Antique Jewelry & Gemology
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois, held a jewelry sale on December 2, 2012. John Moran Auctioneers held its inaugural HQ Jewelry and Luxury Goods auction on December 6, 2012, in Altadena, California. Let’s see what the jewelry experts in the Windy City and sunny southern California have to report.
A pair of Edwardian gold and diamond earrings. One has an old European-cut diamond weighing approximately 2.65 carats, and the other has an old European-cut diamond weighing approximately 2.47 carats. The diamonds are within collet settings with millegrain accents. The pair sold for $22,500 (est. $15,000/20,000). Leslie Hindman photo.
This Tiffany bangle is quite rare, Eblen said. “This is just a real unusual one, and the thing that really stood out to me about it was the fact that you could loupe this, you could look at the diamonds in this bracelet, you could rotate this bracelet in your hand, and the matching of the diamonds, again—when you go back to the Deco period—the matching of the diamonds is as good as anything you could do today. And when you think of what a feat that was. It’s one thing today to call up your diamond dealer and order their most expensive small stones, and say I want sixty-four matched round brilliants, D, E color, VVS one to two—the difference today is that you do that and they’re going to say, ‘Well, it’s going to take me a month or so; it’s going to be a very high price,’ and you say, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ Back then, it wasn’t like that. It’s not just ‘running up an order.’ It’s much more complicated; it’s much more arduous. It was an extraordinary bracelet—a really beautiful example.” This Tiffany & Co. Art Deco diamond and platinum bangle bracelet has an inner circumference of 7½" and contains 64 old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 6.00 carats total. It sold for $12,500 (est. $7000/9000). Leslie Hindman photo.
An Art Deco platinum and diamond bracelet with nine attached platinum and gem charms, consisting of an openwork platinum link bracelet containing 54 old European- and transitional brilliant-cut diamonds weighing approximately 2.16 carats total, sold for $12,500 (est. $7000/9000). Eblen said, “We’ve handled these wonderful Art Deco charm bracelets before. They’re really fantastic; each one of those charms is a real work of art in and of itself. They always bring good money because the buyers understand that every one of them is totally unique.” Leslie Hindman photo.
According to director of jewelry Alexander Eblen, the 987-lot sale at Hindman’s offered a “huge variety of really affordable great things” that sold anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Eblen gave us a synopsis of a trend shown in the sale using lot 64, a pair of old European-cut diamond earrings that had brought good results. He explained that earrings like these, “when they survive, typically do very well. I think that’s a little bit of a trend...in the pricing for true vintage and antique cut diamonds. The old European, the old mine-cut [diamonds show]…the difference between pushing the envelope, technology-wise today, what we can do with a diamond cut, and going to the very old-school way.”
He compared the old and the new cuts for us. “I think the real difference is this: In today’s world…these patented diamond cuts…most of them were slightly different from the norm, but then they sort of moved into this era of ‘more facets are better.’ So you’d create a round brilliant cut with a hundred-plus facets rather than the typical fifty-seven or fifty-eight. Or you’d create a radiant cut with two or three times the facets. And what you created was a stone with incredible fire—obviously, we love that about diamonds—we love them to be brilliant, fiery. But at the same time, it also took away from being able to appreciate the facet patterns within a diamond, and that’s really, for me, visually the best way to describe what people like about an old European- or an old mine-cut diamond. You have fewer facets, and you have larger facets. So yes, the diamonds aren’t designed for one hundred percent light return…but at the same time, you get these broad flashes of white light and of color out of a white diamond, and people really, really enjoy that.”
Eblen further addressed the process and fine craftsmanship of diamond cutting. “I like talking to people about how much more difficult it was to cut a diamond a hundred years ago or a hundred and fifty years ago than it is today. We have machines to help us and all this technology. Back then it was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to cut a diamond, and a lot more risky. And those things, I think, resonate. So you’re starting to see prices go up for old Europeans and old mine cuts. So many of them are damaged over time or re-cut to today’s proportions. You lose the chance to have an older diamond...I think there’s a soul or something to the older stones that people like…We see a nice increase in the money being paid for older cut stones, not just the old Euros and old mines but anything that’s the Deco period, 1920’s and ‘30’s, and prior.”
Along with the discussion about diamond cuts, we also delved into the topic of customers purchasing a piece of jewelry to wear versus considering it an investment. Eblen doesn’t see it as an either/or prospect. “I think you have to be very specific if you are trying to add something to your portfolio. It can’t just be a nice piece of jewelry.” He said that investing in a one-carat white might not be “a tremendously good investment from the rarity standpoint, because there are always going to be a lot of one-carat diamonds for the foreseeable future. Moving up the line, you get to a two-carat or three-carat or something above that, then you really start to be able to make the argument that this is a much more rare stone, because a three-carat of fine quality is just so much more rare than a one-carat. And you can make that assumption about a lot of different areas of the jewelry world—colored stones included. But you can also say that about fine wonderful standing manufacturers, jewelry houses—the Cartier, the Van Cleef, the older Tiffany…that through history of the auction have held their value, have increased in value. So there is certain guidance that we can give to buyers who are looking at it from that way. The best part about it, at the end of the day even those buyers, they’re not buying jewelry dispassionately, they’re not saying ‘this is just something to add to the portfolio and put in the vault.’ It’s a dual purpose investment, as in so many of the other things in the auction world that are sold as somewhat investment, but just as much, if not more importantly, to enjoy... If you love jewelry, you can wear your investment carefully, every day, all the time.”
Eblen was already working on Hindman’s April 7 and 8 fine jewelry and timepieces auction, shaping up to be a “don’t miss” event. There will be the usual preview April 3-6 at the Hindman headquarters in Chicago, and previews by appointment in New York City in mid-March. (Interested parties may contact the Chicago office at  280-1212.) Hindman will also feature a private preview at a home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Eblen described some of the upcoming standouts. “I have half a dozen things that I think are so incredible…The cover lot is a really, really beautifully cut eleven-carat fancy yellow oval, and the way that the stone is faceted is a really interesting pattern at the base of the stone. And it’s just a beautiful double claw prong setting with two approximately one-carat pear-shape white diamonds facing outward on the side and the shoulders.” There will also be a major size (approaching six carats) “very old example of an Art Deco alexandrite ring,” which the AGL has determined is from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The ring is “one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a very long time…Alexandrite is truly one of the rarest gemstones on earth… [This ring] is in a beautiful platinum setting, surrounded by five carats of old European-cut diamonds. It’s just sensational.” See the Web site for a preview (www.lesliehindman.com/departments/jewelry).
An antique rose gold, agate, and gold nugget miner’s pickaxe brooch was “all about the details,” in Eblen’s opinion. He said it was “probably contemporary to a lot of the gold finds…and the fact that it does have a real gold nugget at the end of the pickaxe is nice, and then in the handle, in the hilt, that is—to the best of my knowledge—gold-bearing quartz, which would’ve been a fun little piece that they polished and inset there…It was obviously pretty popular; it sold for more than three times the low estimate. So a lot of people noticed it, which makes me happy, because it’s a brooch, which is not today’s most popular piece of jewelry. But this was a real whimsical, fun piece, nicely made…You could cut a lot of corners on this and none were. This was a passion project for somebody.” The pickaxe brooch was a hit at $2000 (est. $500/700). Leslie Hindman photo.
Mollie Burns Keith at John Moran Auctioneers said, “People loved lot number two, which was that jade bangle. And I’d never heard of the company, Arthur and Bond of Yokohama…It was a British company that was based in Yokohama, Japan. And they mostly did silver. They used to do big, big tea sets with kind of a Japanese theme to them, like dragons and things like that…I couldn’t really find many comparables as far as jewelry went, but people really got excited about that piece…that was our cover piece, just because it was so colorful and eye-catching.” Signed “Arthur & Bond, YOKOHAMA,” the 8" diameter circa 1900 18k gold and jadeite bangle bracelet was designed as a dragon, set with five cabochon jadeites measuring from 13 to 13.5 mm and one round diamond gauged at 0.08 carat. The bangle was described in the post-sale release as “one of the most flamboyant pieces in the auction. It fired up the crowd and easily exceeded its estimate,” (while generating a pun for this writer) realizing $5700 (est. $1500/2000). Moran photo.
A circa 1925 7" wide Cartier Art Deco diamond bracelet mounted in platinum, set with two long rectangular-cut diamonds, eight baguette, and 63 single and full-cut round diamonds totaling approximately 3.20 carats, sold for $9000 (est. $2500/4500). Moran photo.
This 1½" x 1¼" circa 1910 Edwardian diamond brooch is mounted in platinum centering an old European-cut diamond gauged at 0.75 carat, surrounded by ten old European-cut diamonds totaling approximately 2.00 carats, and further surrounded by 58 old European-cut diamonds totaling approximately 4.10 carats. The brooch sold for $5700 (est. $2000/3000). Moran photo.
The 334-lot inaugural HQ Jewelry and Luxury Goods sale at Moran’s was held in Altadena, California. Moran’s decorative and fine art auctions are held at the Pasadena Convention Center, but, as Mollie Burns Keith, director of the jewelry department, said, “It was great. We kind of combined it with having a holiday party and inviting all of our clients—both trade and private clients…We thought, ‘Why don’t we just have it here? We could view it longer; we could have a full four days of previews.’” Moran’s festive holiday gala was held on the last day of the preview, December 5.
Keith said, “The thing that was really exciting about the sale, which made our clients go a little crazy in a good way, was that we did not have one single piece of trade property in the sale, meaning everything was from a private client or a private estate. So everything was fresh to the market. A lot of auction houses will fill in the sale with trade property if they’re short of property in the sale. But we were really proud to offer everything fresh to the market.”
Asked what people are looking for and what would be helpful for future consignors to know, Keith said, “What sells well at auction are things that are fresh to the market, that are period—really, really ‘typical of the period’ pieces. Having it signed, of course, adds an enormous amount.” She gave an example. “Lot sixty was really, really typical of that time period. It had that textured yellow gold and long kind of sautoir shape to it. And it was signed ‘Van Cleef and Arpels,’ and that just made everyone very excited.” The 1965 long necklace sold above its $35,000/55,000 estimate, realizing $60,000 (including buyer’s premium).
“Lot number forty-eight was really interesting too, because it was basically just a charm bracelet. But the charm was a little roulette wheel that actually spun and had a little ruby bead inside. And it was Van Cleef and Arpels. It was probably from the same time period as the necklace, so it was 1965 or 1970…it was really just a little charm bracelet. I loved that. That might’ve been my second-favorite piece in the sale. I don’t know why, but that little kitschy roulette wheel just made me smile.” The 14k gold charm bracelet sold for $9000 (est. $2500/3000).
Keith shared her view of a strength and a weakness in the market. “Jade jewelry has been doing extremely well. I would say pearls are really hard to sell. I don’t see any auction houses selling pearls very well, unless of course they’re natural pearls. But the cultured pearls and the South Sea pearls that used to sell for so much money at auction are not bringing those dollars anymore.”
Asked what the most exciting aspect of the inaugural event was, Keith said,“ I think it was just to look around and see that we were in our headquarters, and every single staff member was on the phone. It was so over-the-top successful. We had such a huge group of on-line bidders. People were on the phones and in the room, but it was quite busy on line as well, which was really exciting to see.
“The other thing that we did that was different was the discovery section, which is usually group lots or items that are under a thousand dollars. We’ve never in the past cataloged them or put them on line…and people were very actively bidding on those items on line, so we’ll definitely be doing that in the future, as well.” Keith explained, “Only people who actually physically attended the sale would bid on those pieces. So those people will be really disappointed to know that we’re going to be putting it on line.”
Near the end of our conversation, Keith said, “I think people like that it [Moran Auctioneers] is still sort of a family. It’s not a big corporation. It’s a family business, and everyone just loves working with the people here because it doesn’t have that corporate feel…We have the same clients who call, and they don’t just call the John Moran jewelry department, they call Ana or Mollie. ‘Hey, Ana! What’s coming up in the sale?’ And you can always talk to John too, which is nice.”
Moran Auctioneers will hold an HQ Valuation Day on March 20 at its headquarters at 735 West Woodbury Road, Altadena, California. The next HQ jewelry auction is scheduled for May 21. The catalog will be on the Web site (www.johnmoran.com).
One of the top lots of the Moran HQ sale, and Mollie Burns Keith’s favorite, was this 16½" circa 1830 rose-cut diamond necklace in silver-topped gold with diamonds entirely backed, set with one pear-shaped rose-cut diamond measuring 8.5-6.5 mm; 36 rose-cut diamonds measuring 3.5-7 mm; 228 rose-cut diamonds measuring 2 mm; and 84 rose-cut diamonds measuring 0.15 mm. Keith said, “When the client brought this in—she has a few daughters—she was thinking about taking this necklace apart and making a few pairs of earrings out of it for her daughters. I immediately jumped out of my chair and said, ‘Don’t touch it!’ Because what made it so fantastic was that it’s from the 1830’s, and it’s never been touched. It’s totally perfect in all of its original condition, with no repairs or anything. It was just a magnificent item. We had it in at $20,000/30,000, and it hammered at $54,000...It was brand new to the market; it had been in that family for over a hundred years, just sitting locked up somewhere. It’s nice to have a piece that old in that perfect condition.” Moran photo.
Originally published in the March 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest