Barbara Berger, one of the world’s most renowned collectors of fashion jewelry, passed away on January 16, 2024, at the age of 82. Her death was confirmed by her close friend and interior designer Nate Berkus, who posted a heartfelt tribute to her on Instagram. Berger was a legend in the fashion industry, with a collection of over 4,000 pieces of designer costume jewelry, from vintage Christian Dior to contemporary Dolce & Gabbana. She was also a generous and influential figure, who shared her passion for beauty and design with the world.
Who Was Barbara Berger?
- Fashion jewelry icon: Berger was born in New York in 1942, the daughter of a diamond merchant. She inherited her mother’s love for collecting beautiful things, especially jewelry. She started collecting costume jewelry at the age of 13, and never stopped. She amassed an impressive archive of rare and exquisite pieces, mostly from luxury designers, that reflected her personal style and taste. She also designed her own jewelry line, called Barbara Berger Collection, which was sold in prestigious stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
- Passion for collecting: Berger once said, “A collector is born, not made. It’s not an acquired taste, but something you come into the world with.” She had a keen eye for quality and craftsmanship, and a curiosity for the history and stories behind each piece. She traveled the world in search of treasures, and visited flea markets, auctions, and antique shops. She also befriended many designers and celebrities, who gifted her with unique and custom-made pieces. She considered her collection as a form of art, and a way of expressing herself.
- Legacy of sharing beauty: Berger was not only a collector, but also a curator and a philanthropist. She shared her collection with the public through exhibitions, books, and lectures. In 2013, she collaborated with the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, to showcase 450 of her pieces in an exhibit called “Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger”. The exhibit was accompanied by a book of the same name, which featured stunning photographs and essays by experts and admirers. She also donated some of her pieces to museums and institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Influence and recognition: Berger was widely respected and admired in the fashion industry, and received many awards and honors for her contribution. She was named one of the “Top 100 Collectors in America” by Art & Antiques magazine, and one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Fashion” by Fashion Group International. She was also a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and a recipient of the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball (FABB) Award. She inspired many designers and artists, who praised her for her vision and generosity.
Barbara Berger’s Death and Legacy
- Nate Berkus reveals loss: Berger’s death was announced by her longtime friend and protégé, Nate Berkus, who posted a series of photos and videos of her on his Instagram account. He wrote, “Will always be grateful for everything you did for me. Miss you already.” Berkus, who is a famous interior designer and HGTV star, had a close relationship with Berger, who mentored him and supported his career. He once said that if he was not an interior designer, he would be an estate jeweler, and credited Berger for inspiring him. He also attended and promoted her exhibit and book launch in 2013.
- Rumors of her death: Berger’s death came as a shock to many, as there were no reports of her being ill or in poor health. However, some sources claimed that she had been suffering from a terminal illness for some time, and that she had kept it a secret from the public. Some also speculated that she had died of COVID-19, as the pandemic was still raging in New York and other parts of the world. However, none of these rumors were confirmed by her family or representatives, who did not disclose the cause of her death or the details of her funeral.
- Impact on the industry: Berger’s death left a huge impact on the fashion industry, especially the jewelry sector. Many designers, celebrities, journalists, and fans expressed their condolences and paid tribute to her on social media and other platforms. They remembered her as a pioneer, a leader, a mentor, and a friend, who changed the way people perceived and appreciated fashion jewelry. They also celebrated her legacy, and thanked her for sharing her collection and her wisdom with the world. Some of her pieces were also featured in various fashion shows and magazines, as a homage to her style and influence.
- A family legacy: Berger is survived by her two children, David and Michelle, who inherited her collection and her passion for jewelry. David is a jewelry designer and entrepreneur, who founded his own brand, David Berger Fine Jewelry, in 2010. He also collaborated with his mother on several projects, such as the MAD exhibit and the book. Michelle is a jewelry collector and enthusiast, who followed her mother’s footsteps and traveled the world in search of rare and beautiful pieces. She also helped her mother manage and catalog her collection, and assisted her with her philanthropic endeavors.
Remembering Barbara Berger
- Her impact on fashion: Berger was a trailblazer in the fashion industry, who elevated costume jewelry to a form of art and expression. She showed that fashion jewelry was not just a cheap and disposable accessory, but a valuable and timeless investment. She also demonstrated that fashion jewelry could be worn with any outfit, and mixed and matched with different styles and eras. She had a flair for creating stunning and original looks, that showcased her personality and taste. She influenced many designers and celebrities, who admired her collection and sought her advice. She also inspired many collectors and enthusiasts, who followed her example and passion.
- A true trailblazer: Berger was a pioneer in the jewelry industry, who broke many barriers and stereotypes. She was one of the first women to collect and curate fashion jewelry, in a field that was dominated by men and fine jewelry. She was also one of the first to recognize and appreciate the work of many designers, who were not well-known or respected at the time, such as Miriam Haskell, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Daniel Stoenescu. She also supported and promoted many emerging and diverse designers, who were often overlooked or marginalized by the mainstream industry. She was a champion of creativity and innovation, who embraced and celebrated new and different forms of jewelry.
- A lasting inspiration: Berger was a role model and a mentor to many, who learned from her and looked up to her. She was generous and gracious, who shared her collection and her knowledge with the public and the industry. She was also humble and kind, who treated everyone with respect and dignity. She was a loyal and supportive friend, who cared for and helped others. She was a loving and devoted mother, who passed on her legacy and her love to her children. She was a remarkable and admirable woman, who lived a full and meaningful life.
- A void in the industry: Berger’s death left a void in the fashion industry, that will be hard to fill. She was a unique and irreplaceable figure, who had a profound and lasting impact on the world of jewelry. She was a visionary and a leader, who shaped and transformed the industry. She was a collector and a curator, who preserved and enriched the history and culture of jewelry. She was a legend and an icon, who will be missed and remembered by many.
Barbara Berger was a fashion jewelry icon, who passed away on January 16, 2024, at the age of 82. She was a passionate and influential collector, who had a collection of over 4,000 pieces of designer costume jewelry. She was also a generous and inspiring figure, who shared her collection and her wisdom with the world. She was a pioneer and a trailblazer, who changed the way people perceived and appreciated fashion jewelry. She was a role model and a mentor, who influenced and supported many designers and artists. She was a remarkable and admirable woman, who left a legacy of beauty and design. She was Barbara Berger, and she will never be forgotten.