Sunday, 25 November 2012

Bejewelled Art Deco Handbags... from another world

These amazing handbags belong to another era. Not only are they Art Deco in style and therefore form the 1920s-30s, but they also belong to a world so full of glamour that ordinary jewels were not enough and both men and women used to display all kind of bejewelled objects as well. Naturally handbags (or purses in America) became a perfect canvas for master jewellers to display their creativity and genius craftsmanship. Enamelled gold was always the preferred base for the claps which were set with Lapis lazuli and other coloured stones and embellished with tiny diamonds. These are three magnificent examples, the first one signed by Cartier, the other two with French hallmarks. All will be auctioned by Sotheby's NY on December 5th.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Revival style necklace by Louis Comfort TIFFANY

This is a rare necklace designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1913. The piece is set in yellow gold with a large carved Lapis lazuli and turquoise, amber and green stone beads. The revival style was very popular towards the end of the Nineteenth century, specially the greek and roman revival pieces that made Castellani and Giuliano so famous. The Egyptian revival was less popular and the style would become one of the main sources of inspiration the the Art Deco egyptian stream one decade later. The necklace is a great example of Louis Comfort Tiffany constant study of the use of colour and how to adapt it to jewellery. Similar to his coloured glass lamps, the jewels that he designed have become sought after and valued by collectors mainly for their artistic value. This piece will be auctioned by Sotheby's NY on December 5th.

A rare Art Deco bracelet by RUBEL Freres

This bracelet is a rare find on more than one count. For starters it presents quite an unusual design for an Art Deco piece with a curious asymmetric geometrical design. In second place it is signed by a French jeweller that disappeared more than half a century ago, Rubel Freres. On top of that, the piece displays less than perfect emeralds and given how much Asian collectors appreciate perfect stones, the fact that it will be auctioned by Christie's in Hong Kong is also a curiosity.

I have found very little information so far about Rubel Freres but basically the firm was established in Paris and in 1939 the firm entered  into an association with Van Cleef and Arpels, whom they followed to New York after they opened the first shop on 1943. Rubel Freres established themselves on Fifth Avenue as John Rubel Co., next to the Savoy. They were in business only for four years, until 1947 but they created some of the most iconic pieces of jewellery of the 1940's. In particular, they became famous for their ballerina brooches (they even used the same designer as Van Cleef for these, Maurice Duvalet) and specially the ones inspired by the flamenco dancers they used to employ at their Greenwich Village cafe.

Friday, 23 November 2012

GIMEL: Japanese perfection in modern jewellery

What I like the  most about Gimel is her sense of humour. Kaoru Kay Akihara is a unique contemporary jeweller. She trained in Canada and Los Angeles before establishing her studio in Japan overlooking the Rokko Mountains National Park. Akihara pieces are identified by their nature inspiration, the simplicity of their design and the perfection of their craftsmanship...and always, a little bejewelled bug hidden somewhere for the owners delight!. How much fun is that? She is also famous for personally selecting only the finest stones for each piece. The brooch above, one of the first pieces by Gimel that I have ever found at an auction, is set with an impressive burmese pigeon blood ruby that weights 6.8 carats. It will be sold by Christie's Hong Kong on November 27th and the estimate is c. $2-3 million!

WALLACE CHAN at Christie's Hong Kong...again!

Wallace Chan is one of the rarest contemporary makers to find due to the incredible amount of work that each one of his pieces require. They are often much closer to miniature sculptures than to jewellery. For this reason every time we find one coming up for sale at an auction we tend to feature almost immediately. Lately, we have been treated to an unusually frequent appearance of pieces in recent auctions. Together with the selection displayed last September in Paris at the Biennale, this year is Wallace's!.

These two brooches will be auctioned by Christie's Hong Kong on November 27th. The first one is a butterfly set with carefully selected graduated pink sapphires and the second one is a very original cicada set with black opal and lapis lazuli. And the emerald earrings below are just sensational!.

Let the AUCTIONS come!

Barely a month after the grand Geneva Jewelry auction sales, the pre Christmas season is on! and this year is full blast across London and New York. We will not miss it!

Sunday, 11 November 2012


The Belle Epoque is the period that goes from 1890 until the outbreak of World War I. It was a time of opulence and extravagant luxury. The world was thriving economically and a new class of wealth had taken over society; the American millionaire. Not just the americans, industrialist and merchants worldwide found themselves capable of buying their entry into high society. Money was not the problem and it was thrown into decorative arts commissions as the perfect display for their success. Obviously jewellery was a the centre of this trend. The discovery of diamonds in South Africa in the 1860's inundated the market with stones and the newly discovered use of platinum became the perfect marriage for "white" jewellery of delicate lace designs known as the Garland Style.

Jewellery acquired such significance that elegance required that only certain type of pieces were worn depending on the occasion. Sautoirs and pearls were appropriate only for dinner parties, tiaras for the opera, corsage ornaments for evening dresses etc…

A rare and extremely delicate Belle Epoque pearl and diamond brooch, it will be auctioned by Christie's Geneva on November 13th.

It was also a time when it was socially acceptable to acknowledge mistresses and courtesans  publicly, the famous "Grandes Horizontales" or demi-monde women that ruled Paris during these decades and whose fame has reached until today for who has not heard of La Paiva, La Belle Otero or Liane de Pougy. These women collected the most fabulous jewels made in their time as they attached their security and status to them. A review of their collection will take almost a new blog. There is an important anecdote though, the jewellery that was considered "elegant" was set in platinum with pearls and diamonds only; the use of yellow gold or coloured gemstones was not considered tasteful.

This is a Belle Epoque brooch made by Cartier set with magnificent colombian emeralds. It would have been appropriate only as "daytime" jewellery and not to wear it to a formal occasion. It will be auctioned by Christie's Geneva on November 13th. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

BOUCHERON: Demi parure from Princess Salimah Aga Khan

The Boucheron archives show at least 100 entries for jewels sold to the Aga Khan III during the first half of the nineteenth century. Oddly, two thirds are for bracelets.

The Aga Khan was born in Karachi in 1877 and became Supreme Iman of the Ismaelians Muslim in 1885. He was raised in India, in exile due to his family prosecution in Iran. When he came to Europe, in the early 1900's, a legend began. As well as a religious symbol to millions, he was one of the richest men on Earth. He married four times and became famous for the jewellery commissions he offered as presents to all his wives. He owned racing stables, received as birthday present his weight in gold, even his son married Rita Hayworth, although that is a story for another post. 

The necklace and earrings featured above, belonged to Princess Salimah Aga Khan and were part of the famous 1995 Christie's auction where extraordinary jewels were sold. Amongst them, it was the renowned 13.78 carat heart shaped blue diamond, a fabulous stone sold by Boucheron. Set in yellow gold with white and yellow diamonds, this necklace is an arab fantasy of a fringe designed with graduated briolette diamonds. It will be auctioned by Christie's Geneva on November 13th.

A briolette is an elongated pear-shaped gemstone cut with triangular facets. It is 800 years old and was popular during the Victorian times and although its popularity waned thereafter, it has enjoyed a recent resurgence for precious and semi-precious stones.
The Smithsonian has a 275-carat (55 g) diamond briolette necklace presented by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1811 to his Empress consort Marie Louise.

BOOK REVIEW: Celebrating Jewellery

"This book is an unashamed indulgence for us both, and we make no apologies for it."
David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti

I have been counting down weeks to the publishing of this book ever since I first read about it. I finally got it and the beautiful package has remained unopened in my writing room until precisely thirty minutes ago, when I had a whole Saturday morning ahead of me, in rainy London, to devote to my favourite hobby. First, I have to say that "Understanding Jewellery", the previous work by the two authors, is one of my reference books, I keep on coming back to. And second, I am probably the worst target audience for a book written by two famous Sotheby's auctioneers since I hardly miss any important jewellery auction. 

Beautifully edited and with extraordinary quality pictures, everything in this book speaks of luxury, even the fact that it leaves every other page blank, so that when it is opened one can focus on the picture of one single piece at a time. It is the perfect coffee table photography book for a jewellery collector or connoisseur. 

My disappointment comes from my own mistake; I was expecting tons of anecdotes and stories and information to read for hours and the book is not intended to do so. There are just a few lines in each section to introduce the selections of photographs, which are magnificent. Truly and indulgence!.