NEW YORK - Gemstones and animals: gifted to us by nature, endowed with the undeniable ability to tug at our heartstrings. From Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier, to David Webb and Graff, jewelry designers have always been inspired by the animal kingdom. Using materials in a wide spectrum of hues to fashion lifelike or fantastical miniatures of various creatures, jewelers can convey the emotional bond between the owner and a beloved pet, or transfer upon the wearer the symbolic traits an animal it is believed to possess.
Lot 426. Platinum, Diamond, Enamel and Ruby ‘Rabbit’ Brooch, Raymond Yard. Estimate $60,000-80,000.
As the catalogue for the September 24th Important Jewels sale was nearing completion, it was hard to ignore the jeweled menagerie that prowled, hopped, slithered and swam across my desk. All major animal groups – mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and invertebrates – were abundantly represented. Tigers, squirrels, frogs and unicorns were just some of the animals presenting themselves to me, prompting me to wonder if preparing for a Great Flood should take priority over my deadline. As I admired chic designs from the 19th century to the present day, it seemed as though these jeweled animals, like their diamond counterparts, are also forever.
Lot 486. Property From a Distinguished Private Collection. 18 Karat Two-Color Gold, Pink Diamond, Diamond and Hematite Brooch, Graff. Estimate $125,000-175,000.(To Be Offered in the Sotheby’s New York Magnificent Jewels Sale on December 11, 2013)
My primary fascination with animal-inspired jewels is the opportunity for craftsmanship inherent in the subject matter. Designs by René Boivin from the Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt are prime examples of jewels mimicking their living counterparts. Included in the collection is a gold and colored stone ‘Poisson’ pendant, with an articulated tail that swishes with the precision of the speediest mackerel. Also by Boivin is a brooch designed as a Labrador retriever encrusted with diamonds in yellow and brown hues. With a fully articulated torso that allows him to drape over one’s shoulder, the piece can nestle up to the wearer just like ‘man’s best friend.’ From a Distinguished Private Collection comes a pink diamond teddy bear by Graff, whose moveable limbs and pivoting head make it seem as though it marched right out of your childhood toy box. (To Be Offered in the Sotheby’s New York Magnificent Jewels Sale on December 11, 2013)
Lot 518. The Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt. 18 Karat Gold, Blackened Gold, Colored Diamond, Diamond, Citrine and Ruby Dog Brooch, René Boivin, France. Estimate $70,000-90,000.
When admiring animal jewels, it is impossible not to enjoy watching and hearing the reactions these creations elicit from others. They can bring up stories of long-gone pets and exotic vacations, or they can allow one to feel fondly for a species that typically prompts negative emotions. For example, if I see a snake – even on TV or in a cage – I instantly become paralyzed with nightmarish fear. However, show me a Janesich serpent necklace with moveable scales and a baroque pearl drop, and I will gladly drape it across my neck and then check it twice to make sure it is coiled just right.
Lot 338. Property From the Collection of Harriet and Irving Sands. 18 Karat Gold, Baroque Pearl and Diamond Necklace, Janesich, France. Estimate $8,000-12,000.
All jewelry carries an emotional appeal, whether it is the occasion on which it was gifted or the way it makes us feel when worn. When jewels take on animal-like traits, they elevate that emotion by evoking specific memories or by making us feel as though the power of that animal is transferred upon us. So the next time you find yourself wearing a Van Cleef & Arpels owl brooch, see if you feel especially vigilant and intuitive, or the next time you bid on a David Webb turtle brooch, think how it will remind you to slow down and enjoy this wonderful world. I personally loved my walk on the wild side, and I am pleased to introduce you to my newfound jeweled friends in our September 24th auction of Important Jewels.
Lot 64. Property From a Distinguished Family. 18 Karat Gold, Diamond, Colored Diamond, Onyx and Emerald Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate $25,000-35,000.