Cartier, Van Cleef and Bulgari Through the Decades, A Collection Revealed

Cartier, Van Cleef and Bulgari Through the Decades, A Collection Revealed

As ‘Icon Jewels: Her Sense of Style’ opens for bidding, considers the history of a collection that celebrates jewelry design from the 19th century to the present day, including standout pieces from Cartier, Verdura, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and René Boivin.
As ‘Icon Jewels: Her Sense of Style’ opens for bidding, considers the history of a collection that celebrates jewelry design from the 19th century to the present day, including standout pieces from Cartier, Verdura, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and René Boivin.

A private collection of jewels, carefully, thoughtfully curated, shaped by sophisticated taste and informed connoisseurship always throws a scintillating spotlight on the intensely personal nature of jewelry. Now, in the case of the superlative once-in-a-generation collection of iconic jewels on offer this May in Geneva, the spotlight shines brightly on the individuality of style and persona that jewels can express so powerfully and eloquently.

Iconic Jewels: Her Sense of Style was assembled over the course of some 50 years by a European female collector, with a well-honed eye, and an unquenchable passion for the finest, most evocative 20th century signed jewels of each era from the great jewelry houses of the world. Each was selected personally by the collector herself, who sometimes commissioned special creations to satisfy her own creative impulse, to suit her own style. These are jewels of immense presence, charm and charisma that chart the course of jewelry design through the 20th century, from Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque, through the 1920s.

From the Tutti Frutti to the Cadenas

The collection illuminates both Art Deco, as in a Cartier monochrome diamond and rock crystal bracelet and Modernism, as in earrings by Jean Despres. The 1930s is illustrated by a luscious Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet, before moving into the 1940s, with Van Cleef & Arpels transformable Passe Partout classics, and the glorious Cadenas watch. Following this, the 1950s is represented by the quintessential jeweler of the age, Pierre Sterlé, as well as by a striking deep fringe collar and earrings by H. Stern of Brazil, a design-driven pioneer who introduced Brazilian gemstones to the world.

The Post War Innovation of Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari

There is a fascinating focus on post-war design, a time when the female influence – of both makers and wearers – was especially strong, gathering momentum and turning the tide of jewelry history. In this the collection celebrates and parallels the collections of the great mid-century jewelry wearers and style leaders, the women who would have owned and worn these jewels, surely, one imagines with pride, purpose and panache.

The 1950s suite of Flammes gold and diamond clips by Van Cleef & Arpels recall the inimitable, effortless style of Jacqueline Kennedy who famously wore Flammes in her hair. The Bulgari Serpenti bracelet, for example, a true icon of design, embodies the movie-star glamour of Elizabeth Taylor and the new, strong female of the 1960s.

And one of the many highlights of the collection, an exceptional pair of diamond earrings, by Bulgari, set with two fancy intense yellow diamonds, each just under 10 carats, belonged to the flamboyant Texan socialite Baroness Portanova. Bold, gold jewels proclaim the hedonism of the jet-set 1970s, and 1980s post-feminist power-dressing is perfectly encapsulated in the choker and earrings of carved amethysts by Marina B. The collection and the narrative are both completed with jewels from the 1990s, showcasing style signatures of the decade, coloured stones, pavé diamonds, chains and charms.

Standout Designs of Verdura, Boucheron and David Webb

The jewels in the collection, while eclectic in design, date, creator – from heritage Maisons, including Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari through celebrity designer-jewellers such as Verdura – including a pair of nephrite and gemstone Maltese Cross bangles in Chanel style – and David Webb, represented by a playful carved coral fish bangle. to artist-jewellers of the 1960s, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Soto and Facchini – are connected, at least in my opinion, by their timeless modernity.

It is the kind of modernity, of effortless elegance, lightness of spirit, wit and wayward colour, injected into jewelry design by individual creative visions, and by the celebrated and gifted female designer – jewellers of the century: Jeanne Toussaint, for example, Cartier’s Creative Director of jewelry, from 1933 until her retirement in 1970, famed for bringing the panther to three-dimensional life, as shown to perfection here, Suzanne Belperron and Jeanne Boivin with whom Belperron trained and worked before setting up on her own.

An Unrivalled Group of Boivin Jewels

At the centre of this treasure chest of masterpieces is a spectacular, superbly well curated series of jewels by Boivin, the largest and most significant collection of Boivin jewels to come to auction. Boivin is recognized today as one of the most important and influential creative forces in modern jewelry. Founded in 1890 by René Jules Boivin, the company was bravely taken over by his wife, Jeanne Boivin in 1917, when her husband died prematurely.

The sister of the great couturier Paul Poiret, Boivin brought a dynamic new element of fashion and femininity to jewels from the 1930s through following decades. She nurtured female jewelry designers including Juliette Moutard and Suzanne Belperron, as well as her daughter Germaine, both excelling in and moving away from 1920s minimalism, introduced her own individualist stylised interpretations of cultural inspirations, including from India, shown here in a gold and sapphire necklace from the 1960s and her audacious use of colour, as in the stunning amethyst and citrine brooch and earrings.

With great aesthetic sensibility and a clear appreciation of jewelry history, this group of Boivin creations tells the story of the small but mighty Maison’s evolution of style: from a superlative geometric diamond double clip brooch, dating to 1934, through a citrine and carved smoky quartz ring, and a signature ruby Ecailles bracelet, sensual, tactile and crafted with breathtaking ingenuity, to the Bouquet de violettes brooch and earrings, an Algae necklace and the ravishing Noeud de Passementerie brooch.

The mouth-watering Boivin collection within a spectacular collection is a story within a story, of 20th century jewelry classics as told through the eye and heart and soul, and ineffable sense of style of an impassioned connoisseur collector. Truly a sale of Iconic Jewels and objects of desire.


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