Joel Arthur Rosenthal who prefers to be known by his initials JAR, is a reclusive contemporary American/French Jewelry designer, born in Bronx, New York City in 1943, the only child of a Bronx postal worker and a Biology teacher in public high school. He grew up in an area in Bronx called Parkchester and spent his summers with his parents at the Castle Hill Beach Club in East Bronx. During his young years he spent a lot of time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the American Museum of Natural History, spending a lot of time at the Metals and Minerals Galleries.
Initially, he went to the High School of Museum & Art in New York, with the intention of becoming a professional painter. Later, he attended City College where he spent a semester studying linguistics. His interest in languages subsequently help him to attain proficiency in languages such as French, Italian, and Yiddish apart from English. He gained admission to Harvard in 1964, majoring in Art History and Philosophy, accelerating his program and finishing in two years instead of three.
Soon after graduating he moved immediately to Paris, where he believed he could advance his artistic talents. He began by writing English and French movie scripts. He then met Pierre Jeannet, a Swiss Psychiatrist who became his friend and permanent business associate. Together they opened a Needlepoint Store in Paris, where JAR painted the designs for the tapestries and experimented with unusually colored yarn. There clientele included designers from Hermes and Valentino. JAR having always had a fascination for jewelry, then took up an appointment with Bulgari New York as a salesman for a short period. In 1977, he returned to Paris, where he was asked if he could design a mount for a gemstone. As destiny would have it, this assignment sent his career in a new and final direction, that eventually elevated him to the most popular and much sought-after contemporary jewelry designer in the world.
JAR began experimenting with jewelry, designing pieces using inexpensive stones like coral, moonstone and semi-precious stones in assorted colors, such as red, violet, pink, and green. In 1978, JAR and Pierre Jeannet, opened a jewelry business on Place Vendôme in Paris. His designs quickly became famous not only for its vibrant colors but also organic shapes, such as flowers, butterflies, or animals. He used a dark metal alloy for his settings to highlight the gems color. He used pavé setting for his pieces, setting small stones closer together, making the settings virtually invisible and forming a pavement/carpet of tiny colored gemstones, with a gradation of color from the subtle to the vivid.
Apart from His partner Pierre Jeannet, JAR works only with four assistants and uses four workrooms in Paris, Geneva and South of France. According to JAR he manufactures between 100 to 120 pieces of jewelry every year. In spite of the limited production he says his business has been profitable eversince he started and has remained entirely independent. There had been many lucrative offers to open JAR Stores in London, Geneva and other Jewelry Capitals of the world, which JAR always turned down. He says, "I don’t want to be beholden to anyone, I don’t want to be owned by anyone." JAR's Store at Place Vendôme refuses to advertise, keep regular hours or display its jewelry in window cases. In spite of his scorn for modern marketing principles JAR's jewelry has a cult-like following and is highly sought after on the auction market. Among his notable clients were Elizabeth Taylor, Ann Getty, Elle MacPherson, and Barbara Walters.
"Jewels by JAR" an exhibition of around 400 pieces of JAR's jewelry creations, loaned by 145 of his living clients was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from November 20, 2013 to March 9, 2014
The exhibition was the first retrospective of his work in the United States and the first retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum devoted to a living contemporary artist of gems.