When this circa 1900 Art Nouveau pate-de-verre and opal pendant,
This platinum, gray natural pearl, and diamond pendant, set with two fancy-cut diamonds weighing approximately 1.90 and 1.85 carats, was Bratberg’s favorite in the sale. With old European- and single-cut diamond accents, suspending a gray natural pearl measuring approximately 13.11 mm x 11.79 mm and completed by a trace-link chain, it is accompanied by a GIA report stating that the pearl is natural. Featured on the back cover of the catalog, the pendant necklace sold well above the high estimate for $78,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). Skinner.
This antique signed Tiffany & Co. 18k gold nautical- theme watch chain, 15¾" long, composed of three pulleys joined by a sliding double rope-twist link chain, one suspending an anchor and a compass, sold above the high estimate for $10,800 (est. $4500/5500). Skinner.
A J.W. Benson, London, 18k gold open-face chronograph split-second stop watch with a silver-tone dial with Roman numeral indicators, subsidiary seconds dial, and minute register is inscribed “CLASS ‘A’ KEW CERTIFICATE./ 93.2 MARKS. JAN. 1906./ A RECORD” and “By Warrant to H.M. the Late Queen Victoria” on the lever escapement movement. Signed “J.W. Benson, 62&64, Ludgate Hill, London,” the watch has English hallmarks and requires repair. According to Bratberg, this Benson watch is “very rare,” which helped push it to sell for eight times the high estimate at $25,200 (est. $2000/3000). Skinner.
This 1 7/8" platinum, emerald intaglio, sapphire, and diamond brooch, set with an emerald intaglio depicting a family crest, is flanked by cabochon sapphires weighing approximately 6.88 and 6.99 carats and further set with old mine- and rose-cut diamonds, approximate total diamond weight of 3.50 carats. Accompanied by an AGL report stating that the sapphires are of Burma origin, with no evidence of heat, the brooch sold for more than twice the high estimate at $50,400 (est. $18,000/22,000). Skinner.
Antique Jewelry & Gemology
Photos courtesy Skinner
Skinner, Inc. held its March 12 fine jewelry auction in Boston. The sale featured “over 550 lots of antique and period jewelry, as well as contemporary jewelry by Tiffany, Cartier, David Webb, and others,” according to the presale press release. I felt the vibe of a successful sale with the happy hallmarks of steady bidding and climbing numbers when watching and listening to the auction on line. It was not surprising when the Skinner post-sale press release arrived announcing that the “Fine Jewelry Department yield[ed] extraordinary prices” with a sale total of over $2.5 million.
Was most of the action in the room, on line, or on the phones? Victoria Bratberg, director of jewelry at Skinner, said that bidding came from “…all over. We had people in the room that were bidding, and we had people on the Internet; we had lots of phone bids and a lot of left bids. It was just a really nice overall sale. We were very pleased…the consignors were thrilled…the people love their purchases.”
The cover lot, an Edwardian carved agate and enamel pendulette by Cartier, Paris, was also the top lot of the sale, estimated at $15,000/20,000 and bringing $174,000 (including buyer’s premium). Bratberg said the clock was “amazing” and that it rose to that price through vigorous competition.
Bratberg’s summary of the hottest items at the sale corroborates the market trends we’ve been seeing for quite some time. “The natural pearls are still really strong. Obviously, the period pieces that are signed did very, very well, and then the more contemporary signed pieces. Anything that is Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef is really bringing a strong price. And people really like the unique pieces, things that you don’t see all the time.”
Estimate-busters in the natural pearl arena included a natural pearl necklace that brought $120,000 against an estimate of $30,000/40,000; a gray natural pearl and diamond pendant that realized $78,000 (est. $20,000/30,000); and a natural pearl necklace with variously shaped and colored natural pearls that sold for $34,800 (est. $15,000/20,000).
Gloria Lieberman, founder of Skinner’s jewelry department, posted a relevant article on its jewelry blog on March 21, “The Demand for Natural Pearls.” She offered important insights into the criteria used to judge objects made with natural pearls and background information on valuing them, and she gave an opinion on what to expect in the future. The post began, “Pearls are always in fashion, and natural pearls always draw the most attention. Lately, natural pearls in great condition have performed very well at auction, and I feel that the trend may have peaked. The allure of the name ‘natural pearls’ will not be enough as buyers become more discerning and start to judge each strand on its quality. In the coming months, I expect big spikes in prices only if the pearls have excellent provenance or are extraordinary in size.” To read the rest of the article, go to Skinner’s Web site (www.skinnerinc.com), click “About” and then “Skinner Blog.”
Other notable offerings included unique pieces by artist Robert Lee Morris that garnered interest and good results. An oxidized copper and brass necklace and bangle sold well above the high estimate for $5700 (est. $600/800), and an 18k gold necklace composed of 35 disks realized $6600 (est. $5500/6500). You might remember that Morris gave a guest lecture, “Robert Lee Morris, Jewelry Artist: Remembering Joan Sonnabend,” preceding the sale of Sonnabend’s collection of jewelry that was auctioned on September 11, 2012, at Skinner.
Unpredictability is an aspect that keeps auctions interesting. Auction houses accurately estimate what will happen in most cases, but there are usually surprises and mysteries. Bratberg explained. “Sometimes we get calls—you know, everyone wants the same lot. And [at the sale] that lot just sells within the estimate. Then something no one asks about goes crazy. So you never know.”
Skinner Inc.’s next fine jewelry auction is June 11 in Boston. To see the catalog on line, go to (www.skinnerinc.com/specialty-areas/jewelry-and-gemstones).
AIJV Drops Membership Fees
To encourage worldwide membership, the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV) announced on March 12 that it will no longer charge membership fees. The organization is a networking and business development association for independent jewelry valuers. Founded in October 2010 by Adrian Smith, the AIJV has grown internationally with a strong presence in ten countries, including England, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Spain, France, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and the U.S.A.
One important facet of the AIJV’s mission is to support appraisers that do not buy or sell jewelry. According to a press release, its primary objectives are to provide a visible resource on the Web of truly independent jewelry appraisers worldwide; promote the use of its Web site by retail jewelers, the public, the insurance industry, legal professionals, and government agencies; and to promote the benefits of using an independent appraiser, while defining “independent valuer” to consumers.
Smith explained that one of the intentions of the group “is to make the AIJV the primary resource for anyone seeking the services of a highly qualified, truly independent jewelry valuer. By removing one of the barriers to joining us, we hope to continue increasing the size and diversity of this resource.”
The collaborative communication among cultures encourages “fresh ideas and better ways of working” for the membership, and hence, consumers. Some countries do not have a professional appraiser association. “The AIJV provides a focus and point of contact for them. Something magical happens when enthusiastic professionals from differing cultures come together for the purpose of sharing and learning from each other’s experiences. Our intention is to make these experiences as diverse as possible by expanding further into additional countries.”
For more information, including membership requirements, go to the AIJV Web site (www.independent-jewellery-valuers.org).
The top lot of the Skinner sale was this Cartier, Paris, Edwardian carved agate and enamel pendulette, 6¼" tall. The rotating ball dial with Roman numeral indicators and a rose-cut diamond star to indicate the time sits atop “Three Wise Monkeys” (two with rose-cut diamond eyes). On a cylindrical guilloche enamel base with a garland accent, the pendulette has French maker’s marks and guarantee stamps, and is signed “CARTIER” on the base plate and edge and “PARIS 187.” According to the catalog, the provenance was documented as follows: “Purchased at Cartier, Paris in the early 20th century by Mrs. Charles B. Alexander, then to her daughter Mary Alexander Whitehouse, then to her daughter, the consignor. The Alexander mansion was located at 4 West 58th Street, New York, and was one of the most lavish homes of the Gilded Age; it included a ballroom to accommodate 500 people.” The pendulette shattered estimates, realizing $174,000 (est. $15,000/20,000). Skinner.
Another hit at the Skinner auction was this natural pearl necklace. At this point, we are almost unsurprised when natural pearls fetch prices well beyond expectations. Who can pin down where they will go? Composed of 62 pearls graduating in size from approximately 4.83 to 8.42 x 8.47 mm, the necklace is completed by a white gold clasp. Accompanied by a GIA report stating that the pearls are natural, with no indications of treatment, and by a plot and bill of sale from “Morel & Cie., J. Chaumet successeur, Paris” for 49 pearls, as well as a bill of sale from Allen B. Farmer for ten pearls, the necklace sold for three times the high estimate at $120,000 (est. $30,000/40,000). Skinner.
This 18k gold “Grand Canyon” necklace, 16½" long, signed Gubelin, Switzerland, is composed of graduating abstract links and sold well above the high estimate for $22,800 (est. $6000/8000). Skinner.
Bratberg told me that these 1 7/8" long signed Tiffany & Co. platinum, emerald, sapphire, and diamond flower day/night ear pendants “were lovely and brought a really strong price.” Set with circular-cut emeralds and sapphires framed by full-cut diamonds, with an approximate total diamond weight of 10.50 carats, they sold for more than three times the high estimate for $22,800 (est. $5000/7000). Skinner.
Bratberg said this 2 5/8" long signed Boucheron, Paris, Art Deco enamel, diamond, and gem-set lorgnette, mounted in platinum and 18k white gold, “is quite beautiful.” Composed of polychrome enamel flowers centering a cabochon turquoise, and old mine- and rose-cut diamond accents suspending from a black cord with a conforming slide, the lorgnette had a maker’s mark and guarantee stamp. It sold for more than twice the high estimate at $27,600 (est. $8000/12,000). Skinner.
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest