Artistically, technologically and materially this is a rich and varied exhibition telling the story of metals and miscellaneous materials.

The existence of jewellery proves man’s ancient desire for beauty and luxury. Jewellery existed before man started to work with metals, and throughout its history it clearly defines the social status of its wearer. Various types of clasps, buttons and lavish decorative pieces existed for centuries not only as functional items, but also as a means of adornment and to accentuate the wealth of the owner. The variety of techniques and materials employed increased in time.
The majority of items on display are pieces made at the end of the 18th century, as well as in the periods of Classicism, Biedermeier, Second Rococo, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. A special place is given to the Czech garnet, which was already appreciated by the stonecutters at the Court of Rudolf II. In the Baroque period the garnet was used to decorate liturgical objects. At the end of the 18th century it became rather common, and later during the period of National Revival its status was raised once more into a mineralogical symbol of Bohemia. The garnet also inspired the work of Czech artists in the second half of the 20th century: Alena Nováková, Jan Nušl, and Libuše Hančarová. amongst others.

liturgical treasures
On display is a large range of objects used primarily for Catholic services. Probably the most spectacular as far as decoration and gilding goes are the monstrances for the display of the Host during the service and in processions. Some of the Baroque reliquaries which serve for preserving and worshipping of relics are of similar shapes. A Ciborium — a goblet with a lid — was used to hold the Host in the tabernacle, and a Chalice for the consecration of wine during the service. The exhibits document how firmly established were gothic shapes in the goldsmithing vocabulary, and also show how opulent and lavish was the Baroque liturgy. Baroque monstrances were the spiritual focus of a service, and this was reflected in the attention given to their decoration. Chased plant and floral ornament around the centre is typical; also popular became the monstrances, where the receptacle with the Host was surrounded by a sunburst.

The collection of pewter offers a comprehensive overview of the history of this noble material from the Middle Ages to the first decades of the 20th century. Of the earliest date is a collection of about 250 pilgrim’s badges and devotional articles of French origin. The work of Francois Briot in the exhibition represents decorative French pewter, whilst Czech pewter is documented by guild tankards and other vessels, mainly from the Krušné Hory area. European acclaim was achieved by pewter produced in the Rococo style in Karslbad area. Tin makers inspired by examples in silver produced various types of tableware and utensils, such as jugs, bowls, dishes, salts, flasks and candlesticks. The last period when pewter flourished was at the beginning of the 20th century, presented here by a collection of decorative Austrian and German pewterware in the Art Nouveau style.

cast iron
From a unique collection of about 2000 items were selected examples made at the height of the cast iron production at the beginning of the 19th century. Foundries in Berlin, Hlivice, Nižbor, Hořovice and Komárno produced a large range of objects, from small statuettes and decorative items such as stands, baskets, paperweights and candleholders to portrait reliefs, plaquettes and stoves. Reliefs executed after designs by Ignác Platzer belong to this period. Typical, also, are very fine cast iron jewellery pieces, which were inspired by the Empire style. First cast iron jewellery pieces were made in Berlin, in the Czech Lands the Count Vrbna Foundry in Komárno was famous for its jewellery output.

The focus of the silver exhibition is on the development of table silverware, documenting the variety of shapes, techniques and types. On display are examples of knives and spoons from the Middle Ages, when cutlery was personal, and often carried in a pouch together with a dagger. Forks appeared much later. Remarkable is the Renaissance silverware, in which silver is frequently combined with minerals, enamel and shells. In the Baroque era the main focus was on the production of liturgical objects. Despite certain austerity of secular ware, various types of tankards, goblets, plates and candle holders, produced at this time show the excellent standard of this craft. In the 19th century the production of table silverware is diverse, it includes various types of baskets, small pots, salts, sugar bowls and also expensive drinking sets for several persons. At the same time less elaborate techniques and materials are used, silver being often substituted by various alloys and the demanding technique of embossing and chasing is replaced by pressing.

miscellaneous materials
Precious stones, pearls, corals and ivory play an important role in the jewellery making. The exotic nature and rarity of these materials makes them particularly attractive to artists. In this exhibition is displayed a collection of pieces in the style of Mannerism created at the Court of Rudolf II, as well as a number of goblets made from various materials such as coconuts, silver, wood, semi-precious stones and examples of decorative and clever artefacts which used to adorn cabinets of curiosities. Expensive materials were employed also in furniture, jewellery boxes, and caskets. The selection of caskets on show demonstrate the changes in their style from wrought metal types in the Middle Ages to simple shapes of the 20th century examples. Ivory was popular for carving of statuettes, as seen in a rare Madonna from the 14th century and a group of sculptures made by a German Baroque sculptor B. Permoser and his circle.

Mannerism at the Court of Rudolf II.
Collecting in the Renaissance era embraced all areas of man’s endeavours, and the resulting collections were known as cabinets of arts. They contained the most precious creations of art and nature, regardless their origin, artefacts often small in size, but exceptional in their masterly execution and the use of rare and exotic materials. Apart from gold, silver and precious stones, ivory, horn, tortoise shell and various sea shells, coral, ostrich eggs, and coconuts were used to make cups, bowls, sculptures and other objects of decorative character.
An important part of these cabinets were collections of scientific instruments and various ingenious inventions. Erasmus Habermel, a renowned designer of astrolabes, sundials and other astronomical instruments, worked at the Emperor’s court. A representative collection of his scientific devices is on display. Prague clockmaking with its high technological standard dominated the European production, and is presented by an assembly of table clocks and watches commonly worn around the neck. Among the most interesting exhibits is the oldest Central European table bell shape style clock built by Jan Steinmeissel.
The collections of the Emperor Rudolf II were famous, unfortunately over the time they dispersed into various parts of the world. The renowned pietra dura picture of the view of Prague Castle made in the Castrucci workshop, as well as plaquettes made by the Paul Vianen workshop and Italian enamelled glass are outstanding examples of this period, preserved in the MDA collections.

metals in the 20th century
Among the Art Nouveau objects, apart from those of French and German origin, is shown the work of students and professors from the School of Applied Arts in Prague. Art Nouveau morphology and floral ornaments can be seen in the work from the schools of Emanuel Novák, Celda Klouček and Franta Anýž. A small, but important, collection of Cubist brass boxes designed by Vlastislav Hofman, and usually executed by the Artěl co-operative, is also exhibited. The output of Jaroslav Horejc is presented here by brass hammered work in the Art Deco style. The designs of metalware in the Functionalist style by B. Južnič and L. Sutnar, both associated with the Krásná Jizba (Beautiful Room) company and the Topič Salon, were executed at the beginning of the 1930s by a Slovakian company Sandrik. They include a range of small-scale table objects made in metal, such as stainless steel, with new surface treatment in chrome and nickel, which were produced in series.

The furniture in this room was selected with an emphasis on unique pieces from different historical periods, decorated by elaborate techniques and expensive materials.
In the Renaissance period the technique of inlaying with colour marble and precious stones, called “pietra dura”, was popular. A much appreciated technique of furniture decoration is the so-called Cheb´s relief inlay, the work of several artist-craftsmen working in Cheb in the 17th and at the beginning of the 18th centuries. Relief inlays were either part of cabinets, jewellery boxes, and caskets or were created as pictures. An important step forward was the arrival of Michal Thonet´s (Gebrüder Thonet) furniture for sitting, made of bent oak wood, which paved the way for the mass production of the 20th century. Secessionists furniture is represented here by Jan Kotěra´s and Josef Fanta´s designs, and Cubist style by the work of Pavel Janák.