TOWER OF JEWELS AND ITS SHIMMERING NOVAGEMS
(Page updated extensively March
Tower of Jewels was the 435 foot tall centerpiece building of
the PPIE. It was taller than the other fair buildings by a couple
hundred feet, and was positioned at the main Scott Street entrance
to the fair.
for its height, which could be seen as taller than the various
SF hills as one took the East Bay ferry towards the city, the
primary outstanding feature of the building was how it was liberally
decorated with 102,000 Novagems -- faceted cut glass "jewels"
that hung over the building's surface. Made in Bohemia, the
Novagems came in several colors of glass and were mounted on
brass hangers with a small mirror behind them to further increase
their reflecting. As these jewels freely hung from the sides
of the building, the breezes would make them independently sway,
causing the building to shimmer in a way that people say was
impossible to describe unless one saw it in person. This effect
was further increased at nighttime when an assortment of 54
searchlights hidden around the tower were pointed towards it,
creating a spectacular sparkling impression.
a few special occasions, they put on an event known as "Burning
the Tower" where (according to Todd's, The Story of the
Exposition), "Concealed ruby lights, and pans of red
fire behind the colonnades on the different galleries, seemed
to turn the whole gigantic structure into a pyramid of incandescent
metal, glowing toward white heat and about to melt. From the
great vaulted base to the top of the sphere, it had the unstable
effulgence of a charge in a furnace, and yet it did not melt,
however much you expected it to, but stood and burned like some
sentient thing doomed to eternal torment."
the fair, new jewels were sold as souvenirs, and these ones
often have a small PPIE emblem on the back. After the close
of the fair, the actual jewels that hung on the tower were sold
for $1 each. These jewels often have little chips in them, as
they had been blown around against the building for the better
part of a year. Some of these have a little dangling brass tag
with the tower on one side and 'certified' by Walter Ryan, creator
of the Novagems on the other. There were also many jewel-related
souvenirs, including pins, cufflinks, and spoons.