Museum.”

Known for using rare and intriguing stones, Buccellati chose a large, gray agate as the main adornment of the Cup. Agate, a fine-grained translucent quartz with a banded pattern, is not typically considered to be a precious stone. However, Buccellati’s gold work surrounding the agate adds a unique beauty to the intricately engraved chalice. The Smithsonian Cup’s main elements include yellow, white and rose gold, as well as hints of silver and 40 medallions in mother-of-pearl. The Cup was 24 years in the making as Buccellati contemplated how to create a chalice that harmonized the natural elements of the agate stone with the ornate decorations handcrafted by House of Buccellati goldsmiths. It is now considered to be a signature piece of the Smithsonian’s permanent collections.

“The Smithsonian Cup symbolizes the strong partnership between the Smithsonian and Buccellati, two organizations that celebrate and honor the beauty of the natural world,” said Alberto Milani, CEO of Buccellati Inc. “We are thrilled that the Cup is back on display for millions of visitors in the nation’s capital to admire and enjoy.”

In addition to currently being on view as part of the National Gem Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, the Cup was the focal point of an event held recently at the museum. Titled “Gifts from the Ocean,” the event showcased a number of Buccellati pieces that feature rare pearls. A noted piece that was on display was the Gran Dama brooch—one of Buccellati’s latest designs that centers around a Melo pearl, an extremely rare gem found in the waters of southeast Asia.

The event was also a celebration of the continuing relationship between Buccellati and the Smithsonian, which began with the dedication of the Cup and correlating exhibition in 2000. The “Buccellati: Gold, Silver and Gems” exhibition featured 75 one-of-a-kind pieces, including necklaces, bracelets, chalices and candlesticks, as well as the exhibition’s centerpiece, the Smithsonian Cup.


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