By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Smithsonian Institution said Thursday that it has licensed its renowned gem and jewelry collection to create a line of bracelets, brooches and other baubles with the TV shopping network QVC.
The jewelry line expected to launch this fall will be based on the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, which includes the famous Hope Diamond and Marie Antoinette earrings among 375,000 specimens. Curators will help oversee creation of the jewelry line.
"With all of our licensed products, everything is reviewed and approved by curators in advance," said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.
Curators also will record interviews for QVC to help introduce the collections and offer a glimpse behind the scenes at the museum in Washington, she said.
The jewelry line follows licensing deals for Smithsonian-branded furniture, lighting, books and hobby kits based on museum collections. Showtime Networks also launched the Smithsonian Channel on television in 2006 as part of a licensing agreement to generate revenue for the museum complex.
The Smithsonian is a nonprofit that receives about 70 percent of its operating budget from the federal government. It's also seeking new revenue to help pay for a $2.5 billion maintenance backlog.
The QVC line will be primarily costume jewelry and semiprecious stones, St. Thomas said. Some of the earrings, rings, bracelets, pins and brooches will be based on designs of pieces in the museum, while others will simply be inspired by its collection, including the 45.5-carat, walnut-size Hope Diamond, long rumored to carry a curse. The line won't include real diamonds, though.
"We will create jewelry that is not only fashionable, but also serves to educate the public about the Smithsonian and the jewelry, gems and minerals found in its collections," said Carol LeBlanc, director of consumer products for the Smithsonian Enterprises business unit.
The Smithsonian sought bids for the licensing deal and received three offers before selecting QVC. Terms of the multiyear agreement weren't disclosed. Revenue generated by the deal for the Smithsonian will come from royalties based on sales, St. Thomas said.