Designing: Concept to Reality

The founder of the Headley-Whitney Museum was a gentleman by the name of George Headley III.  Born in 1908, he became one of the preeminent jewelry designers of the twentieth century, designing jewelry for starlets and celebrities including Joan Crawford, Mae West, and Fanny Brice.

In addition to designing jewelry, Headley also designed “bibelots.”  Bibelots (pronounced “bib-a-lo”) are small decorative objects akin to knick-nacks, but made from precious and semi-precious materials.  One of Headley’s most famous is the Jade Lion.

Click image to see full sketch 

Headley was not a metal-worker or gem carver, preferring to send his designs to other jewelers to be completed.  In this instance, the lion itself was from a friend’s collection.  Headley sketched out his completed vision of the Jade Lion adding several embellishments:


2 Cab. rubies in eyes

4 Lapis Lazuli

4 Pear Shaped Cabochon Rubies

8 Round Diamonds

Base in Black Onyx or Obsidian

4 Gold Flexable (sic) Gold Square Link Chains


Click image to see final bibelot

The images simply do not do the final piece justice.  The Jade Lion is a part of our permanent collection and stands in testament to the innovation and ingenuity of a creative designer.

About Headley Whitney Museum

We are a decorative arts museum located in the heart of the Bluegrass. Opened in 1968 by George Headley III, a noted jewelry designer from the mid-twentieth century. Our permanent collection includes the Marylou Whitney Estate dollhouses, Library, Jewel Room and galleries for temporary exhibitions.
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