Sunday, 20 October 2013

An Egyptian crown jewel: the emerald Art Deco necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels

Everyone knows that a truly fine jewel is as beautiful on the reverse as on the front. To be worthy of the title, great pieces also need to be "finnished" and this means no sparing of gemstones or motifs even if they might not be seen. Designs have to be consistent across the whole jewel, like in couture, this feature distinguishes "haute joaillerie" from the rest.
Art Deco emerald necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels

The necklace above is exceptional on all accounts; Provenance goes back to HRH Princess Faiza of Egyp, Maker is Van Cleef an Arpels, gemstones are ten magnificent colombian emeralds and Period: Art Deco. Yet, the most striking thing about it is the design. The intricate fringe on the front with nine emerald beads dropping from a sophisticate diamond link design and the pendant clasp at the back with a similar motif and another drop emerald. It was made by Van Cleef and Arpels on 1929 and altered in 1937. The piece was sold in 1947 to Princess Faiza of Egypt. It will be auctioned by Christie's in Geneva on November 12th.

Princess Faiza was one of the five daughters of King Fouad I of Egypt (1968-1936) and the sister of the last king of Egypt, King Farouk, dethroned in 1952 by a military coup, which forced the entire family to go in exile. 

"Born at Abdine Palace on November the 8th of 1923, Princess Faiza was the most attractive of King Farouk's five sisters. In 1945, she decided to marry a distant Turkish cousin, Mohamed Ali Bulent Raouf. It is often said that King Farouk was not very pleased by this wedding as he would have much preferred his sister to marry a foreign prince. Princess Faiza was very lively, witty, and she had a wonderful taste for clothes and jewels. She was a regular customer of the Parisian couture houses, especially Chanel. As far as jewellery was concerned, Van Cleef & Arpels was definitely her favorite house.

One of the most famous jewels ever made by Van Cleef & Arpels is the double 'Clip Pivoine', two peonies flowers, set in the famous 'Serti Mysterieux' for which Van Cleef & Arpels is so famous, are joined together with diamond leaves. The craftsmanship of that piece is so unique that it seems the petals would move if you blow on them. That double clip was also part of Princess Faiza's collection. She sold the two brooches separately a few years before she died in 1994. Fortunately one of them now belongs to the Van Cleef & Arpels antique jewellery collection. The fate of the second flower remains a mystery. 

The emerald and diamond necklace which is offered here demonstrates the same taste. The craftsmanship is perfect. The emerald drops hang from the diamond motives set in a very pure Art Deco style. The necklace is imposing, which is normal as it was worn by Princess Faiza as a 'Court Jewel', yet it is very graceful and the stones move very gently on the 'décolleté' of the woman who wears the piece."

Vincent Meylan

Vincent Meylan is an historian and a journalist who has written many books about Jewellery: 'Boucheron, The Secret Archives' (2009), 'Van Cleef & Arpels, Treasures and Legends' (2012). His latest book, 'Mellerio dits Meller, Joaillier des Reines' has just been published in France.  

Sunday, 13 October 2013

DISCOVERIES: A visit to Jessica McCormack's new Mayfair Gallery

I never made it to Clerkenwell, when she invited me to her workshop a few years ago but now, Jessica McCormack has opened an art jewellery gallery in Mayfair and I am certain I will be a regular visitor.  It is not very often that one enters a place and gets hit instantly by an almost overwhelming feeling of familiarity despite never having been there before. The space is completely eclectic but there is harmony, in a "there is a logic in my madness" kind of way. It is set in one of the most expensive and beautiful squares in London, as it belongs to a bespoke only fine jewellery house. However, the jewels are surrounded by Modern Art and Design, by many books and even by little objects that Jessica McCormack has collected during her travels and that have inspired a piece. It is not only a shop, for the rooms reflect her soul and personality, Jessica's rich universe, and I was immediately drawn to wanting to be part of it.

Jessica McCormack BT Tower Earrings
The pieces are funky, original, sometimes rough because she uses a lot of blackened silver but a common feature across all of them is the exquisite quality of craftsmanship. There are a few unique and distinctive signature features repeated along the bespoke creations; the replica of the Edwardian diamond setting, the mix and match of diamonds in the same piece using, not only different cuts and sizes but also, alternating diamonds set on the reverse; the inclusion of yellow gold no matter what the piece looks like; the blackened finnish and many others. The architectural inspiration, from the Manhattan skyline rings to the Eiffel and BT towers earrings,

Jessica McCormack's Wing earrings

Jessica McCormack's wing engagement ring

Jessica is a pen and paper designer and has been working with the same three goldsmiths since she started the business and mostly works on bespoke commissions only. She was born in New Zealand and her father had an auction house so she grew up surrounded by nature, the sea and art and antiques, difficult to resist ending up as an artist. When she was 22 and travelling around the world, she met someone that knew someone at Sotheby's jewellery department in London and she wrote and wrote until finally got accepted into an internship. And this was it, she found her place in the arts universe and decided to be a modern Jar. Jessica started designing and getting her pieces made in London and very soon hit the red carpet with Madonna and Rihanna amongst her fans. She created her brand less that 10 years ago and has already one of the most beautiful jewellery spaces in the world, success so quickly must be a bit frightening, yet her spirit is so rich of ideas and her world so inspiring that I have no doubt she will keep her creations true to herself to collector's delight.

Jessica McCormack

Read more, WSJ article

Saturday, 12 October 2013

An extremely rare diamond and enamel pendant by Theodore B. STARR

Theodore B. Starr 1905 Diamond and Enamel Pendant

This is an exquisite piece and very rare to come by. A circular pendant set in a black and white enamelled plaque and set with circa 15 carats of very well matched rose cut diamonds. It is dated in 1905 and was made by Theodore B. Starr in New York. The design is inspired in Giuliano's work earlier in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. It was probably adapted with a much heavier diamond weight to suit the buoyant American market at the turn of the century.

Starr is nowadays known as one of the finest American silversmiths. He set up his silver and jewellery business in 1862 and was soon joined by Herman Marcus, becoming Starr and Marcus until 1877 when they separated because Herman Marcus left to join Tiffany. He continued working under his own name until 1907 when his son took over the business which he subsequently sold to a silver company in 1918. Starr was finally liquidated and sold in 1923. 

The piece is opening the Bonham's auction in New York on October 17th.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

An extraordinary Art Deco aquamarine and tourmaline brooch by CARTIER

Cartier, Ar Deco Brooch set in Aquamarine and Tourmaline stones

This is an extremely rare piece. One of those record breaking-to-be-remembered ones. An extraordinarily rare Art Deco brooch signed by Cartier and set with tourmalines and aquamarines in an extravagantly curved geometric design. It is mounted in platinum accentuated with black enamel.

Although none of Cartier’s designers were noted individually as the firm’s policy was to promote the Cartier name singularly, the history of the firm would not be complete without acknowledging the influence and brilliance of their chief designer Charles Jacqueau. While many of the Cartier design archives are unsigned and difficult to attribute, a number of Jacqueau’s designs have survived, descended from his personal collection. He joined the firm as a young artist in 1909 and is credited with creating some of the most innovative and artful pieces of the teens and twenties. Taking design inspiration from numerous decorative motifs originating in Egypt, Islam, India, China and Japan, Jacqueau’s interests and inspirations were eclectic and original. acqueau found inspiration during his various travels to Italy, Russia, Morocco and Spain as well as closer to home in the varied exhibits at the Louvre, and the striking costumes, colors and movement of the Ballets Russes, particularly their use of the vibrant combination of blue and green. Jacqueau was instrumental in setting up Department S (S for silver) with Louis. The department was established between the wars, expanding on their remarkable range of luxury objects, such as elaborate desk accessories, cigarette and vanity cases, by creating still beautiful but relatively affordable functional objects. This echoed Jacqueau’s design ethos that less expensive materials such as coral and agate could be used in the same design with the most expensive gems such as diamonds and emeralds and that great design could be exemplified in setting off a priceless stone with a simple silken cord.

It will be auctioned by Christie's New York on October 15th, definitely one to watch!.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A rare favourite gemstone combination: blue and yellow SAPPHIRES

Cartier, 1957, Blue and yellow sapphire fringe necklace

It is not very often that one come across pieces set in the unusual combination of blue and yellow sapphires, yet three have appeared in the space of a few days. The necklace above will be auctioned by Christies NY on October 15th and it is a phenomenal piece made by Cartier in 1957 combining cushion cut blue sapphires and rectangular cut yellow sapphires set in a fringe diamond necklace.
1940's retro bracelet set in rose gold with blue and yellow sapphires
Today Sotheby's has auctioned the bracelet above last week in Hong Kong, a magnificent architectural piece of late Art Deco design combining two motifs set in rose gold with calibre cut blue and yellow sapphires.
Marchak, 1950's Blue and yellow sapphires necklace
And lastly this magnificent retro necklace signed by Marchak in the 1950's, auctioned by Sotheby's in New York on september 25th, set in yellow gold with c. 160 carats of oval shaped yellow sapphires and smaller oval trios of blue sapphires to accentuate the colour. Undoubtedly a one of a kind great statement piece of fine jewellery, which proves that creative bold design is not exclusive of custom pieces.