Ahead of the upcoming Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on 15 November, Sotheby’s asked jewellery designer Noor Fares to choose her favourite pieces from the sale. Sotheby’s jewellery expert Andres White Correal was on hand to tell us the history and significance of some of these unique pieces.
Raised between Paris and Lebanon, Noor Fares’s lifelong fascination with the magic of gemstones and jewellery emerged through her exposure to both high European fashion and the sumptuous souks of the Middle East, rich in symbols and talismanic jewels. As one of Sotheby’s White Baaz — a select group of style-setters for the 21st century — as well as a creator of her own jewels, Noor’s perspective brings a modern take on jewels that are as much pieces of history as they are contemporary adornments.
IMPORTANT EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, CARTIER, CIRCA 1930. ESTIMATE: CHF 345,000–535,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Andres: So this necklace you’ve chosen, this is a 1930s Cartier diamond and emerald necklace. It's a unique piece.
Noor: It's so fine, so perfectly constructed and, when you touch it, so soft, it feels like lace...
Andres: More than its intrinsic value in diamonds and emeralds, it is the art and the craftsmanship of the jeweller that makes it extraordinary. The design is also very special, so representative of that era. The 1930s saw the natural progression of the geometrical art deco into more fluid and organic forms.
This emerald and diamond brooch, that you’re wearing as a belt buckle, is also by Cartier. It looks as contemporary now as it must have been avant garde then.
Noor: I find Art Deco jewels fascinating…
Andres: It’s because of their timelessness. They are the perfect synthesis of that period, incorporating elements of the architecture and design that was so in fashion at the time. The emerald diamond and ruby bracelet is another good example of this period. It’s French hallmarked but isn’t signed by any of the fashionable jewellers of the era. Its regular geometric design is repeated and accentuated with step cut emeralds and diamonds, its rhythm recalling the industrial belts and armoured tank tracks of the wartime era. These jewels are examples of that amazing style which integrated all art forms into one look. Art Deco was a way of life, sleek, sharp and geometrical, that depicted modernity.
IMPORTANT SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND RING, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS. ESTIMATE: CHF 685,000–885,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Noor: This ring is absolutely beautiful.
Andres: Yes, the prevailing influence of Art Deco can be seen here too: it’s a 45 carat Burmese sapphire ring. Designed by Van Cleef and Arpels, its mount is almost invisible, to highlight the perfect cut and beauty of the stone.
EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE AND A PAIR OF EARRINGS, FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY
ESTIMATE: CHF 585,000–785,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Noor: It’s hard to describe why but jewels with a historically significant provenance have a certain aura that distinguishes them from other jewels. They emanate a very special and different energy.
Andres: This is perhaps one of the most special. This XIXth century emerald necklace once belonged to the Duchess of Berry, a Bourbon Italian princess — grandniece of Queen Marie Antoinette- who married into the French royal family. Its simple elegance is enhanced by the deep green of its pure Colombian emeralds which appear to be just floating.
Noor: I think these stones [the Donnersmark diamonds] are much more beautiful as stones [and not set as jewellery]. They're overwhelming, they're so big, and there’s something really beautiful about them…they draw you in. They look like magical objects that come from the ground; quoting what you were saying, they’re “nature’s works of art.” And sometimes I look at stones and I just want them to just be loose, without any setting. Because there's something so powerful and so magical about them and the energy that they emanate. But yes, if I was to set this stone I would imagine it in a very minimal way, possibly contrasting with an earthy material like wood or titanium.
'THE DONNERSMARCK DIAMONDS': TWO MAGNIFICENT AND HISTORIC FANCY INTENSE YELLOW DIAMONDS. ESTIMATE: CHF 8,810,000–13,700,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Andres: It's funny that you mentioned the energy that you feel when you hold them because these stones are charged with probably the most interesting “coquette” history of the XIXth century. They were a present to La Païva by her second husband, Count Guido von Donnersmarck. La Païva was arguably the most famous of what were known in the Paris of the glittering days of luxury of the second empire then as ‘Les Grandes Horizontales’. They were the mistresses of the most powerful men in Europe who covered them in jewels, palaces, and works of art in return for their favours. This amazing 102-carat cushion-shaped intense yellow diamond paired with this 82-carat pear-shaped diamond, also intense yellow, were — and are — mesmerising. It is fabulous to see how you can write a love history with stones. Two giant tokens of love.
'THE RAJ PINK': THE WORLD'S LARGEST KNOWN FANCY INTENSE PINK DIAMOND. MAGNIFICENT FANCY INTENSE PINK DIAMOND RING. ESTIMATE: CHF 19,570,000–29,355,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Andres: This I find super impressive because of the colour and of course the size. This is the biggest recorded intense pink diamond ever to be certified by the GIA.
Noor: I think this diamond goes with a certain age or a certain presence, if you're petite and younger then there's a certain scale that you can wear. I think it's difficult to wear really big earrings until you're a little bit older. You have to know what…
Andres:…What suits you.
Noor: I think if you compare now to the past, the boundaries are more flexible, there are less rules. You can wear diamonds with…
Noor: Exactly. With jeans or you can mix fine jewellery with high jewellery and you can wear different things together in a more casual way. In the past, certain jewels were worn for a special occasion or you had to wear a bracelet with the necklace and the earrings. Now you can express yourself in a different way: there’s a more casual, more intimate, more personal way with how one wears jewels.
Andres: A jewel, unless it's worn, it's dead. I mean you open a box and yes, it sparkles back, but only if the box is open. And then there is this connection between the woman who wears it, the harmony, that brings the jewel alive… Many women are worn by their jewels instead of the women wearing the jewels, it's the wrong way around.
RUBY AND DIAMOND NECKLACE AND A BROOCH, CIRCA 1935. ESTIMATE: CHF 535,000–735,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
Andres: The collection of rubies on this 1930s necklace and brooch is remarkable. Their colour is vibrant and warm. They can be worn together — the brooch to decorate the back part of the necklace — or, as you did, unhesitatingly when you came in, as the buckle of a belt. They are of French manufacture but not signed pieces.
RUBY AND DIAMOND BRACELET, CARTIER, CIRCA 1935. ESTIMATE: CHF 345,000–545,000. PHOTOGRAPH BY AMBRA VERNUCCIO/SOTHEBY'S.
The beautifully articulated ruby and diamond bracelet by Cartier could almost hint the jewels are en-suite, demonstrating how iconic pieces of an era, even if not born together, can seem as though they belong together.
All of the pieces discussed here feature in the upcoming Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on 15 November.
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