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PBS 'Antiques' show comes to Carrie Furnace

| Friday, Aug. 12, 2011

'When most people think of steel, they think of buildings, bridges, cannons and things like that,' Antiques Roadshow segment producer Adam Monahan said. 'Here is some of the most elegant jewelry the world`s ever seen, and it`s fashioned out of iron and steel.'

The historic Carrie Furnace site in Rankin provided the backdrop Thursday for the PBS show`s taping of 'Tough Love: Iron and Steel Jewelry.'

'When we were looking at coming to Pittsburgh, one thing that came to mind was to do something about the steel history,' Monahan said. 'Homestead came up right away because of what it meant to this area. We thought it would be a good idea to do something that isn`t so obvious like steel sculptures. What a great way to jump into this part of its history and introduce something totally different, which is jewelry made out of iron and steel.'

Carrie Furnace is part of the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works` 168-acre brownfield site.

'We`re going to be talking about the advent of steel being used in jewelry and the various time periods it was used,' show appraiser Peter Shemonsky said. 'We`re going to be showing some examples that date back to the 1700s, a 19th century example and a 20th century example.'

He said precious metals also were used for jewelry during those periods.

'It comes in and out of fashion,' Shemonsky said. 'One of the things we`re going to be looking at is a piece that is composed of what we call cut-steel where the pieces of steel are faceted. The problem with steel is that it does rust and a lot of it is lost to time. It ended up in someone`s jewelry box or in the back of a safe. Then it got rusted and it was disposed of. There`s not a lot of it so it has actually become collectible because of rarity.'

He said a jewelry piece from Berlin will be featured on the episode.

'During the Prussian Wars, people turned in their gold and silver to support the war efforts against Napoleon,' Shemonsky said. 'The Berlin Iron Works produced jewelry that was given back to the citizens. It was sort of emblematic of their patriotism. Berlin Iron Works is actually a very collectible market.'

Also featured on the episode will be a 1950s piece by the late San Francisco jewelry maker George T. Marsh.

'Marsh pioneered a technique by which steel was blackened and then sealed,' Shemonsky said. 'It created a nice contrast for gold, silver or platinum. His work has become extremely collectible in the past 10 years.'

The steel and iron jewelry pieces Antiques Roadshow displayed were borrowed from collectors all over the world. Shemonsky said cut steel jewelry pieces range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

'The Berlin Iron pieces are in the higher numbers of $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000,' he said. 'Some of the Marsh pieces can range from a few thousand to many hundreds of thousands.'

Antiques Roadshow set up the shoot at the 16-plus acre iron-making complex through the site`s manager, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Center in Homestead.

'It`s a great show,' said Ronald Baraff, Steel Industry Heritage Corp. director of museum collections and archives. 'It`s a show that really explores the history of these pieces. They use a physical piece to explore a bigger picture. It allows the opportunity to not only talk about the history of this site, but the history of this region. This is a chance for national exposure to our effort to preserve this site that`s vitally important not just to this region, but to this country.'

The television show`s staff was amazed by the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works site.

'I`ve never been to Pittsburgh,' Monahan said. 'You then come out here and see how big this was. I can`t even believe mankind can make something like this. It`s pretty fascinating.'

'This is really stunning,' Antiques Roadshow host Mark L. Walberg said. 'I can`t describe it. It`s overwhelming. I just can`t imagine what it was like when it was fired up and people were working here.'

Other upcoming Pittsburgh-area filming includes 'The Origins of a Pittsburgh Artist and Icon: Andy Warhol' at the Andy Warhol Museum, and a sold-out appraisal event at David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The episodes filmed in the area are planned to air early next year.

The last time Antiques Roadshow taped shows in Pittsburgh was in 1997.

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