Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Top 6 Favorite Gems at Sotheby's Important Jewels Auction

Vintage Bulgari emerald, ruby, pink sapphire & diamond
flower brooch, circa 1970. Est. $40,000-$60,000
September brings the beginning of the all-important jewelry auctions in New York - so I thought I better get started by heading to Sotheby's yesterday for a bit of gem-therapy! Oh how I miss these auctions in the summertime! Going to the preview during the week, rather than the more crowded weekend, provided me with ample room at the jewelry counters to take my time and really enjoy the pieces I came to see. I was not disappointed! The auction will be held on September 22, 2016.
The first jewel I looked at and my favorite of the sale was this stunning emerald, ruby, pink sapphire and diamond brooch by Bulgari, c. 1970. The large central emerald, an exquisite color with gem-set petals radiating out from it in a life-like flower design - almost giving the feeling that the blossom was caught in a light breeze. What an utterly delightful piece!
Art Deco Cartier sapphire & diamond jabot pin, circa 1930. Est. $45,000-$65,000
Next up - this elegant carved sapphire and old cut diamond jabot pin by Cartier, circa 1930. The ultimate in Art Deco chic, jabot's were worn in many fashionable ways, including on a ladies lapel, the shoulder of a dress, on cloche style hats and even on handbags. The two-piece brooch, usually vertical in design, has a long pin that connects the two elements of the jewel, with the smaller or lower piece acting as the clasp by clicking on or screwing onto the pin. This example uses carved sapphires, an Indian inspiration, used by the finest jewelry houses of the time, in particular, Cartier.
Vintage Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire and diamond necklace & earrings, circa 1970.
Est. $150,000-$200,000
Well, when all else fails! I have to say that this suite of jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels looked even more beautiful in person. It's also bigger than the image portrays! This is one of those sets that you can just imagine Elizabeth Taylor wearing back in the height of her jet-setting days in the 1970's. Absolutely gorgeous! Set with yellow and blue sapphires (the pendant centering a cushion-cut, yellow sapphire weighing 84.90cts.), along with brilliant cut diamonds throughout. The pendant is detachable to become a brooch and the necklace is also made up of detachable sections, allowing the necklace to be shorter and one of those segments becoming a bracelet, I believe. Oh, I love convertible jewelry!
Vintage Cartier diamond and gold ring by Dinh Van. Est. $10,000-$15,000
I know it's quite simple but this ring knocked my socks off! The wide gold band being in the shape of a square, perfectly framed the app. 3.25ct. Old European cut diamond, without any unnecessary embellishments. Genius design by Dinh Vin, who started working for Cartier in the mid 1960's. Inspired by the Bauhaus, he appreciated minimalist designs and pieces that were not recognized as being from a particular era or belonging to a specific gender. I loved this ring and quietly covet it!
Vintage David Webb black enamel, emerald, ruby and diamond elephant bracelet.
Est. $30,000-$40,000
What's an important jewelry auction without a David Webb animal bracelet! By the early 1960's, Webb's menagerie of animal bangles were gracing the wrists of the most discerning women. Anyone who was anyone needed to have one! Ranging from lions, tigers and panthers to horses, giraffes, zebras and more - they were and still are the iconic Webb piece that every one wants to own! This charmer is a black enamel elephant with ruby set eyes, diamond tusks and an emerald hat or ornament. Definitely fun to try on!
Art Deco Marcus & Co. carved jade, diamond and pearl necklace, circa 1930.
Est. $8,000-$12,000
Lastly, I swooned over this gorgeous Art Deco pendant necklace by the illustrious New York jeweler Marcus & Co. Dating to around 1930, the carved jade pendant with diamond set bail, suspended from a slim pearl necklace epitomized the period with its exotic elegance and bold color. The quite hefty pendant carved with ru-yi symbols, translating to "as you wish" or "as desired', further signifies the era of the decadent 1920's and 30's. I could almost feel the energy of the times and the jazz music wafting in the air, as I held it! Fabulous!

Of course, there are many other wonderful jewels in this auction, including a Lalique ring, a Suzanne Belperron brooch, Raymond Yard earrings and some very large diamond rings (!) - but these were my favorites! The auction is tomorrow, Thursday, September 22nd. You can go to the Sotheby's website to see all of the splendid jewelry up for sale and find out more information.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

NY Antique Jewelry & Watch Show 2016

From Bell and Bird - a French antique gold bangle with turquoise,
pearls and intricate enamel work, c.1870.
It's always wonderful to attend the New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show, as there is a never-ending array of beautiful gems to behold! This year was no exception. Here are a few of my absolute favorites! 

From Bell and Bird - a pair of antique French diamond drop earrings, c. 1850.
One of my first stops was at Bell and Bird, an Austin, Texas based jeweler, where I was delighted to see some really special pieces. The French bangle, pictured at top really took the cake as one of the most stunning I've ever seen from that era. The combination of turquoise and pearl is always something I love but the black and white enamel details are what really sets this piece a part. Graphic and bold on the one hand with its wide gold band and vibrant use of color but also refined, in its intricate enamel work, giving a nod to the Renaissance Revival. A rare beauty!

-Then there are the diamond earrings! As I said to the owner of Bell and Bird, the always friendly Cyrus Shennum, "You wouldn't need another piece of jewelry if you owned these!" Perhaps you might be a tad overdressed from time to time, but who cares! French in origin, the diamond drop earrings in the naturalistic style, harken to the mid 19th c. And, of course, who doesn't love old rose cut diamonds set in the beautiful patina of old silver? A pair of shoulder-duster earrings that would have been glittering in the candlelight of the ball in the 19th c., and today would be turning heads wherever they go! The collection at Bell and Bird is always well curated and top notch. @bellandbird

From Roy Rover Antiques - a sentimental mourning ring with red heart, dated 1799.
Next up Roy Rover Antiques & Fine Jewelry, from Hellerton, PA. This piece is the one that stole my heart. A mourning/memorial ring with plaited hair, in a frame of pearls with an ever-so-sweet, red painted paper heart, centered perfectly under its rock crystal cover. The reverse hand engraved with: "Charles Henry Bicknell ob 15 March 1799 AE 22". It is very apparent by the placing of the heart under the crystal (something I've never seen before), that young Henry was greatly loved and missed. Always a pleasure to see Roy & Julia Rover and their many beautiful gems! @royrover_antiques

From Lucy Verity - three antique rings, L-R, amethyst & pearl, pink topaz & pearl and paste cluster ring.
Confectioner's delight with these three 19th c. rings from Lucy Verity of Portobello Road, London. Can you tell I like rings?! All in a row and each one beautiful in their own way. From left to right: A lovely round, faceted amethyst ring with a frame of pearls from the mid to late 19th c. In the middle a pretty-in-pink, foil-backed topaz with a double halo of pearls from the early 19th c., and on the right, a magnificent pear shaped paste cluster ring (my favorite just for the bling factor!), also from the early 19th c. Cluster rings and frame rings were a very popular motif throughout the 18th & 19th c. Lucy has an amazing collection of jewelry specializing in the Georgian through Art Deco periods but don't be surprised if you find a Renaissance or Roman jewel among them! Her place is a must stop when visiting Portobello Road - and you will be delighted, as I always am, with her breadth of knowledge and quick wit! @lucy.verity

From Lenore Dailey Antiques - a Victorian coral cameo with diamonds in engraved gold, 1860-1880.
Another one of my favorite gems in the world of antique jewelry is Lenore Dailey, based out of Michigan, she sells at many shows across the U.S. each year. Her collection of jewels is always awe inspiring and might I say, it is not hard to find something that you can't live without when you visit her booth! Beautiful pieces primarily from the Georgian period through to Deco - with some earlier treasures too, including Stuart Crystals dating from the 17th and early 18th century, and more. Lenore always has a smile on her face and is a delight, as well as being an extremely knowledgable person when it comes to all things antique jewelry. A gem indeed!

-Pictured above is a finely carved Victorian coral cameo of a bacchante, a female priestess or follower of Bacchus, the Roman god of agriculture and wine. Note the grapes and leaves in her hair. She is framed by lovely Old European cut diamonds in a finely engraved gold pin. This is the kind of pin or brooch that a well-to-do 19th c. traveler might have purchased on the Grand Tour - perhaps finding a cameo like this one in Italy, where they were particularly known for their coral and their carving skills with cameos and intaglios.

From Jacob's Diamond & Estate Jewelry - an Art Nouveau tourmaline pendant, c. 1900.
What's not to love with this lovely Art Nouveau pendant? The mouth watering pink tourmaline gem along with the freshwater pearls and diamonds set into the curvilinear floral enamel pendant is divine and so typical of the jewels from the Art Nouveau period spanning between 1890 - 1910. This particular piece, not bearing any hallmarks or maker's marks, nods to the American aesthetic, being symmetrical in style rather than the asymmetric form usually found in French pieces.

From Jacob's Diamond & Estate Jewelry - an antique chrysoberyl cluster ring, 18th c.

Another gem I found was this stunning, antique chrysoberyl cluster ring from Jacob's Diamond & Estate Jewelry. It doesn't get any better than this when it comes to 18th century beauty and grace! The ultra-soft-hued green stones, almost the color of pale celery, were a long time favorite of Georgian era jewelers, particularly from the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal & Spain. These Brazilian stones, were often paired with diamonds, rubies, emeralds & pink topaz in an array of jewels from hair ornaments, set en tremblant, to earrings, necklaces, pins and stomachers - and were made for the upper crust of society. However, to me, there is nothing more beautiful than the classic chrysoberyl cluster ring. What a treat it was to see this one and try it on at the show! A pleasure, as always, to talk with Jacob and see his amazing collection! @jacobs_estate_jewelry

From Lowther Antiques - an antique paste and gilt metal butterfly & flower pin, c. 1860.

Last but certainly not least, I visited with one of my favorite London dealers, Pat Novissimo of Lowther Antiques. I am always delighted by what I find in her treasure trove of jewels, including this charming mid 19th c. pin. Faux turquoise made from glass, along with clear paste acting as accents throughout, all in a rich gilt metal, bring this sweet butterfly and flower pin to life. Measuring about 4 inches long, it makes quite the statement and I can just imagine wearing it at the shoulder on a little black dress! 

Pat has one of the best Georgian jewelry collections around, as well as specializing in the periods of Victorian, Queen Anne and earlier. Her knowledge is impressive and she always has and interesting fact or story to tell about her pieces. She does several jewelry shows a year across the U.S. and can be found at Portobello Road in London, when she's not traveling.

Well that wraps up my experience at the show this year! It's always fun and I always find something I've never seen before - but the best part is talking with all my favorite dealers and meeting new ones, too! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Day At The Met

A Young Prince Seated on a Throne, Gazing in a Mirror (detail)
c.1690-1700, Punjab, India.
In one day I traveled through multiple countries, time periods, cultures & genres of art. Everything from sculpture to paintings, to jewelry... and fashion! This is an easy task, mind you, when you're at the Met Museum of Art. The senses are delighted and the mind expands. I can't think of a better way to spend the day!

I started my day in the Greek and Roman Arts atrium-like hall - and with the bright sun streaming through the glass ceiling, it brought the classical statues to life and reminded me of my time spent amongst the ruins of ancient Greece & Rome. I blissfully loitered there for awhile, soaking it all in before heading to the smaller side galleries where items such as pottery, glass & jewelry of the period are on view.
Classical statues in the Greek & Roman Art Court
Stunning black & white mosaic floor
Etruscan striped agate & hard stone pendant necklace, 5th century BC.
Note the beautifully coiffed ladies in gold.

Two exquisite Roman pieces: Gold crescent necklace, 1st-3rd c. AD
Jasper intaglio of a horseman spearing a boar, in gold frame with pearls & glass, 2nd-3rd c. AD
I could spend hours in this part of the museum! Especially when there are such great examples of jewelry from the ancient world - including the gold necklace above with its hand woven chain, wheel shaped finials set with pearls and its crescent pendant, a symbol of the sun & moon. These motifs were popular in jewelry throughout the Roman Empire and are just as relevant in design today.
Todi Ragini: A Lady with a Vina Attracts Two Deers, Deccan, probably Aurangabad
c. 1700, opaque watercolor on paper.
Madhava Ragaputra, Son of Bhairava Raga: A Young Prince Seated on a Throne, Gazing in a Mirror,
Punjabi Hills, kingdom of Chamba, c. 1690-1700 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper.
Next up: Two of my favorite paintings from the Divine Pleasures exhibit -Paintings from India's Rajput Courts. The vibrant color and extreme detail of these works of art are absolutely stunning. This style of art, dating back centuries, has always fascinated and delighted me with its story telling nature of courtly life - and tales of Hindu deities. Not only are the stylized scenes of nature and the costumes brilliant but the jewelry is, of course, fabulous! Just look at the prince in his bright orange robes,white flower garland and many jewels. I can perfectly understand why he is admiring his splendid reflection in the mirror!
House of Dior Ensemble - Spring/summer 2015, haute couture collection
L'Elephant Blanc Evening Dress -from Yves Saint Laurent's debut collection for the
House of Dior - Spring/summer 1958 haute couture
Dolce & Gabbana Dress - Spring/summer 2013, haute couture collection 
After a spot of lunch at the American Art Café, I made my way to the Manus x Machina exhibit - Fashion in an Age of Technology - a show that explores the relationship of handmade and machine-made within the designs of the great fashion houses of the 20th and 21st century. Different from any of the Costume Institute's exhibits I've seen before and a little more low key this time - but some very impressive pieces on view nonetheless, and many that I absolutely loved - including the 3 featured here.  Each of these exquisite haute couture designs are examples of a combination of handmade and machine-made pieces - from hand pleated, hand embroidered and hand applied elements of the garments, along with machine sewn and laser-cut pieces, such as in the wool fleece appliqué on the Dolce & Gabbana dress. (bottom image). Although I loved many designs in the show, I think my absolute favorite was the Dior evening dress (middle image), which was part of Yves Saint Laurent's premier collection with the fabled Parisian fashion house in 1958. Perfection is the word I would use to describe the "trapeze line" evening dress with hand applied sequins and beads, complete with multiple layers of tulle to provide the rigid understructure needed to make the dress seem effortless. The name of the dress, L'Elephant Blanc, paid homage to the fashionable Parisian night spot and alluded to the expense and effort in creating the exquisite garment. Only in Paris! Love!
-Although I saw more at the Met that day, I will finish here and save the rest for another blog post in the near future! As always, every time I go to the Met I learn something new, I delight in the color, design and history of things and walk away replenished and inspired. What more can one ask for :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Silver Screen Gems

The Duchess, 2008
Keira Knightly, Ralph Fiennes,
Dominic Cooper & Hayley Atwell 

I'm a fanatic for gorgeous period films, especially ones that capture the era, authentically, through setting, costume and jewelry. I love to get lost in a film that takes me to a different time and place and mesmerizes me with its beauty & story. And, if it's based on true events, even better! My list is long, therefore this will be an on-going feature on Gems - a tour guide ;)   

So... as we head into fall with a chill in the air and longer nights, lets get started with two of my favorites.

Keira Knightly & Hayley Atwell in The Duchess -
sporting pretty day-wear for a walk in the park.

The Duchess, a true story based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. This rich drama tells the story of her somewhat turbulent marriage to her husband, the Duke of Devonshire, her children, loves, losses and public popularity as a fashion trend-setter and forward thinking woman of the late 18th century. There is no sugar coating in this film, which I love, about what life was like for her. Difficult circumstances and rules of that period make it an often times heart breaking journey - but there are moments of real joy, tenderness & love, too.

Keira Knightly as the Duchess of Devonshire in a ballroom scene from
The Duchess, with fabulous wig, costume & jewels!

One of my favorite things about this movie, however, is the magnificent costumes, wigs & jewelry! I don't know if I've ever seen a better representation of that period on film. Truly believable. I was very impressed with the jewelry, especially seeing things like the cut steel parure (suite of jewelry) worn by Keira Knightly, seen in the movie poster above (top). These types of jewels were all the rage at that time and worn by the royalty and aristocrats of Europe, even showing up in royal portraits, such as Catherine the Great of Russia. Worn as a diamond substitute, cut steel jewelry (faceted steel studs riveted to a steel backing) shimmered in the evening candlelight just as brightly as diamonds, and some might say carried a sense of power about them, being made from steel. 
Round out this film with great performances by the cast, beautiful scenery and an intelligent story, based on the book by Amanda Foreman, and you have a real winner.

Bright Star, 2009
Abbie Cornish & Ben Whishaw
Another favorite of mine is Bright Star.
Based on the romance of poet John Keats & Fanny Brawne in the early 19th century. This small jewel of a film features the quiet yet passionate love between the pair. In a time of little money, illness & hardship, their love never falters. Set in Hampstead Village on the outskirts of London, the film, directed by Jane Campion (who remembers The Piano?), doesn't need jewelry to be an absolute gem - in fact, the rich colors of clothing & interiors and the painterly scenes of nature are more than enough to satisfy the senses. Add the beauty of Keats' poetry and their love letters to each other and you find yourself lost in their world.

Bright Star - lounging after the picnic
The other thing I love about this film is that Fanny is a strong woman who knows what she wants in life and was even known for her fashion-forward creations that she made herself and wore. I love the simple scenes of her sewing. There are many visually arresting scenes in this film that will move you, as will the story. As I said, it is a small jewel of a film.
                      Bright Star - a walk in the countryside
Bright Star - Fanny talking with her younger sister

I hope you enjoy these first two films in the Gems - a tour guide
favorite period films selection! Happy viewing!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gilded New York - Exhibit

Michele Gordigiani, “Cornelia Ward Hall and Her Children,”
(Detail), 1880 - Museum of the City of New York
It's my second time visiting this gem of a show, which lets you glimpse into the lives of wealthy New Yorkers in the late 19th century. A time of opulence, staggering wealth, Fifth Avenue mansions, lavish parties & balls, designer gowns, the finest interiors and objet d'art - and exquisite jewelry. This ongoing exhibit  at the Museum of the City of New York, is a must see for New Yorkers and visitors alike. It is the inaugural installation for the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery and in my opinion they hit it out of the park, Central Park, that is.

 Literally right across the street from Central Park and on Fifth Avenue, no less, the Museum of the City of New York is a beautiful, small museum housed in a Georgian-Revival building completed in 1932. Focusing on New York City's past, present & future, the shows here are always well curated, interesting and worth your time. The museums 22 minute film, Timescapes, gives you a whirlwind tour of the history of this great city - showing every 1/2 hour, it's a wonderful way to start your visit.
Gilded New York Salon - Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery
Stepping into the beautifully appointed Gilded New York gallery, complete with period furnishings, paintings, chandeliers and sconces, immediately puts you in the mindset of the Gilded Age. Even velvet flocked wallpaper adorns the walls! The narrow salon features four windows overlooking Central Park, from its third floor location, giving you the impression of being in someone's Fifth Avenue mansion. Perhaps one of the Vanderbilt's?
One of the jewelry cases with gilded, annular clock (in window sill) featuring the
Three Graces, probably French(1850-1875), and view looking over to Central Park
Tiffany & Co. brooch set with pearls, Burmese ruby, demantoid garnets,
pink sapphires & diamonds. G. Paulding Farnham, designer, c. 1900
The brooch above, by Tiffany & Co., was probably my favorite piece of jewelry in the show. My photo not doing it justice - this brooch was like looking at the most exquisite piece of candy you've ever seen. The subtle varying hues of pink and white pearls was delicious and that ruby - absolutely mouth watering!
Diamond and emerald brooch, probably French, c. 1890
Tiffany & Co. gold bangle set with amethyst, sinhalite, garnet,
aquamarine & pink tourmaline. G. Paulding Farnham, designer, c. 1895
You really see the Art Nouveau influence in this gem-set bangle with its organic feel and sensuous lines - and the whiplash curves of the tendrils in this spectacular brooch, below.
Marcus & Co., The Rehan Jewel, c. 1895-1905
Plique a jour enamel & gold. The jewel is named after
its owner, the celebrated New York actress, Ada Rehan ( 1859-1916)
Dreicer & Co. necklace of platinum, natural pearl & diamond, c. 1905
Can't you just see yourself wearing this fabulous necklace to the opera or the ball? But of course!

There were more jewels but as you can see, it was difficult to get a good photo of them through the glass, so we will move on to the other items on display. Accessories, costumes, silver and more!
Duvelleroy folding fan, Paris, c. 1900
Painted silk leaf, applied sequins, feather; carved and painted mother- of- pearl monture

Beautiful Duvelleroy fan box, below

Typical accessories of the day.
Lorgnette, gold & optical glass, probably American, c. 1900 -
Tiffany & Co. silver & sapphire cigarette case, c. 1895 - Gold, silver, diamond
& feather hair pin/ornament - Tiffany & Co. frog leather & diamond card case, c.1900 -
Flacon de poudre (scent bottle), gold, diamond, pink tourmaline or topaz,
crystal & silver, 1890-1910
Handbag handle with mermaids in silver and chrysoprase clasp, c. 1905
F. Walter Lawrence - designer Gustave Manz, silversmith
Love this!

And for the gentleman....
Ivory, gold & wood novelty cane with naked lady in concealed compartment -
Tiffany & Co. silver flask with seahorse design, 1882 - Silver and engraved
glass flask by Gorham Manufacturing Co., 1898 
Maison Worth, Paris - "Infanta Margarita after Velazquez",
fancy dress costume worn by Ms. Kate Brice to the
Bradley-Martin Ball, 1897
A wonderful slide show of great costumes worn by New York's elite
at the many balls and parties around town at the turn of the century.
This one picturing Lady Paget (Minnie Paran Stevens)
 as an Egyptian princess at the Vanderbilt Ball, 1883
Fan, opera glasses, hair comb, purses, very dainty evening shoes
and a pair of yellow, silk stockings
A selection of silver & silver gilt items along with Venetian glass,
earthenware and some Etruscan revival jewelry.
Etruscan revival jewelry - Necklace by Giacinto Melillo, Italy, late 1800's
I noticed that items I originally saw my first time visiting the show back in February had been changed out with other items. Perhaps the museum wants to continually rotate items in order to share their wonderful collection from that period. Or, perhaps, change items with the seasons? Either way, it's a great excuse to keep coming back to enjoy this intimate jewel of a show!

You can read more about this elegant & extravagant period of New York City's history, here, at the museums website. There is also a great book on the subject, featuring the items in the exhibit, done by the museum, called - Gilded New York: Design, Fashion and Society 
Untermyer Fountain - Three Dancing Maidens by German sculptor Walter Schott
After you've enjoyed your time at the museum, I highly suggest heading across the street and up a few blocks to the Central Park Conservatory Garden. The only formal garden in Central Park, it is like stepping back in time to the turn of the century, and across the pond to Europe. Divine!

*All photos in this post taken by Wendy E. Smith