Cf: Stefano Papi & Alexandra Rhodes, 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style, London, 2013, p. 142 - 144
Cf: Stefano Papi & Alexandra Rhodes, Famous Jewelry Collectors', London, 1999, p. 185 - 187
Jadeite Jewellery of Utmost Prominence in the History of Auction:
The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace
For hundreds of years, jadeite has been a symbol of supreme status and extreme wealth. The original definition of the two Chinese characters, Fei Cui, which stands of jadeite in modern days, attests the pre-eminence of this special gemstone. Yi Wuzhi (literally “The Book of Foreign Matters’) explains, “Cui, a bird resembling a swallow, the male and red bird is named Fei, whereas the female green bird is named Cui, its feathers are used as adornments.” Cui was a very rare and precious bird in the old days and were hunted for their exceptional bright-coloured feathers. Jadeites, which come in a wide range of attractive colours, were coined Fei Cui for their beauty and high value.
Metaphysics pronounces jade as a spiritual gemstone, if it is worn close to one’s skin, energy would be transferred to the wearer and a healthy influence would be exerted, and the jadeite itself, attaining positive aura from the wearer, improves in colour and translucency. The intricate beauty of jadeite is best seen in their mere simplicity, the finest jadeites are always polished as a cabochon spared of superfluous embellishments, while jadeite beads are the epitome of all form of jadeite jewellery under this guiding principle. Top-quality jadeites are often referred to as ‘old mine’ jadeites originating from the reputed mines in Hpakan in Burma. Their dense structure, fine crystals, even colour and high translucency deem such specimens to be the best in the world. However, such exceptional jadeite boulders are extremely scarce and relatively small in size, jadeite beads that could be cut and polished from these rough are mostly 5mm to 10mm in diameter. The twenty-seven jadeite beads on this necklace being offered as Lot 1847 was of extremely fine texture, round and succulent in shape and colour, like mouthwatering grapes under warm sunlight, glowing through their thin skins, exuberant and mellow, elating the spirit of whoever set eyes on them. The most astounding fact lies in the size of its beads, even the smallest bead in this suite measures 15.40mm, far exceeding those that made their way into the auction markets, and the largest of all measures an impressive 19.20mm, not to mention that there are twenty-seven of such enormous jadeite beads in total, amassing to unprecedented illustriousness. In general, to fashion a strand of matching jadeite beads, all the beads must be carved from the same boulder, and as many as thrice the desired number of beads are often needed from which to sleeve the most suitable and matching ones. With the immense wastage involved, jadeite bead necklaces rank among the most valuable and sought-after forms of jadeite jewellery. To put together a suite of such colossal and fine jadeite beads as those found on the Hutton Mdivani Necklace was utterly challenging, since a jadeite boulder of supreme quality and gigantic size must be recovered in the first place for to fashion such stunning beads.
Throughout history, jadeites have been highly prized and worn by the rich and famous, many of whom were legendary female figures from the ruling class and notable fashion icons of all times, including Empress Dowager Cixi of China, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Wellington Koo, wife of the famous Chinese diplomat V. K. Wellington Koo.
The owner and the wearer of this spectacular jadeite necklace was indeed a figure of utmost importance in the world of jewellery collection in the past century, a famous socialite with a lavish taste for luxurious living, prodigal when acquiring the most exquisite gems, but never imprudent in her tasteful and refined selection: ‘Million Dollar Baby’ Ms Barbara Hutton. Every piece of jewel in her treasury was worthy of special mention, and this one-of-a-kind jadeite bead necklace by Cartier is no exception. The understated opulence of this necklace renders the subtlety of Hutton’s beauty and graceful demeanor, which was in no need of ostentatious parade; her strong presence alone defines timeless elegance.
However, just as other treasures that were forever lost during late Qing and early Republican period, the provenance of this jadeite necklace remains undetermined. The one thing we can be sure of is that these twenty-seven green succulent beads had already appeared in Europe during the early 1930s, it must have taken a considerable time for the jadeite beads to travel across the oceans. It should also be taken into account that Cartier, as a Couture high jewellery maison, takes tremendous time for designing, sourcing the necessary components and eventually executing their art piece. Considering all these facts, the jadeite beads on this necklace can be dated at least to the late Qing dynasty. When compared to a superb jadeite bead necklace remodeled from a Qing imperial court necklace which was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010, the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace currently offered are far superior in colour, texture, translucency and size, which indicates an equally, if not more distinguished original ownership.
The jadeite bead necklace made its debut in the auction market in 1988, when it fetched an impressive USD 2 million, which was the highest price ever paid for a piece of jadeite jewellery, causing a great sensation both in the East and the West. Six years later in 1994, the necklace took centre stage at an auction room in Hong Kong and was sold for double its previous hammer price, achieving an astonishing US$4.2 million, setting a new record yet again for jadeite jewelleries worldwide. Since then, this impressive jadeite bead necklace has become one of the most legendary and important piece of jadeite jewellery known to the world.
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