Antique Jewelry and Gemology
Photos courtesy Sotheby’s, Doyle New York, and Freeman’s
Three sales in February offered jewelry ranging from modest to extravagant to buyers shopping for Valentine’s Day. Sotheby’s sale of “Important Jewels” was on February 7 and included the higher-priced jewels (though the offerings were more moderate than the stellar reaches of its “Magnificent Jewels” sales). Doyle New York and Freeman’s in Philadelphia both held auctions on February 12, and these sales included property that sold for more down-to-earth prices. These three well-established auction houses reported good results, and as Madeline Corcoran McCauley, jewelry specialist at Freeman’s, said of the jewelry department in general, “It’s strong right now, which is nice. It’s a good department to be in right now.”
A circa 1900 18k gold and octagonal-shaped pink topaz ring, 17.25 carats, mounting decorated with gold beads and scrollwork, sold above the high estimate for $25,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). Sotheby’s, New York.
The 480-lot auction of jewels at Sotheby’s, New York City, achieved a total of $10,535,821 (includes buyers’ premiums), “marking the third consecutive record total for a February sale of jewelry at Sotheby’s,” according to its post-sale press release.
Lisa Hubbard, Sotheby’s chairman of North and South America for the international jewelry division, said: “We again were honored to present a selection of jewels from the collections of Estée Lauder and Evelyn H. Lauder in today’s sale, sold to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation that Evelyn founded in 1993. The pieces on offer today exceeded their overall high estimate and join the jewels sold last December for a combined total of $22.8 million.”
Among the 54 items from the Lauder collection, a circa 1915 signed Cartier platinum, diamond, and pearl jabot pin brought $13,750 (est. $12,000/18,000); a circa 1930 platinum and diamond brooch of oval shape and openwork design, with French assay and partial workshop marks, realized $7500 (est. $5000/7000); a circa 1950 platinum and diamond double clip of scrollwork design, with French assay and workshop marks, sold above the high estimate for $16,250 (est. $10,000/15,000); and a circa 1950 gold, platinum, ruby, and diamond stylized flower head brooch sold well above the high estimate for $26,250 (est. $10,000/15,000).
Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale is April 17. According to the Web site, a Van Cleef & Arpels heart-shaped emerald and diamond necklace estimated at $450,000/650,000 will highlight the sale, as will a rare Cartier tutti frutti bracelet and a pair of fancy pink diamond ear clips. Previews will be held in New York from April 13 through April 16. See the catalog on the Web (www.sothebys.com).
The prize for an object selling well above its presale estimate is this 14k gold, green beryl, emerald, sapphire, and ruby bracelet. The circa 1945 signed Seaman Schepps double snake-link bracelet features a polished gold frog decorated with calibré-cut emeralds and two modified cabochon ruby eyes, atop one cabochon emerald and one carved green beryl and is further decorated with two cabochon sapphires. It soared far above the estimate and sold for $50,000 (est. $5000/7000). Sotheby’s, New York.
Fifty-four lots from the collection of Evelyn H. Lauder were offered at the Sotheby’s sale. They were sold to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation she founded in 1993. This circa 1925 brooch centers a cushion-cut peridot weighing approximately 20.00 carats, mounted in platinum within openwork surrounds set with numerous old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 3.25 carats, and accented by black enamel. It sold well above the high estimate for $31,250 (est. $8000/12,000). Sotheby’s, New York.
This 1¾" x 4 1/8" antique silver, gold, and blue enamel swallow brooch with rose-cut diamonds (one replaced with a round brilliant diamond) sold for $1750 (est. $500/700). Doyle New York.
An antique gold, portrait miniature, enamel, and guilloche enamel box and a metal and enamel needle case, circa 1861, sold well above the estimate despite having enamel loss (visible in photo). The 3 1/8" x 3 1/8" x 7/8" box and 4 7/8” x 13/16" needle case brought $5625 (est. $3000/4000). Doyle New York.
Doyle New York’s fine jewelry auction featured more than 850 lots of jewelry with “more moderate estimates than are offered in Doyle New York’s Important Jewelry category of sales,” according to its post-sale press release.
The sale total was $2,289,450 against a presale estimate of $1,716,070/ 2,433,980, with 87% sold by lot and by value. There was competitive bidding, and few lots were passed.
The top lot was a Cartier man’s platinum and sapphire intaglio ring from the estate of Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl (1903-2011), daughter of William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. and niece of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough. The ring sold along with a citrine ring, a sapphire ring, three guard rings, and a diamond and gem-set pendant, circa 1920. I watched the bids rise well above the high estimate and thought, “The sapphire ring is causing the excitement.” The post-sale press release confirmed my suspicion. The group defied presale estimates, realizing $43,750 (est. $1200/1800).
Other items of note were a platinum, diamond, and Tahitian black cultured pearl fringe necklace and a Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger gold, green paillonné enamel, and diamond bangle bracelet. Each brought $32,500 (both were estimated at $25,000/35,000). An antique gold, freshwater pearl, and diamond pendant with a gold chain and a pair of 14k gold fringe earclips sold for more than twice the high estimate at $4063 (est. $1200/1800); and a circa 1910 platinum and 1.25-carat diamond ring also sold for more than double the high estimate for $5313 (est. $1500/2000).
Additional pieces from Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl’s estate will be offered in Doyle New York’s April 15 auction of important jewelry. The highlights of the sale are a circa 1928 rare Cartier rock crystal and diamond “mystery” clock (est. $200,000/400,000) and a circa 1925 Cartier Art Deco silver gilt, lapis, jade, and diamond desk clock (est. $20,000/30,000). See the Web site (www.doylenewyork.com) for the auction catalog.
A circa 1920 Art Deco carved jade, diamond, platinum, cabochon sapphire, and cord necklace, 32 7/8" long, with one oval carved jade measuring approximately 16.5 x 28.0 x 5.2 mm, and two drop-shaped carved jades measuring approximately 34.5 x 20.5 x 6.4 mm and 33.5 x 20.8 x 6.4 mm, sold for more than twice the high estimate at $2500 (est. $800/1200). Doyle New York.
These 14k yellow gold, garnet, and diamond earrings, 1¼" long, with post backings feature a rose-cut diamond-set insect with ruby eyes atop a cabochon garnet. There was a lot of competition in the room as I watched this sell on line for more than twice the high estimate for $1375 (est. $400/600). Freeman’s.
A pair of Greek Revival gold drop earrings, 1¾" long, in open form, with foliate design and black enamel accenting, sold for twice the high estimate for $1000 (est. $300/500). Freeman’s.
McCauley said this Riker Bros. 14k yellow gold and enamel dragonfly pin, 2" long, was probably made around 1915. Featuring ruby eyes with two seed pearls and enameled wings and signed by the maker, it sold above the high estimate for $1375 (est. $700/900). Freeman’s.
Freeman’s estate jewelry and watches auction on February 12 consisted of 368 lots. Madeline Corcoran McCauley, jewelry specialist at Freeman’s, said, “I was really happy with the sell-through rate and how the sale did.”
McCauley described the auction as “a chance for people to get things at more of an affordable price point.” She was pleased with the turnout and said, “We had such great energy in the room.” Watching the auction on line, I could hear the audience some of the time, and it sounded as if they were enjoying themselves. I even heard laughter. “And that’s a tribute to our auctioneers, John Walter and Beau Freeman. Beau is the chairman and has a large role in the jewelry department, and John Walter has been here over twenty-five years…they really keep the energy up.”
Pins and brooches—an angel skin coral blossom brooch; a 1920’s-’30’s Franz Zirnkilton bee pin; a 1915 Riker Bros. dragonfly pin; and a diamond and zircon brooch—all did well in the sale (see accompanying photos for details). I detected a nature theme here, and McCauley replied, “I think they were definitely the most interesting pieces. I guess what I was noticing, more from a jewelry perspective, was [that] rings were very strong. But then, rings aren’t as interesting to look at as an articulated bee necessarily! All of our engagement rings were very strong, as well as an eternity band that sold for $6875. A platinum and diamond emerald ring, from one of our Main Line [Philadelphia] private ladies, sold for over $5000, which was great because it didn’t even have a certificate on it. It was a great wearable size.”
The diamond and zircon brooch was “what we in the jewelry world call ‘made up.’ Portions of it were ‘made up’ around other portions.” This is one of the reasons I found the brooch so appealing—the piecing together of elements from different eras that “speak to” one another and form a united piece. “People were much better at recycling things than we are,” McCauley noted.
This led to our discussion about jewelry designed for multiple purposes. “Some old jewelry pieces are very convertible. You see necklaces that convert into two bracelets and potentially earrings; or brooches that become pendants. People were much more resourceful back then…I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a resurgence of that.”
I wondered if bidding and buying via the Internet was still a burgeoning trend, and McCauley answered, “In every sale, we’re seeing more and more on-line buying. In our November 2011 sale, the top lot sold to somebody on line. They didn’t even view the piece.”
Does Freeman’s encounter deadbeats in the cyber arena? McCauley responded, “That’s becoming an increasing issue at every auction house, and that’s something we fight. We try to vet the buyers as much as we can to prevent that. Certainly things that keep us up at night…but we see, on the whole, that our buyers are great,” and Freeman’s has a much larger percentage of success than failure with Internet bidders.
What’s hot in the market? “Watches and pocket watches are so strong right now…and we’re really seeing the Asian buyers responding very well to them, which is another interesting trend,” answered McCauley.
Freeman’s fine jewelry and timepieces auction on May 6 features pocket watches from the collection of David Landes, the Harvard economics professor who wrote the book Revolution in Time, which outlines the history of clocks, watches, and timepieces. “There are some really important watches in that collection.” An exhibition of highlights from the jewelry portion of the sale, as well as pieces from the Landes collection, will be held in late April in Edinburgh and London. See Freeman’s Web site for dates, details, and a catalog of the sale (www.freemansauction.com).
McCauley was working against a deadline for cataloging the May sale. “We have another big yellow diamond in that sale, a 14.82-carat fancy yellow diamond with really good clarity. It’ll be a natural pearl and diamond-heavy sale. We have a really exciting natural Colombian emerald in a Deco setting, as well as a Boucheron piece—a brooch with two natural pearls and a large natural pearl drop, and then a central pearl, accented by a serpent and an arrow, and it’s all done in diamonds. It’s in its original box…really one of those once-in-a-lifetime pieces.”
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest