LONDON - As spring finally approaches, it is important to remember that the season of renewal ought equally to offer an opportunity for a little retrospection, a chance to re-think old ideals and, with the cruel winter behind us, to allow them to emerge from the cold earth and into the (rather novel) sunlight. Art Deco, much discussed in all corners as a heyday of great jewellery design, is a familiar concept to us all; the world of Daisy Buchanan, all cocktails and cabaret, flapper dresses, marble ballrooms, automobiles flashing chrome, champagne and sharp suiting. It is, in the world of jewellery, also viewed as a period in which the great houses were arguably at their most inventive, ambitious and adventurous, producing some of their most iconic designs, enduring in popularity for an entire century. However, amidst all this enthusiasm, one can feel the shades of academic reverence beginning to close in. It is all too easy to regard this world as something for movie screens and sealed cabinets, alive only in articles and exhibitions. But, its glorious aesthetics aside, Deco can be more than an historic style – it is an attitude and an attitude well worth reviving. The March 18 Fine Jewels sale offers an opportunity, in pieces at once wearable and accessible, to take hold of this ideal and carry it joyfully into the 21st century.
Diamond pendant/brooch, 1930s. Estimate £25,000–35,000.
Let us take, by way of argument, this magnificent diamond pendant. The piece is unsigned, but the styling, the stones and the quality of the workmanship are hallmarks of their own. This is a quintessentially Deco piece and would look as impressive on the front of an exhibition catalogue as it does on the cover of ours, but, crucially, would look even better on a chic black dress. It’s hard to overstate the potential impact of a piece like this worn well, with all the grace and style that went into its manufacture. The quality of the articulation in each individual tassle is intricate to a fault – the whole piece is lithe, with all the vibrancy of its period, which makes it even more appealing to think of it having an equally lively existence ahead.
Gem set and diamond brooch, circa 1920. Estimate £3,000–5,000.
The same could be said for this gem set and diamond brooch. The ‘tutti frutti’ style (a later name, the original records stating simply, ‘Pierres de couler’) is one of the most iconic of the era. The appearance at auction of an original Cartier piece of this kind is a rare and significant event and the price tag, often running well into the millions, will reflect this. The name of Henri Picq, with his small workshop in the Marais, is not as instantly recognisable as that of his great client Cartier, but he was responsible for executing a number of their most impressive designs, from the steel and diamond diadems of 1910s, to the earliest ‘tutti frutti’ pieces (including a bracelet made for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1925). This charming garland brooch, a piece of pocket Picq, may not be on quite the same scale, but is an opportunity to get hold of fine work, from a highly important workshop, without the intimidating estimates.
Emerald and diamond ring, Tiffany & Co., early 20th century. Estimate £20,000–30,000.
But it’s not just style and quality of manufacture that endure; one of great joys of fine jewellery is that the very best materials are completely timeless. One can intellectualise the value and attraction of this emerald and diamond ring by Tiffany and Co. – the signature, the quality of the stone, it’s Colombian origin, the richness and depth of colour - but there’s also that childlike wonder at a really beautiful gemstone (and much the same can be said of this ruby and diamond pendant, it’s the same feeling of excitement one felt when first reading about chests of jewels hidden on Monte Christo.
Ruby and diamond pendant. Estimate £3,000–5,000.
Literary treasure of course, like old jewels locked away in banks and boxes, is all very well, but we all know tangible treasure is better. The whole of March’s fine jewels sale, including the glittering array of Deco and antique pieces, will be available from the 13th March not only waiting to be viewed, but, most importantly, to be handled, tried on, played with, loved, worn and brought sparkling back to life.