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Saturday, 22 June 2013

EXHIBITION: The Bonfire of Vanities....

Van Cleef and Arpels gold, seed pearls and diamonds compact. Sotheby's


Until very recently, had I been asked what the linkage between my work in the City and my passion for jewels was, I would have struggled to find an answer. This story may sound too conveniently poetic for this blog, but it is the truth!.

It was friday afternoon and my last meeting of a very hectic week finished a bit early, so instead of a cab I decided to walk to the tube station. Being June in London, a wall of water came out of nowhere and I run into the nearest building. And here my luck began, for the random refuge turned out to be the Goldsmisths' Hall, the magnificent headquarters of The Goldsmiths' Company, which is currently hosting the exhibition of a private collection of c. two hundred vanity cases, compacts, minaudieres and other necessaries from the Seventeenth Century to the 21st. To the magnificent premises and the exquisite collection, the choice of Meredith Etherington-Smith is just the icing of the cake. The grandest dame of arts, luxury and jewellery in London, whose books I devour, has managed to perfectly recreate the lavish and joyous atmosphere to which these extraordinary objects belong.


From today's perspective, these bejewelled boxes are essentially make up containers elevated to the ultimate extravagance. However, when understood in the context of their time, they become authentic objects of desire for collectors, for very few objects combine such beauty and perfect workmanship with a piece of history from a magic time that will not come back.

Make up in beautiful containers dates back to the Egyptians, Ancient Greece and Rome, the Qing and Ming periods in China to France in the 18th Century. Throughout history it has been perceived as a symbol of wealth and refinement, hence the importance attached to the box in which it was kept as well.

Enamel and tortoiseshell Vanity Case, 1920s. Sotheby's


Most of the collection is centred around the beginning of the Twentieth Century, which I would call the "Golden Age of Vanity Cases". Economic buoyancy as well as mine discoveries encouraged jewellers creativity and led them to design bejewelled objects that could be displayed. Cosmetics were still affordable only by the elite classes and the aristocracy as they were custom blended by artisan parfumiers who then fitted them in the bespoke boxes of each client. Vanity Cases were ordered from the famous jewellery houses in a bespoke nature and quite often to match the colour and style of a particular outfit.

Cartier lacquered cigarette case, 1920s and Boucheron Vanity case, 1940s. Sotheby's

All the boxes above will be auctioned by Sotheby's in London on July 11th.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Fabulous ART DECO monochrome jewelry

Every year in June London pays a discreet tribute to all the antique collectors that spend the year flying from Paris to Basle, and from Miami to Vegas and New York. In the most civilised and typical english way, June in London has started with the first days of good weather in months, the setting up of the Lapada Fair in Berkeley Square, the closing of guests lists for private viewings at Masterpiece and Christie's King Street annual Magnificent Jewels sale.
Art Deco earrings set in platinum with diamonds, onix and natural pearls


There are a number of reasons why this sale is my favourite in London. It takes place in the grand stucco house that Christie's has in King Street, which somehow feels the right place to acquire works of art; they host a Sunday brunch to privately show the collection, but the most important reason is the selection of the pieces and the atmosphere during the auction. There are always exceptional pieces, like in most of similar auctions, but it is the one auction where I always find something very rare and truly collectable. This pair of earrings are a great example: unsigned fabulous Art Deco design, set in platinum with diamonds, onix and natural pearls. A unique piece.
Art Deco Pendant set in platinum with Diamonds, Onix, seed pearls and natural pearl


And imagine that someone loves the Art Deco period and dreams of a jewellery collection set with natural pearls in a black and white monochrome theme, just to make it rarer. These are two examples of pieces that have been sold by Christie's at King Street during the past two editions. It even seems easy to gather a three piece collection of Art Deco natural pearl extraordinary designs...

CARTIER, Art Deco Natural Pearl and diamonds brooch