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Three Jewelry Auctions

Mary Ann Brown | May 12th, 2013

Alexander Eblen said that this Victorian yellow gold, pearl, and shell cameo brooch was beautifully crafted. “With shell, you’re dealing with a material that is most common in cameos, so it gets the least respect; however, when you have a really finely carved one, and it’s something out of the ordinary like this—I mean, if you look at the detail to her hair and the ribbons in her hair and this sort of radiant motif going around her head, and then you have a bird clutching this object in its talons—I think the cameo itself is quite beautiful. But the setting is what really did it for me. This has just a glorious, beautiful setting…the detail work, the engraving, and the openwork around the outside in that foliate motif, topped off with what are almost assuredly natural seed pearls around the outside. It really did stand out, and it was quite a good size, too—you’re talking about something sixty-eight millimeters by sixty millimeters wide.” The brooch sold for $1625 (est. $600/800). Leslie Hindman.

Eblen said that this necklace had an audience in “the smaller groups, the niche market of collectors that understand it…You could not get any more quintessentially Edwardian with platinum-topped gold, these beautiful little probably natural pearls, the bow motif, foliate motif. This was just incredibly sweet, very dainty, very delicate; it’s a lovely thing that this has survived in such good condition.” It sold for $5000 (est. $1500/2500). Leslie Hindman.

Antique Jewelry & Gemology

Jewelry auctions in April at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Doyle New York, and Bonhams (New York, simulcast to Los Angeles and San Francisco) offered a broad range of styles and prices realized—something for just about every buyer. Each sale included big highlights but also featured lots that achieved admirable results at more affordable prices.

Leslie Hindman

Alexander Eblen, director of jewelry at Leslie Hindman, characterized the April 7 and 8 fine jewelry auction: “It was a great sale for us. It was actually our best sale ever… it had some really beautiful items, some really special items, but I think you found [see photos and descriptions] a couple of the less  expensive but still really interesting ones that I enjoyed.”

The 1214-lot sale “achieved a record total of $4.89 million [includes buyers’ premiums],” according to a post-sale press release. A big sale that runs two days has a lot to offer jewelry enthusiasts of the antique and contemporary varieties.

“I love the idea of a totally inclusive marketplace, where everyone who’s coming in to see the jewelry can go and oooh and aaah over a vivid yellow diamond that’s going to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then step literally one foot over and look at something that they can afford. If you can afford to spend five hundred dollars, you can always buy something in our sales. I like that. I think that there are many times where there is the synergy of those coming together—someone coming in who can afford to buy a half-million-dollar vivid yellow ends up looking at something and falling in love with something that might sell for a thousand dollars. And I think going back and forth has been good for us.”

When discussing some of the antique lots, particularly a Victorian yellow gold, pearl, and shell cameo brooch that did well in the sale ($1625 against presale estimates of $600/800), Eblen said, “This is a very good time to be buying esoteric pieces like this, which are not necessarily in fashion. I think cameos go back and forth, and sometimes you have a little bit of a trend towards them and then their prices go up. This was a collectible piece. It was beautiful craftsmanship. No signature, just a number stamped into it. So if someone can identify who did this, it might be quite a bit more valuable. It’s one of those mysteries.”

As we perused the sale catalog, Eblen made a point of mentioning lot 94. “It was an exceptional bracelet, but you know, a lot of people have seen diamond bracelets, and they’re a little bit soft right now in the market... I just think it was great because it was a Peacock bracelet, by Peacock here in Chicago, and it was a really beautiful quality.” It sold for $13,750 (est. $8000/12,000).

I am grateful that department heads like Eblen share trends, history, and the current economic picture, and I told him so. He intimated that he is just doing his job. “We as a company, we’re full of nerds who really, really enjoy what we do. There’s rarity, and more importantly, there’s collectibility, at every price point, and we really try to espouse that in our sales…And you know, no matter what, no matter as time goes on, what happens in the economy, rarity is always worth having. So if you have something that is rare, there is desirability there. It may not have incredible desirability and value at this point in time, but that does not mean that the rarity goes away…I don’t want to promote this incredibly strong idea of ‘this is all purchased for investment.’ That loses so much of the fun of jewelry. Buy it because you like it and you want to wear it.”

The next fine jewelry sale will be held September 8 and 9. For more information, visit (

This Edwardian platinum-topped gold, coral, diamond, seed pearl, and sapphire pendant/brooch “was really unusual,” according to Eblen. Consisting of an oval of white coral, pierced and carved, it depicts a bejeweled lady accented with several platinum-topped gold components containing one oval brilliant-cut sapphire, 29 old European and round single-cut diamonds and numerous seed pearls strung on wire, on a polished and pierced 14k white gold base plate. Eblen said, “Someone just really had fun with this, someone who was very patient to drill and to carve the coral in such a way as not to break it—but then to have her completely bedecked in jewels and really beautiful jewels too. I wish I had the full-size pieces of this! The bird has beautiful wings. She has a huge diamond ring on, a great diamond bracelet, a beautiful earring, and a wonderful tiara…To have this taken to an extraordinary level is really something unusual. I have not seen anything like this before.” Accompanied by a fitted period leather case, it sold for $2125 (est. $800/1200). Leslie Hindman.

This Art Deco platinum, gold, Alexandrite, and diamond ring contains one oval brilliant-cut Alexandrite measuring approximately 11.76 x 9.52 x 7.30 mm. (This photo shows one ring in two color aspects.) The ring was one of Eblen’s favorites in the sale. Set with yellow gold prongs within a platinum setting, containing 14 old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 5.00 carats total, stamped “10% IRID PLAT,” the ring was accompanied by an AGL Alexandrite identification and origin report stating, “The mineral type is natural chrysoberyl, the variety is Alexandrite.” Comments on the report included “degree of color change: prominent (90%-100%), the quality of color change: excellent; and the origin provenance is Classic Ceylon (Sri Lanka).”

Eblen said, “The color change on this is as fine a color change as I have seen from Ceylon…in terms of a Ceylon stone, this is a very strong price, and a lot of people had fallen in love with it…I had a couple of people call up afterwards and say, ‘Oh, I really wanted that so badly, I just could not spend any more for this as a Ceylon stone,’ And I thought to myself, you know, that’s silly. Is it a fantastic Alexandrite? Yes, it is. Is it a fantastic period ring? Yes, it is. How many other combinations like that do you see? And then when you put it in context to a Brazilian stone, which easily would’ve been $100,000-plus, or put it in context to a Russian stone which would’ve been $300,000-plus, it’s a bargain. So if you put all these things in perspective, the $55,000 hammer that this got [$68,500 with buyer’s premium (est. $30,000/50,000)]…, was the ring worth every penny? Yes, it was. And on the retail market in an estate situation, will it bring more? Yes, because this is probably, in the retail market, still going to be a six-figure ring.” Leslie Hindman.

The top lot of the Hindman sale was this 18k yellow gold, fancy vivid yellow diamond, and diamond ring. It contains one antique cushion-cut yellow diamond weighing approximately 7.85 carats and two pear-shape brilliant-cut diamonds weighing approximately 1.27 carats total. It was accompanied by a GIA colored diamond grading certificate which stated, “color: fancy vivid yellow, natural even, clarity: SI2, polish: very good, symmetry: good, fluorescence: faint.” Eblen explained why it defied estimates. “This is one of those incredibly rare diamonds where pricing was subjective. We have to say that diamonds are commodities, and with white diamonds (below three carats) it’s true. But when you get into certain ranges, they become very subjective. They become much, much more prone to emotion and viewed as a piece of natural art, and that’s where it’s really fun. That’s where, in the auction world, you sit back and you smile and say, ‘Wow, this is a really special something.’ So this was a really special something, and it was a wonderful way to cap off the sale.” It capped it off to the tune of $542,500 (est. $150,000/200,000). Leslie Hindman.

This circa 1830 18k gold and blue guilloche French enamel oval snuffbox with maker’s mark and French assay mark, signed “Wartski,” 2½" x 3 3/8" x 1 9/16", depicts a portrait miniature of village townspeople listening to a man reading and is outlined and edged throughout with chased gold, green enamel leaves, and opalescent enamel dots. It sold for $25,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). Doyle New York.

Doyle New York

On April 15 Doyle New York held its important estate jewelry sale and realized more than $7.5 million for the 451 lots on offer (84% of which sold). Many of the highlights from the sale came from property from the estate of Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl (1903-2011). That section of the sale achieved $1,510,688.

According to the auction house, Earl was “a great-great-granddaughter of ‘The Commodore’ Cornelius Vanderbilt, Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl and the daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr. and his wife, mining heiress Virginia Graham Fair, whose father was a partner in the famed Comstock Lode. Her aunt and namesake, Consuelo Vanderbilt, married the Duke of Marlborough and became mistress of Blenheim Palace…Over her 107 years, she was a sculptor, world traveler, and prominent breeder of Skye and silky terriers, her activities and accomplishments appearing regularly in society’s chronicles.”

According to the post-sale press release, “The sale offered jewelry spanning the Antique, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modern eras by some of the world’s most prestigious makers, including Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and David Webb.”

Doyle New York’s next fine jewelry auction will be on June 20. That sale offers “a broad array of jewelry with more moderate estimates than in the Important Estate Jewelry sales,” according to the jewelry department section of the Doyle New York Web site. The catalog will be available and found on line as well (

This pair of circa 1920 Art Deco platinum, diamond, carved jade, black onyx, and black enamel 2 3/8" x 7/8" pendant earrings sold for $12,500 (est. $3000/4000) at the Doyle sale. The pair is composed of slender bar links joined by pierced tapered panels, set with six old European-cut and rose-cut diamonds accented by two sugarloaf cabochon black onyx, and supporting two half-moon-shaped carved jade panels measuring approximately 10.0 x 17.6 x 1.2 mm. Doyle New York.

This circa 1905 signed Tiffany & Co. gold, platinum, natural pearl, and diamond ring was from the estate of Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl. Centering one modified oval pearl measuring approximately 9.00 x 7.57 mm, vertically flanked by two old mine-cut pear-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 5.91 carats, the ring is accompanied by a GIA report stating that the pearl is natural, saltwater, with no indications of treatment. It sold for $81,250 (est. $15,000/20,000). Doyle New York. Ex-Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl.

A highlight of the Doyle sale was this Cartier Art Deco gold, silver, lapis, nephrite jade, mother-of-pearl, and diamond 3¾" x 2¼" x 3¼" desk clock. The lapis case is divided by bands of gold, spaced by continuous gold circles, accented by triangle-shaped mother-of-pearl inlay, and centers a circular engine-turned silver-tone dial with black Roman numerals, gold hands, and railroad minute track. It has a gold bezel accented by ten inlaid mother-of-pearl squares, a round eight-day movement, push button-activated time set, and rotating bezel winding mechanism. The clock is supported by three carved Egyptian-style nephrite jade owls with rose-cut diamond eyes, seated atop a modified hexagonal-shaped lapis base with gold and mother-of-pearl accents. The dial is signed “Cartier/ France,” and the circa 1925 movement is signed “Couet.” The desk clock brought $221,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). Doyle New York. Ex-Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl.

The top lot of the Doyle New York sale was this signed Cartier Art Deco rock crystal, gold, black onyx, enamel, and diamond “Model A” mystery clock. The 5 3/8" x 3½" x 2" clock has an eight-day mechanical movement in a rectangular rock crystal case with rounded pediment outlined in gold bead decoration. A white enamel chapter ring has gold Roman numerals spaced by gold florets. The inner rim is set continuously with rose-cut diamonds. There are rose-cut diamond-set hands within a white enamel frame applied with a gold laurel leaf motif, edged completely with fine gold decoration, the reverse with similar motif. The clock is surmounted on a rectangular black onyx base with molded edges. It took seven craftsmen about a year to make.

According to the Doyle catalog, “Few objects capture the imagination like the Cartier Mystery Clock. With childlike amazement the eye follows the hands as they float weightlessly, without a movement, dial, or visible anchor. Truly sophisticated in its elegance, the Cartier Mystery Clock is as timeless as it is iconic.

“The Mystery Clock is the result of collaboration between jeweler Louis Cartier and master clockmaker Maurice Couet, who had studied the enigmatic clock designs of French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (who later influenced Ehrich Weiss to perform his act under the name Houdini).”

Rarely seen at auction, the clock sold for $515,000 (est. $200,000/400,000). Doyle New York. Ex-Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl.

Sold in a fitted period box was this circa 1870 antique coral suite mounted in 14k gold, comprising a 19½" long pendant necklace centering carved coral roses and leaves, completed by a triple strand of coral beads;  a 7¼" long bracelet; 2½" long day/night pendant earrings; and a 3½" long comb. The box is signed “Fratelli Errico, Napoli.” The set sold for $10,625 (est. $1500/2500). Bonhams.


Bonhams offered “A Prominent Collection of Fine Jewelry” as well as its fine jewelry sale on April 15. The first sale featured 82 lots from a noted philanthropist and socialite who had personal relationships with jewelers such as Harry Winston, Bulgari, Sabbadini, and David Webb. Immediately following those 82 lots were the 182 items consigned from various other owners. According to a Bonhams press release, “A record number of international telephone bidders as well as eager attendees and internet bidders spurred on the bidding action. The day realized over $5.3 million in sales.”

In a presale press release, Virginia Salem, director of the jewelry department at Bonhams New York, discussed factors that encourage women to make purchases at auction. “Women today want jewelry that speaks to their individuality—whether amorphic or architectural, humorous, or spiritual. It is fine jewelry that is meant to be worn.”

The sale’s cover lot, an Art Deco jadeite jade and diamond brooch from Mauboussin, sold for $122,500 (est. $70,000/90,000).

A trend that’s holding strong was also identified by Salem after the sales. “We are seeing a heightened interest in white and colored diamonds and signed jewelry. This interest is compounded by significant increased international interest…Both auctions featured rare and unusual pieces that potential buyers covet.”

Bonhams next fine jewelry auction in New York will take place on June 19. The sale catalog will be available several weeks beforehand and can be found on line (

The cover lot of Bonhams sale was this 1929 Mauboussin Art Deco 2½" long jadeite jade and diamond brooch. Designed as a jadeite jade flowerpot carved with gourds and fruiting vines, it centers a cushion-cut diamond weighing approximately 6.35 carats among old mine, old European, and transitional-cut diamond flowers with an estimated diamond weight of 5.10 carats, accentuated by buff-top onyx and black enamel. It is unsigned but was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Mauboussin, Paris, dated February 19, 2013, which stated that the brooch was made in Paris as a unique example and entered into Mauboussin’s ledger on May 30, 1929. It sold for $122,500 (est. $70,000/90,000). Bonhams.

This is a circa 1910 signed “Marcus & Co.” Art Nouveau 3" long amethyst, enamel, and pearl pendant, mounted in 18k gold, suspending a scrolling pendant with fringe. In the center is an oval-cut amethyst surrounded by plique-à-jour enamel. Accentuated by circular and oval-cut amethysts and white button pearls, within a chased and engraved mount highlighted throughout by scroll and bead motifs, it suspends from an associated 16½" chain of double cabochon amethyst and scrolling links. The pendant necklace sold for $12,500 (est. $7000/9000). Bonhams.

This circa 1925 Art Deco 1 7/8" diamond brooch, mounted in platinum in an openwork navette-shaped form with knife-edge bars centering an old European-cut diamond and accentuated by 13 old European-cut diamonds, has a central diamond weighing approximately 1.95 carats. It sold for $10,000 (est. $7000/9000). Bonhams.

Coming Up

Next month I will feature antique items that achieve results under $1000. Consider this an invitation to send photos with descriptions for our consideration to <>. This could get interesting!

Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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