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

Friday, April 9, 2010

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.

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