Sunday, 17 March 2013

A rare FLATO find

This is not just a bracelet, it is also an exquisite object and a craftsman's masterpiece. Presented by Marja Sterk at Tefaf this weekend, it shows that Paul Flato went beyond than designing dazzling bold pieces for the grand Hollywood divas in the 1940's.
Paul Flato Gold Cuff

Saturday, 16 March 2013

A dramatic chocker by LALIQUE

Rene Lalique, 1905,  Damselflies Nechlace

It was the turn of the Twentieth Century and European society was adjusting to the aftermath of a series of industrial, political and social revolutions. Economic buoyancy stimulated the growth of a middle class which flourished with the increase of commerce and manufactures. It was the perfect environment for an Art revolution. And Paris was right at the centre of it. The bohemian spirit was everywhere, and creativity and talent were qualities sought after and treasured in every discipline. So it also impregnated the world of jewellery and the short lived Art Nouveau movement appeared. It was led by Lalique in a daring and revolutionary challenge to the establishment. His pieces were affordable since he used colourful enamel and semi precious stones where high society still considered Belle Epoque "white jewellery" (diamonds and pearls set in platinum or white gold) the only acceptable ornament. Lalique designed for the artists, and so he thought his jewels as miniature works of art. He was obsessed with nature and used naturalistic motifs in almost all his creations. It was his response to the rigidity of the designs by his contemporaries.

Cartier Belle Epoque chocker and Boucheron bracelet, both c. 1900 

The three pieces displayed above are exhibited by London antique dealer Wartski at the current Tefaf exhibition in Maastrich. Almost contemporaries, yet the contrast could not be more dramatic. It is quite easy to imagine the provocative Sarah Bernhardt wearing the Lalique piece while the "respectable" society women were still advocating for sober and discrete diamond pieces as a key differentiator from their husbands mistresses.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

THE ART OF CARTIER: The power of Style. Iconic Clients

During the first three decades of the 20th century, there emerged in Paris a new kind of social atmosphere out of which “Café Society” was born. Its Golden Age spanned roughly two decades from the 1930s onwards and it was during this time that marriages between the grandest aristocratic European families and the heirs of great American fortunes gave birth to a new elite class that was rich, cultivated and audacious. Its members bubbled over with imaginative creativity and spent fortunes making their lives a veritable work of art. The Duchess of Windsor was one of the reigning queens of Café Society, rivalling in elegance her contemporaries Daisy Fellowes and Mona Bismarck. Jewellery played a significant role as a statement of sophistication and the Duchess’s Flamingo brooch, Panther brooch, as well as a splendid necklace from 1947 are fine examples of her own daring elegance.

Cartier, 1940, Flamingo Brooch

From the 1950s other iconic clients turned to Cartier. In 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco. The prince ordered his beloved’s engagement ring from Cartier. The bride’s trousseau also included a large diamond necklace, a diamond bracelet, and three ruby and diamond clips. Elizabeth Taylor, too, was a faithful client. Her love of jewellery became legendary and she was indulged by the amorous men in her life. In 1957 Mike Todd gave her a Cartier ruby and diamond necklace.

Cartier, 1951, Liz Taylor Necklace

In the late 50s and 70s, the boldest commissions ever were the jewellery ordered by the Mexican actress María Félix. A reptile enthusiast, she approached Cartier to create her unique Snake necklace and pair of earrings as well as her Crocodile necklace. 
Cartier, 1975, Maria Felix Necklace 

© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

THE ART OF CARTIER: Oriental Influences

Louis Cartier had a passion for exotic cultures. While Islamic art truly fascinated him —he had built up a very fine collection of Persian miniatures— Egyptian, Chinese and Indian art were equally influential on Cartier artworks from the beginning of the 1910s.
He had established a remarkable library of reference marks which served as inspiration for the jewellery designs. He also sought out authentic fragments of ancient art which entered the stock as apprêts and were incorporated in jewellery and objects. It was the unusual combination of non-European ancient art and modern mounts that led Cartier to a unique interpretation of 1920s Art Deco pieces.


Louis Cartier’s fascination with Egyptian civilisation and its cultural heritage is manifested in his jewels from the 1910s where he incorporated a particularly Egyptian touch. In 1922, Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun brought Egypt back to the centre of artistic attention. Cartier’s Egyptian¬style pieces can be categorised into two distinctive sets: jewels and objects decorated with Egyptian¬style ornamentation, as found in reference works, and those that were embellished with an actual Egyptian antiquity such as a fragment of blue-glazed faïence

Cartier, 1924, Scarab Brooch

Persia – India

In 1911 Jacques Cartier travelled for the first time to India where he witnessed the reverence with which Parisian jewels and watches were treated by the maharajahs. These royals spent lavishly on Cartier pieces and also entrusted their stones to the jeweller so that they could be set in contemporary mounts, usually in platinum. This contact with India also inspired Cartier to design his magnificent Indian¬style parures. Stones carved using ancient Indian gem-cutting techniques opened up new avenues for Cartier. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds were carved into leaves or fluted beads and set into fruit and foliage jewels that became known as the Tutti Fruttipieces.

Cartier, 1936 Tutti Frutti Necklace, altered in 1963

The Far East

The Far East is a source of inspiration that led Cartier to create some outstanding works of art. The Art Deco period saw a huge surge in popularity in vanity and cigarette cases. Their varied dimensions gave the designers a great deal of freedom in their creations, as seen in a vanity case depicting a Chinese legend of long-lasting friendship. Antique jade was a favourite in the jewellery designs, as, for example, in a brooch made from an 18th-or 19th-century Chinese belt clasp.

Cartier, 1928, Chinese Vanity Case

© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A rare POMELLATO vintage bracelet

A couple of years ago, I was invited to a very original dinner to promote women networking in the city of London. It was really well organised and consisted of a small group of people with similar careers. I went thinking that it would be mainly centred around finance and discussions about the crisis and to my surprise it was about very fine jewellery!. It turned out that the dinner was sponsored by Pomellato, a brand that until that day I had categorised more as high street oriented than as Haute Joaillerie. They proved me wrong as we were shown an amazing collection of one of a kind rings completely different to everything else they do, it was their first attempt to fine jewellery, the Pom Pom collection of 40 rings. Each stone had been hand picked for their rarity and a whole cold setting had been designed specially for it... This is how I became interested in learning more about the story of Pomellato. The firm was founded in 1967 by Pino Rabolini in Milan and its introduction of the idea of prey-a-porter jewellery was revolutionary at the time.

The bracelet above is a very rare piece that belongs to one of the first collections of the firm, it is set in engraved gold with clusters of cabochon lapis lazuli; an inexpensive but undoubtedly beautiful piece, and a statement bracelet back in the 60's as well as today. It is being presented by New York antique dealer Robin Katz at the Los Angeles Antique Jewelry an Watch Show on March 22-24th.