Antique Jewelry & Gemology
Freeman’s Sale of Rare Pendant Breaks Company Record; Debut of Freeman’s Live Internet Bidding Platform
Photos courtesy Freeman’s
The November 1, 2017, sale of a rare circa 1910 J.E. Caldwell and Co. Belle Époque diamond pendant, centered by a fancy vivid yellow cushion-cut 10.59-carat diamond, “was a home run” when it broke the record at Freeman’s for jewelry at $760,000 with buyer’s premium (est. $250,000/350,000).
The top-selling lot was this rare circa 1910 signed J.E. Caldwell and Co. Belle Époque fancy vivid yellow diamond pendant set in platinum, centered by a fancy vivid yellow cushion-cut diamond weighing 10.59 carats, set within a three-tiered diamond frame with an estimated total remaining diamond weight of 2.00 carats. The pendant suspends from a 16" long fine link platinum chain, which is completed by a circular clasp with an etched design, accented by circular-cut diamonds. Accompanied by a GIA report stating that the central diamond is natural fancy vivid yellow, with even distribution, VVS-2 clarity, and identified as “Potential,” it was also accompanied by a GIA working diagram “where they plot it for the diamond polisher, or cutter, to remove any of the inclusions, therefore improving the clarity,” according to Virginia Salem. It sold for $760,000 (est. $250,000/350,000). All the variables fell into place to achieve this stellar result—from the rarity of the pendant to the cooperative spirit of the woman who consigned it. “It was a conservative estimate—she was good enough to know to work with me, and conservative estimates draw a lot of attention, as we all know. She was great—she put her trust in me. It was just such a nice experience all around.”
The consignor “actually came in with the yellow diamond pendant on her neck,” according to Virginia Salem, vice president and department head of jewelry at Freeman’s. In a post-sale press release, she said the piece “attracted rare diamond collectors and connoisseurs from around the world,” and 15 phone bidders were in pursuit of it. “We saw unwavering participation from bidders around the globe. The vigorous bidding for the fancy vivid yellow cushion-cut diamond was a testimony to the high quality and strong provenance of the piece, as well as to Freeman’s ability to successfully target and attract the market.”
Salem said the “super butter-yellow” diamond “was a cushion cut, and it was a deep stone. A lot of people were bidding—they were going strong at up to $400,000, and then people who appreciate older, deep stones—there might be just a handful of them—they were the ones that really started bidding on it because they appreciate that look. And the look is not for everybody. It’s more old school, harking back to another time period.”
Good Quality Diamonds Bring Good Results
Diamonds in other price ranges also did well, which was good to hear since we’ve been seeing a bit of a downward trend in prices realized. Salem said, “Diamonds were very strong. They have to have decent quality to sell.” A 4.25-carat diamond solitaire ring with small circular-cut diamonds mounted in 14k gold brought $23,750 (est. $12,000/15,000); a circa 1910 Edwardian Bailey Banks & Biddle diamond and platinum lavaliere set with two approximately 1.20-carat pear-shaped drops, an old-European-cut diamond weighing approximately 1.30 carats, and additional European- and single-cut diamonds that brought the total remaining weight to 4.75 carats, sold for $18,750 (est. $7000/9000); and an old-European-cut fancy 10.98-carat yellow diamond, accompanied by a GIA report, brought $131,250 (est. $70,000/90,000), “a nice surprise for us.”
This 10.98-carat old-European-cut fancy yellow diamond was accompanied by a GIA report stating that the stone is natural fancy yellow with uneven distribution and SI-1 clarity. Salem said, “I think the color could be improved, so whoever was buying it was hoping to improve it.” It sold for $131,250 (est. $70,000/90,000).
This 7½" long diamond and platinum bracelet, bezel set with graduated old-European-cut diamonds with an estimated total weight of 4.75 carats, was part of a “pretty little collection of platinum, turn-of-the-last-century diamond jewelry that was red hot,” according to Salem. It brought $6875 (est. $2000/3000).
This circa 1910 Edwardian Bailey Banks & Biddle 18¾" long diamond and platinum lavaliere came from the same consignor who brought in the J.E. Caldwell and Co. yellow diamond brooch that was the superstar of the sale. Set with two pear-shaped drops weighing approximately 1.20 carats each, further set with an old-European-cut diamond weighing approximately 1.30 carats and additional European- and single-cut diamonds having an estimated total weight of 4.75 carats, it sold for $18,750 (est. $7000/9000). Salem noted, “It came through descent and never left the family’s ownership.”
This 2 3/8" long circa 1880 Bailey Banks & Biddle emerald, diamond, enamel, silver, and 18k gold pendant/brooch has a central emerald with an approximate weight of 2.25 carats. Salem “got this up in Maine at an appraisal day last year.” It hadn’t sold at the previous sale, with a higher estimate of $3000/5000, so she called the consignor, who said, “Go ahead and lower it and put it in the next sale.” It sold for $4375 (est. $2000/3000).
Salem wasn’t sure how a group of platinum and diamond jewelry was going to fare “because some people in the trade say they can’t sell smaller pieces.” She believed that the lots did well because they were “in such good condition, and the estimates were conservative to get people involved in the bidding. If estimates are too aggressive, it’s really difficult to get things off these days.”
Results in this category included a diamond and platinum bracelet with 4.75 carats of old-European-cut diamonds that sold for $6875 (est. $2000/3000); a circa 1915 Belle Époque diamond and platinum pendant on a platinum chain set with old-European- and single-cut diamonds and accented by an articulated diamond-set drop that brought $3625 (est. $1200/1500); and a star-shaped diamond and platinum pendant/brooch set with old-European- and single-cut diamonds with an estimated total diamond weight of 2.70 carats that realized $3375 (est. $1500/2000).
Salem said she sold a couple of pairs of diamond studs and an Art Deco bracelet after the sale, “so we actually hammered $1.9 million plus premium.” Freeman’s post-sale report said the auction total was over $2.3 million (with the buyers’ premiums).
Design and Trends
Salem compared the results of two lots to illustrate the phenomenon that good design often inspires competition that nudges prices beyond expectations.“A Tiffany and Company toggle bracelet and an unsigned little flat bracelet brought almost the same price” when taking the gold weight into account. The Tiffany bracelet, from the 1960s, stamped “Belgium,” was 42.3 dwt. and sold for $6875 (est. $3000/5000). An antique bracelet with honeycomb-style links was “a very coveted little bracelet, and it had a very nice patina to it.” At 32.9 dwt., it brought $4688 (est. $700/900). “A few people wanted it, and they could probably envision themselves being able to wear it easily. It wasn’t too complicated—it was one of those bracelets you could just put on. But it went for over three times the price of gold.”
This pair of circa 1950 diamond and platinum earrings with 14k white gold backs has an estimated total diamond weight of 5.90 carats. Salem noted, “They were the right size, they were flattering, they were platinum and diamond snowflakes—they were just a really good design…and they had a very low estimate, which I think got people excited to partake in the bidding.” They sold for $5313 (est. $1200/1500).
Salem said the price of this 14k gold wide strap bracelet with honeycomb-style links, probably from the early 1900s, probably American, “was a total surprise” at $4688 (est. $700/900). “It was unsigned, but there was something cool about it in that it was wide—it was an inch wide, so it was very easy to wear. It went for a signed price. It was almost the price of an Hermès signed gold bracelet—it went for over three times the price of gold.” Unsigned gold bracelets generally “go in for gold price, and they’ll bring what they bring, depending on [the price of] gold.” The battle for the 32.9 dwt. unstamped bracelet confirmed, once again, that “good design is a very strong seller.”
A group of Ilias Lalaounis pieces from the 1990s sold well, according to Salem, and this 25" long 18k gold lariat necklace is a good example. Designed as a rope terminating in two lion heads, accented with ruby eyes, diamond, sapphires, and additional rubies, it realized $7500 (est. $4000/6000).
This conversation also unearthed a tidbit about the ebb and flow of trends. When we were speaking about the Tiffany Belgium toggle bracelet, Salem said that in the 1950s and 1960s many Tiffany designs were from Tiffany Italy. She recalled that “back in the early 1990s, Tiffany Italy was not very hot, but now it’s red hot because of its cool sixties style.”
For many years we could rely on Art Deco jewelry to bring solid prices at auction. “You could do no wrong with Art Deco.” A classic circa 1930 Art Deco bracelet sold for $28,750 (est. $15,000/20,000), which Salem said was a good price at “a very approachable” estimate, “but another decade ago, this would’ve probably brought at least double that.”
Ilias Lalaounis Group
A collection of Ilias Lalaounis (1920-2013) gold jewelry was featured in a presale blog post titled “The Craftsmanship of Ilias Lalaounis” on Freeman’s website. Lalaounis was “the only jeweler inducted into the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts.” He took charge of his family’s jewelry firm in 1941 and produced his first collection in 1957. Photos and descriptions of the lots offered in the auction were interspersed in the article. “Lalaounis studied the intent behind the ancient creations that provided his inspiration and trained his craftsmen in the art of the forgotten techniques used to create them.” He is credited with bringing back “granulation, filigree, hand weaving, and hand hammering.”
The J.E. Caldwell & Co. turquoise, diamond, and 18k gold ring on the left, with an oval cabochon turquoise measuring approximately 12.63 x 8.59 x 5.66 mm, surrounded by circular-cut diamonds, sold for $3125 (est. $1000/1500). The J.E. Caldwell & Co. turquoise, diamond, platinum, and 18k gold ring shown in the center and on the right has a bigger oval cabochon-cut turquoise, measuring approximately 14.43 x 11.53 x 6.25 mm, and an estimated 1.25 carats of diamonds. “That was really pretty, too—it had pierced sides, openwork sides,” and it brought $4688 (est. $4000/6000). “Both of these rings were from Philly…. J.E. Caldwell was a big Philadelphia jeweler back in that time period.”
Salem said, “This wonderful black opal necklace by Louis Comfort Tiffany attracted some of the buyers of LCT, and it was an exciting, pretty little piece, circa 1915.” The 17" long black opal, demantoid garnet, and sapphire pendant/brooch necklace, set in 18k gold, sold for $15,000 (est. $5000/7000).
This circa 1870 Victorian diamond, gold, and enamel brooch with a central old-mine-cut diamond weighing approximately 1.15 carats, surrounded by two rows of smaller old-mine-cut diamonds with an estimated total weight of 2.70 carats, sold for $6250 (est. $2500/3500).
The Lalaounis pieces “were purchased in the 1990s—the consignor had the original receipts,” according to Salem. An 18k gold lariat necklace designed as a rope terminating in lion heads, accented with ruby eyes, diamonds, sapphires, and additional rubies, realized $7500 (est. $4000/6000); an 18k gold torque necklace with a repoussé and textured gold finish of a scrolling vine motif, along with a signed box, brought $8125 (est. $6000/8000); and an 18k gold necklace and matching bracelet of textured gold wheat sheaves with circular-cut diamond accents also came in a signed box and sold for $8750 (est. $5000/7000).
Salem had good news for buyers who choose to attend auctions via the Internet. “We introduced a new online bidding platform called Freeman’s Live. This is the first sale I had with Freeman’s Live. It’s slowly getting rolled out. People were finding it on the new website, and they jumped in.” Go to (https://bid.freemansauction.com) to view auction catalogs. Download the app, or click on the link on that page to create a new Freeman’s Live user account and register to bid. There are no additional fees when a client bids online using the Freeman’s Live platform.
Salem was “encouraged by the attendance and the enthusiasm” at the auction. She was preparing for Freeman’s “jewelry heavy” holiday estate sale that will have taken place when this issue of M.A.D. is out. She’s already working on Freeman’s next fine jewelry sale that will be held in May. Visit the website at (www.freemansauction.com) for more information.
The consignor of the top lot also had this “really pretty little drop pendant choker.” The circa 1910 13½" long Belle Époque citrine bead, seed pearl, and 18k gold necklace brought $5625 (est. $2000/3000).
This 2 1/8" long circa 1915 Belle Époque diamond and platinum pendant with a 15¼" long platinum chain set with old-European- and single-cut diamonds and accented by an articulated diamond-set drop brought $3625 (est. $1200/1500).
Originally published in the March 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest