Smithsonian signs deal with QVC to sell copies of Hope Diamond, other jewelry

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, April 9, 2010; C01

Let them wear paste!

The Smithsonian Institution has signed a deal to sell Hope Diamond knockoffs and faux Marie Antoinette earrings on home shopping channel QVC this fall.

"Together, we will create jewelry that is not only fashionable, but also serves to educate the public about the Smithsonian and the jewelry, gems and minerals found in its collections," Carol LeBlanc, Smithsonian Enterprises director of consumer products, said in Thursday's announcement.

It is thought to be the first time anyone has accused QVC of being educational.

It's also the first time the Smithsonian has entered into a relationship with a retailer to sell "high-quality jewelry based on the museum's collection," the institution acknowledged.

"We are thrilled to team up with the Smithsonian to offer our customers jewelry inspired by one of its largest attractions -- the National Gem and Mineral Collection," QVC merchandising director Debra Puzio said in the announcement. "Now our customers can share these national treasures in a very personal way as we give them access to owning jewelry based on items of great historical significance."

Curators will be involved in the creation of the jewelry; about 30 pieces will be available for sale, including a smaller version of the legendary Hope Diamond -- because, Smithsonian rep Linda St. Thomas told The TV Column, nobody wears jewelry that big any more.

To buy the Hope Diamond -- were it for sale -- you'd need around $350 million to $500 million, depending on your source of the estimate. For the record, the Smithsonian says it's impossible to put a dollar value on the allegedly cursed bauble. It is, however, happy to put a dollar figure on its QVC bijoux -- starting price will be 85 bucks.

The Smithsonian has licensing deals with other manufacturers for items in its collection: Bernhardt Furniture, for instance, makes knockoffs based on furniture in the Castle.

And, of course, there's that knicker-knotting deal Smithsonian brokered in early 2006 with Showtime to launch a joint venture called Smithsonian Networks, which gave the co-venture the right of first refusal on commercial documentaries that relied on museum archives and personnel. More than 200 filmmakers, TV execs and academics signed a letter demanding that Smithsonian dump the deal, to no avail.

A shoes-in?

TLC has greenlighted a series in which Kate Gosselin will give life assistance to "real families in the middle of their own extraordinary challenges" after walking a mile in their shoes -- and another series in which Nic Cage will give financial advice to real families in the middle of their own extraordinary challenges after walking a mile with their credit cards.

Okay, I made the second one up.

But "Twist of Kate" is for real. America's Most Put Upon Mom is returning to the Silver Spring cable network that first foisted the mother of eight on an unsuspecting public in the spring of 2007 with "Jon & Kate Plus 8."

Her new prime-time series, which starts soon-ish (third quarter of this year, TLC says), will see her travel around the country to find out how other people juggle work, family "and all the other challenges life throws at them," the network announced Thursday as part of its new-schedule presentations to advertisers in New York. In each episode, Kate will try out other people's jobs, see how their home life runs, find out what they do to let off steam, and "roll up her sleeves and see what she can do to help," the network said.

With a straight face.

Our money's on Kate finding a way to make it all about her, and won't it be fun to see how she winds the story around to her very, very difficult life each episode, like she is doing so brilliantly on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" as she pasodobles to the Lady Gaga tune "Paparazzi" and dances the jive to Elton John's "I'm Still Standing." I see a very promising "Twist of Kate" drinking game in our future.

Kate's ex-husband, Jon, and his attorney must be clapping their little hands in glee over the unveiling of "Twist of Kate." Jon sued Kate this week for primary custody of their children, claiming she's an absentee mom because she's in L.A. every week, appearing on "Dancing." For her new show, sounds like she'll be on the road a lot.

In other TLC news, "Sarah Palin's Alaska" will debut in the fall, with Palin traveling "from the tundra to the mountain peaks of this great state meeting both the extraordinary as well as 'just plain folks' like her and her husband, Todd," TLC said.

Coincidentally, Palin's near-miss-son-in-law, Levi Johnston, also revealed details about his Alaska series Thursday. Levi's docu-series will be about "a group of guys I grew up with hunting, fishing, camping in Alaska and trying to find new love," he told Life & Style magazine, which hit newsstands Thursday, adding, "I'll be interested to see Sarah's way of showing people Alaska, and then you turn to my show and I'll show you the real, rugged way of Alaska."

Winfrey's new SHOOOoow

Opraholics, who four months ago flung themselves on their sofas and began to chew the cushions in an ecstasy of grief upon hearing Oprah Winfrey announce the end of her daytime talk show, were feeling like perfect fools Thursday when Oprah announced that she's going to do a talk show for her new Oprah Winfrey Network that will start right around the time her syndicated program ends.

"After 25 year and 28,000 guests, Oprah is saying goodbye to 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' but NOT goodbye to what she loves to do," OWN said in an announcement to advertisers in New York.

"Oprah's Next Chapter" will debut in fall 2011, Winfrey announced during Discovery Communications' orgy of network new-schedule unveiling (Oprah Winfrey Network is a 50-50 joint venture between Winfrey and Silver Spring's Discovery Communications). OWN will replace Discovery Health on Jan. 1, with a reach of about 74 million U.S. homes.

The current Oprah talk show is scheduled to say "so long" Sept. 9, 2011. The new show will be different from the old in several ways.

First, it will run about three times a week. Second, it will not be telecast from Winfrey's Chicago-based studios. Because Oprah has figured out a way to gallivant around the world and get to write it off as a business expense. Sweet.

But from those far-flung places, the network promised, Oprah will continue to have the "riveting conversations with the people we all want to hear from." Imagine Tom Cruise bouncing off the cushions at the Taj Mahal, or Jay Leno doing his mea culpa for having outlasted Conan at NBC from the Great Wall of China.

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