A Century of Art in Jewels

A Century of Art in Jewels

A selection of exceptional jewels, necklaces, brooches and tiaras spanning the decades make up this September's 'Fine Jewels' auction in London. From 1920s Art Deco to 1950s abstraction to pure 1970s glamour, these delectable pieces each represent a historical moment where art, beauty, design and inspiration collide.
A selection of exceptional jewels, necklaces, brooches and tiaras spanning the decades make up this September's 'Fine Jewels' auction in London. From 1920s Art Deco to 1950s abstraction to pure 1970s glamour, these delectable pieces each represent a historical moment where art, beauty, design and inspiration collide.

C ontrasts abound in London’s Fine Jewels sale on September 19, but the lots all have one thing in common: every one of them is a treat for the lover of bold jewels.

The sale’s highlight is an early 20th century Lacloche Frères bracelet, made using the house’s unique Petit Point technique – a rendering of cross-stitch embroidery, in silk-fine platinum and diamonds. While the likes of Fabergé also used this style (in the mosaic Fabergé egg for example), it is synonymous with Lacloche Frères, and this example is rare and exquisite, says Jemima Chamberlain-Adams, Associate Jewellery Specialist.

Diamond bracelet, circa 1915, Lacloche Frères
Of floral petit point design set with single-, rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds, backed by moiré ribbon, signed Lacloche Frères, French assay marks, numbered. Estimate: £40,000-60,000

‘It’s a really delicate technique that was obviously only possible once platinum began to be used – they wouldn’t have been able to achieve it in gold. These bracelets hardly ever come up for auction. We believe there to be less than ten of this style by Lacloche in circulation today - only two have come to auction in the last 25 years.'

Moving into the always popular Art Deco period, a highly unusual – but very on-trend – diamond lapel pin by Cartier (c. 1920), features two stylised finials, attached by a chain of alternating baguette and round brilliant-cut diamonds.

Diamond Broche Poignée, Cartier
Designed as a series of alternating brilliant-cut and baguette diamonds to two similarly-set openwork clips, length approximately 460mm, signed Cartier Paris, numbered, French assay marks, one diamond deficient. Estimate: £20,000-30,000

‘It’s just the sort of piece you’d see on the red carpet, worn by someone like Timothée Chalamet or another young, stylish man or woman,’ says Chamberlain-Adams. ‘I think it would look really striking on a velvet tuxedo – it’s a very versatile piece.’

Among the other Art Deco lots is a quietly beautiful double-strand necklace of graduated natural pearls with a beautiful diamond clasp, again a mix of baguette and round-cut diamonds, that looks as contemporary now as in its heyday.

‘I think Deco jewellery has a class and chicness to it that transcends the time that it was made,’ says Chamberlain-Adams. ‘These pieces are so highly wearable that although they are antique, they still fit perfectly in today's jewellery collections.’

Diamond and coloured diamond tiara/brooch/bracelet, circa 1920
Of geometric palmette design, set throughout with oval, circular- and single-cut diamonds and coloured diamonds, one of brownish orange tint, inner circumference approximately 250mm, bracelet length approximately 210mm, elements can be detached and worn as a bracelet and brooch. Estimate: £40,000-60,000

That, too, goes for the 1930s diamond and platinum tiara in the sale – joining three others dating from the late 19th century onwards. While tiaras might not be day-to-day wear, they still carry a certain magic and are a key part of Sotheby’s Fine Jewels sales, says Chamberlain-Adams – ‘because after all, who doesn’t want to wear a tiara?’

'After all - who doesn’t want to wear a tiara?’
- Jemima Chamberlain-Adams, Associate Jewellery Specialist

Matching the Cartier for workmanship and legacy, albeit in a very different vein, the sale includes several mid-century and modern Van Cleef & Arpels lots that are nothing if not statement pieces.

Emerald and diamond pendant/bracelet/brooch combination, circa 1970, Van Cleef & Arpels
Designed as a necklace composed of a line of emerald cabochons framed with brilliant-cut diamonds, alternating with circular-cut emerald and brilliant-cut diamond flower motifs, suspending a similarly-set detachable pendant, length approximately 710mm, separates into three segments to form a bracelet, a long and a shorter necklace, with a detachable pendant brooch, each sign Van Cleef & Arpels, numbered, maker’s mark, French assay marks. Estimate: £60,000-80,000

From the bold emerald cabochons set amid diamonds in a 1970s sautoir necklace that converts into a brooch, a shorter necklace or a bracelet – ‘you could just imagine someone wearing it with a glamorous kaftan in the south of France’ – to the big, juicy emeralds in a shorter necklace converted from a bracelet by Van Cleef, these pieces are about colour, confidence – and of course, the unparalleled stone setting of the Maison.

Indeed, the sale’s Van Cleef Á Cheval bracelet is one of the most virtuosic pieces of diamond-setting you’ll see, two thick layers of diamonds in a supple, almost liquid form. ‘It has that flexibility that just shows the master craftsmanship that's gone into it is completely handmade,’ says Chamberlain-Adams.

Diamond bracelet, 'À Cheval', Van Cleef & Arpels
Of flexible design set with brilliant-cut diamonds, length approximately 188mm, signed Van Cleef & Arpels, numbered, French assay marks.Estimate: £150,000-250,000

If you’re looking for something a little different from these gem-laden treasures, though, two pieces from a private collection have a very different – though equally bold – feel to them.

Firstly, a mid-century modern classic in the form of a silver, pink tourmaline and sodalite collar by Hennig Koppel for Georg Jensen. This abstract piece is absolutely the definition of 1950s avant-garde, and former fine-art student Koppel – joining Georg Jensen at just 27 – played a large part in keeping the company at the cutting edge of Scandinavian design.

Sodalite and pink tourmaline necklace, 1950s, Hennig Koppel for Georg Jensen
Of abstract design set with cabochon sodalite and circular-cut pink tourmalines, length approximately 520mm, signed Georg Jensen, maker's mark for Henning Koppel ESTIMATE: £8,000-12,000

It's a really fun piece, and it's extremely comfortable to wear – once on, it sits beautifully on the neck,’ says Chamberlain-Adams. ‘I would say it’s probably one of a kind.’

Even more avant-garde is the extraordinary hammered-silver and pebble necklace by Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, an artist and jeweller who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Picasso in Paris and Antibes in the 1950s – and who in fact worked with Georg Jensen later in her career.

Pebble necklace, circa 1950, Vivianna Torun Bülow- Hübe
The collar of hammered design, supporting an abstract detachable pendant enhanced with pebbles, inner circumference approximately 415mm, signed Torun, French assay marks, maker's mark. ESTIMATE: £5,000-7,000

‘She designed what she called anti-status jewellery, which wasn’t designed to show off, but to accentuate the wearer,’ says Chamberlain-Adams. ‘She said it must not overwhelm, but enhance you, that it must be timeless. It shouldn't matter if you're 17 or 87 years old.’ An enduring philosophy for jewellery that could be applied to almost every piece in this sale – whether diamonds, emeralds or pebbles.


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