th John Nels Hatleberg | Selected Projects
Selected Projects
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Four Snails
Snails that altered over time to rhodochrosite, an emerald, an opal and a pearl

Mica drawings
Muscovite mica, gold leaf and prints

Barndance
Freshwater pearls on a pyrite mosaic

Ammolite self portrait
Ammolite and gold leaf

Diamond Air
Diamond is a rare material in that it sublimates; it can skip a phase change and proceed directly from solid to gas. In this sculpture diamond is trapped in a glass icicle and becomes earth, air, fire and water as it undergoes various simple experiments

Mineral Kingdom
Various mineral specimens displayed in a cast mineral box modeled after a sculpture by Joseph Cornell concerning the ballet dancer Marie Taglioni

Tavernier replica instructional drawing

Sextimer Diamonds
Like the Hope Diamond, these diamonds are phosphorescent. Unlike the Hope, they glow in the dark like spectral lightning bugs for up to an hour

Obsidian Skull
This naturally ‘holographic’ obsidian skull from Mexico was carved by Kevin Lane Smith

Venus
A natural pearl set in a opalized clamshell with diamonds

Oyster Bed
Naturally shaped pearls, quartz, opal, gold and hair

St. Francis Preaching to the Birds
Naturally shaped pearls on an Australian opal canvas

Bird’s Nest
Pussy willow branch, gold, pearls, hair and Australian Boulder Opal

The Hope Diamond
Phosphorescing Red
Photograph

A few summers after graduate school the Hope Diamond was taken from its vault and transferred to a darkened room. For several moments John White, then the Smithsonian gem curator, helped me charge the Diamond with short wave light.

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The Hope Diamond
Phosphorescing Red

A few summers after graduate school the Hope Diamond was taken from its vault and transferred to a darkened room. For several moments John White, then the Smithsonian gem curator, helped me charge the Diamond with short wave light. In the darkness, this fevered gem, the largest blue diamond in the world, turned red, glowed like a coal, muted like a dying ember. The only light in the room came from the stone itself. This most famous of diamonds, steeped in centuries of intrigue and allure and of the highest cultural and historical rarity, became a startling visual phenomenon. This brilliant blue diamond transformed itself: it phosphoresced red. It seemed possessed.

Seeing this transformation irrevocably altered the art that has since come from me. I became aware that gems, which often serve as meaningful yet conventional symbols in our lives, have the capacity to bring out these symbols in a much more powerful manner. Gems, like alter egos, have the potential to show us to ourselves, reveal aspects of our personalities and lives.

Hope Diamond
Chocolate
Chocolate and altered archival photograph

For all the women I have seen stroking their necks while staring into the Hope Diamond’s case, I have made Hope Diamond Chocolates.

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Hope Diamond
Chocolate

For all the women I have seen stroking their necks while staring into the Hope Diamond’s case, I have made Hope Diamond Chocolates. These women will never own the diamond, or probably touch or wear it. But they can eat a piece of it.

The Smithsonian took the Hope Diamond off display, took it to their outer vault—The Blue Room—and handed it to me. I gave the jewel a manicure and pedicure, that is, I made molds of its top and bottom. No matter how many Hope Diamond Chocolates may be cast, each one passes through the mold created from the actual diamond. This is not the diamond’s autograph or fingerprint—it is closer than that. Who said “What this country needs is a good nickel cigar”? This is immeasurably the most diamond for dollar ever to be offered.

An Exact Replica of the Original Koh-i-Noor Diamond

“Whoever owns the Koh-i-Noor rules the world” describes the incomparable status this diamond has commanded for much of history.

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An Exact Replica of the Original Koh-i-Noor Diamond

“Whoever owns the Koh-i-Noor rules the world” describes the incomparable status this diamond has commanded for much of history. Legend dates the origin of the Koh-i-Noor back 5000 years, fact dates it perhaps to the year 1300. Its first documented account dates to the early sixteenth century and the memoirs of Babur, the first mogul emperor. Since that time it has resided in India, Persia, Afghanistan, what is now Pakistan and England. The British annexed the Punjab in the Treaty of Lahore in 1849.

Specifics of the treaty dictated that the Koh-i-Noor be surrendered to Queen Victoria. The jewel was soon after exhibited at the historic Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. The diamond was then recut, reduced from its mogul Indian form of approximately 186.2 carats to a standard brilliant oval cut of 105.602 carats. The Koh-i-Noor is presently set in Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s Crown of 1937 and is displayed in The Tower of London.

Since 1987 I have created exact replicas of numerous Famous Diamonds. This work served as preparation to cut a replica of the Koh-i-Noor.

In his book “Famous Diamonds”, Ian Balfour states that prior to the diamond being recut, “The Directors of the British Museum wished to have a model made of the Koh-i-Noor, so 19 April 1851 was appointed for removing the diamond from its setting (for this purpose)”. This account prompted my realization that a replica of the original Koh-i-Noor could be faceted if this model could be located. In 1992 I met with curator Peter Tandy of the Natural History Museum London to ascertain if the historic mold or cast of the diamond might still reside in the museum’s holdings.

Amongst the collection’s vast institutional cases we located a glass covered box with the proviso “Do Not Touch”. Inside was a plaster cast inscribed “This is a copy of the original Koh-i-Noor diamond prior to its recutting 1851” and initialed “NSM” for the Keeper of the Collections at that time. The accuracy of this cast, formed from the diamond itself, makes it of great gemological significance. The museum authorized me to create silicon molds and durable resin casts of the fragile Koh-i-Noor plaster and its two pendant diamonds so that the historic information of the diamond’s original cutting diagram could not be rubbed off and lost forever.

After thirteen years of research and seeking permission to facet a replica of the original Koh-i-Noor utilizing this plaster cast, permission was granted by The Natural History Museum London. The replica was scheduled for inclusion in their exhibition “Diamonds” of 2005. After six months of cutting the faceting process was completed in July 2005. The resultant replica was shown at “Diamonds” in the Tower of London case.

Pearl Corn Cob
Corn cob with freshwater pearls, 24 karat gold leaf and 18 karat gold wire

Near all the royal buildings, there were gardens and orchards so that the Inca could have places to rest.

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Pearl Corn Cob

Near all the royal buildings, there were gardens and orchards so that the Inca could have places to rest. Here there were the loveliest trees and the most splendid flowers and fragrant herbs of the kingdom, while countless others were replicas of gold and silver.

They showed all stages of growth from the shoot that barely rises above the earth’s surface, to the full-blown plant. They made exact copies of cornfields with their leaves, cobs, stalks, roots and blossoms.

The beard of the cob was gold, and everything else was silver, with the parts melted together. They did the same with other plants: the blossoms or any other part that was yellow, they made in gold, and everything else, silver.

In addition to all these things, there were all kinds of creatures of gold and silver in these gardens, such as rabbits, mice, lizards, serpents, butterflies, foxes and wildcats.

Plus birds in the trees that looked as if they were about to warble, and others bending over blossoms as if they were ready to suck out the nectar. There were all the animals of creation, each precisely in the place it ought to be.”

— historic Incan account

My “Pearl Corn Cobs” or “Fertility Corn” are inspired by a desire to create a jewel that would be appropriate for this lost, melted Incan “Garden of Noble Metals”.

Six hundred year old pearls from Peru, from the time and place of the Incan “Garden of Noble Metals”, were used to make this Pearl Corn Cob
Opal and pearl Pearl Corn Cob
Sometimes corn has worms. This Pearl Corn Cob has a pearl that used to be a worm which transmogrified to pearl when it attacked the oyster
Meteorite Mirror
Gibeon meteorite

Meteorites are named for where they land. Gibeon meteorites are strewn on the land of the Nama people in Namibia. The Nama use this extra terrestrial iron for their ploughs and spear points.

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Meteorite Mirror

Meteorites are named for where they land. Gibeon meteorites are strewn on the land of the Nama people in Namibia. The Nama use this extra terrestrial iron for their ploughs and spear points.

Fortune tellers, practiced in the art of scrying, are associated with gazing into crystal balls. Rather than crystal balls, many cultures utilize a polished disc, mirror, or pooling water.

Gibeon meteorites are beautiful for their striking alternations of iron and nickel alloys. Gibeon meteorite slabs are composed of a myriad of the silver and grey slivering of these alloys. Each sliver represents millennia upon millenia of cooling during the meteor’s path through the cosmos. So these meteorites are incredibly old. And they are very dense. They seem to weigh down with more than their material matter.

Out of respect or because they thought it was cool, the Grateful Dead kept a Gibeon meteorite in the band’s airplane. So it could go back up into space.

I sliced up my Gibeon meteorite and polished one side. So it’s a mirror. A magazine editor has my favorite comment. She “has never had a clearer vision of eternity then when she saw herself reflected in this meteorite mirror”.

She Jewel
Photograph, model with 30,000 gems

Owls in tree with catch by nest at night with clouds and moon
Mexican lace agate and birch bark

9 1/2 X 13 1/2 X 1"

The Golden Calf
Naturally formed gold, silver, copper and meteoric iron

4 X 4 X 4 1/2"