by Brian Lipton

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To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a cuff link is just a cuff link. And sometimes a cuff link is a true work of art. To see the difference, head to LOOT: MAD About Jewelry, the Museum of Arts and Design’s annual exhibition and sale featuring designs from more than 40 international jewelry artists, which will take place from April 12 through 16 (with a special gala opening on the evening of April 11).

This year’s exhibition is perhaps the most exciting MAD has ever put together, says curator Bryna Pomp. “This year, we have artists from 17 countries represented, who are working with everything from concrete to sheep’s wool to papier mache. One of my main objectives is to select a great breadth of materials for each show. And, even better, I think this show has more jewelry for men than we’ve ever had before.”

Creating the show is a labor of love for Pomp, but it is definitely labor. “I look at the work of over 5,000 artists every year through a combination of meetings and portfolios,” says Pomp. “Fortunately, I can see a portfolio on screen and I know what any given piece will feel like, smell like, etc. In six years of inviting people, I have never had something turn out to be what I didn’t expect.”

While only 11 of the participating artists are doing men’s accessories, Pomp is thrilled with this year’s selection, which focuses heavily on lapel pins and cuff links. And if asking her to choose favorites is akin to selecting a favorite child, she is willing to point out a few of her must-sees.

“I found these fabulous lapel pins from Atelier Paulin at Colette in Paris when they did a trunk show there last fall and I got in touch with them immediately,” she says. “They use silver and gold to create words in any language, and in addition to the pins, they can even do a bracelet in any wrist size. Like all our artists, they will be there, but the difference is they will be fabricating the jewelry on the spot, which is the first time we’ve done this.”

Pomp also loves the glass pins of Jed Green, with their subtle curvilinear lines; the semi-spherical pieces of Jo Hawley; the cuff links of Gian Luca Bartellone, which uses semi-precious stones; and the jewelry of Jennifer Merchant, which utilizes imagery from Op Art.

“We have pieces for people of all ages, and at all prices, and it makes a very special purchase when you get the meet the artist,” she says. But even if you don’t buy, LOOT proves “seeing is believing” if you have any doubt about the incredible creativity in the artisanal jewelry world.