When San Francisco artist Sidney Mobell gets through with an ordinary object, it is no longer ordinary.
It glistens with gold and dazzles with rubies, diamonds and sapphires.
A 14-karat gold sardine can adorned with 55 full cut diamonds.
A solid gold mouse trap plated with a wedge of pave diamonds.
This $2 million, 23-karat gold-plated Monopoly board features 18-karat solid gold dice. It is the work of San Francisco artist Sidney Mobell and will be part of the “Jeweled Objects of Desire” exhibit at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum.
A jeweled-encrusted gold cell phone.
An 18-karat solid gold pacifier with eight round-cut diamonds.
Something everyone relates to — a jeweled Nokia cell phone.
And his most famous – a $2 million, 23-karat gold-plated Monopoly board with 18-karat solid gold dice.
Mobell’s works will glitter at “Jeweled Objects of Desire,” an exhibit that begins today at Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport.
It comes here from the National Museum of Natural History’s National Gem Collection, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Mobell donated 19 objects to the Smithsonian in memory of his wife, Ronni Grant Mobell, who died four and a half years ago.
It also includes work by other artists.
The exhibit is brought here through the local museum’s connection with the Smithsonian’s Affiliation Program, said Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.
“The works reflect the artists’ emotion, passion and character from every facet of the pieces,” said Dardenne.
He suggests that museum patrons wear their one best “jewel of desire” for the reception!
The public is going to love this exhibit, said curator Mary Zimmerman.
“I am tickled to death about it,” she added.
It does sound like fun.
Mobell, 80, was a fixture on the San Francisco scene as a jeweler with his own store in the Fairmont Hotel for 30 years. (He sold the store, but still has an office he reports to every day.)
“I was good,” he said with confidence in a telephone interview.
He created beautiful jewelry that he sold to the cream of local and international society. Christina Onassis and Nancy Pelosi’s husband have been among his customers, he said.
But it is ordinary objects turned gold that attracted attention, especially after legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen wrote him up.
“He wrote about me and the national media picked up,” said Mobell.
Mobell is noteworthy.
He once created a gold baseball with “Giants” in diamonds written across it. And threw it out as the first ball for the game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park on July 28, 1993.
The monopoly set is a full-size board, weighing 32 pounds and is encrusted with 165 gemstones. That includes 60 diamonds, 47 sapphires and 24 rubies. The 28 title cards are gold-plated and the tokens crafted in 18-karat solid gold, while 42 diamonds display the numbers in the dice.
It is in the “Guinness World Records 2007” as is a photo of Mobell with it and is valued at $2 million. “Most Expensive Monopoly Board” is its claim to fame.
Mobell got the idea for a sardine can while in the supermarket with his wife. His assistant of 30 years loves sardines. “My wife said, ‘Let’s get Ronny some sardines.’ They were three for $1,” said Mobell.
At home, he said, “This is going to be my next project.” So he opened the lid with the key and took it the next day to his shop to have it created in 18-karat gold with 55 diamonds around the edge of the lids.
“My wife thought I was crazy,” he remembered.
He made a gold fishing reel with diamonds, rubies and sapphires for a friend of his wife’s who manufactures fly fishing reels.
The $100,000 reel is studded with 32 diamonds weighing 5.1 carats, 237 sapphires, and 253 rubies. The spherical inlaid design cast a kaleidoscopic effect as it spins, said Mobell.
By the way, it comes with a solid gold fish hook.
The solid gold mousetraps were first introduced on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon and seen in newspaper and magazines all over the world, said Mobell.
“I made five of those mousetraps,” he said.
When the late Joan Kroc came to see Mobell, she told him she wanted a birthday gift for her husband, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. “She said he had everything, what in the world could she give him.”
“How about a solid gold mousetrap?” asked Mobell. (“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘Build a better mousetrap,’ but Ray Kroc made a better hamburger,” explained Mobell.
Just the thing.
“She had it engraved, ‘Happy Birthday, Ray. Thanks for catching me,” remembered Mobell.
Can’t afford the real thing? The Smithsonian is selling “Build A better Mousetrap…” computer mouse pad with a likeness of the gold one in a gift shop for $15, said Mobell.
Radio personalty Paul Harvey bought a hour glass that has diamonds shifting through the timer rather than sand. The glass section was constructed of scientific test tubes made for hospitals.
The hour glass is now part of the DeBeers Collection, said Mobell.
Works by other artists include a cob of corn made from gold with Chinese fresh water pearls for kernels created by John Hatleberg.
A diamond pomegranate brooch was designed and crafted by Martha Ann Gilchrist.
And, there are gemstones.
Among them: a flawless Brazilian quartz crystal ball measuring over 4.75 inches in diameter, weighing, 13.189 carats.