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The gold-coated, glass-eyed mask shown here is not actually a mask. It’s a belt buckle, six inches across, designed by Mimi di Niscemi Romanoff in the mid-1990s. “It is an astounding piece,” says Erin Eisenbarth, acting assistant curator of American decorative arts at the Yale Art Gallery. Mimi di N was well known in the 1950s, when she created costume jewelry with fashion designers such as Arnold Scaasi. The mask is included in the gallery’s current jewelry exhibit (on display until July 23). Eisenbarth says costume jewelry is underestimated; it “reflects art movements and social movements” and, being cheap to make, gives artists “a chance to really experiment with designs.”

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