Graff Jewels: Contrast & Colour
Online Auction: 26–30 October 2020 • 3:00 PM CET • Geneva

Graff: Contrast & Colour 26–30 October 2020 • 3:00 PM CET • Geneva

“From the way we bring diamonds together through the skillful cutting of the stone to the making of each special piece, this is a great art form. We design what we consider to be the world’s finest jewellery. For us, it is essential that a jewel should have a mystique. There must be something enthralling and beautiful about it to capture the imagination.”
Laurence Graff

The Purity of Colour

Many artists have embraced the use of a single colour to make impactful and dynamic works, and just as demonstrated in coloured jewels, focusing on only one shade can reveal previously unseen depths. Indeed, Yves Klein believed that monochromatic paintings invited viewers to immerse themselves “in the immeasurable existence of color”. Klein is, of course, most keenly associated with one colour in particular: International Klein Blue, known as IKB, which he registered as a trademark in 1957.

Estimate:2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD

In order to best display the true essence of the vivid shade of ultramarine he had created, Klein developed a technique which involved preparing his canvas with casein (a milk protein) and mixing the paint with a fixative. The intended result was that the colour would appear to hover above the surface of the canvas and appear to have great depth.

In the same way, the most desirable coloured stones are set into jewelry that will most allow the intensity and scope of their tones to be appreciated. Sapphires in particular often share with Klein’s blue the characteristic of a fathomless, velveteen depth that you could almost fall into.

When it comes to colour, with infinite shades available, it takes a true artist to pinpoint perfection and it is crucial to understand the subtleties of shade. Think, for example, of the ongoing battle between artists Anish Kapoor and Stuart Semple over access to the world’s blackest pigment and also the world’s “pinkest pink”. This kind of nuance is equally present when working with coloured stones, which present in hundreds of varying shades and tones depending on mineral content.

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"A celebrated collector of modern art, Laurence Graff views each of his extraordinary diamonds as a true and rare work of art. He deals only in superlatives and his single-minded mission – simply to be the best – now passed onto the next generation, has ensured that the name of Graff is synonymous with the most fabulous jewels in the world."
Vivienne Becker

The Power of Colour


Just as there might be infinite colours, there are also infinite responses to colour and each one depends uniquely on the viewer. Some might see the brilliant red of a ruby in relation to an emotion or feeling: anger, desire or danger. Others may make a symbolic connection: to royalty, peace or good luck. It is the birthstone of July and traditionally the stone to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary. It might conjure up images of anything from roses to flames to blood to strawberries to traffic lights.

Estimate:25,000,000 - 35,000,000 USD

Similarly, it is this subjective reaction to colour that the likes of Mark Rothko have experimented with. His colour field painting on huge canvases used purely the overwhelming power of colour to provoke an emotional response. Despite the abstract works being absent of human subjects, the bold blocks of colour were designed to envelop a viewer while their precise juxtapositions of different shades work to invoke particular moods and feelings. In the Tate Modern in London, a series of Rothko’s murals in dark reds, maroons and blacks are displayed as the artist intended – in a relatively small room with low lighting, to draw out the multi-layered complexities of the works.

What both Rothko’s works and the finest of stones share is that they really need to be seen in person, for the power of their colour to have the desired effect.

The Precision of Colour


Because green is not a primary colour – sitting between blue and yellow on the colour spectrum – the range of hues from cold through to warm is vast. From the palest pistachio to earthy moss to vibrant chartreuse to warm pine, it can be a real challenge for artists to mix the exact shade they require. This is especially true of artists attempting to capture landscape scenes, when seemingly infinite shades of green occur naturally, and also seem to constantly change with weather, light and the seasons.

Estimate:2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD

Monet was famously known as a master of depicting light and used to paint with nine colours: lead white (titanium white), chrome yellow (bright yellow-orange), cadmium yellow, viridian green, emerald green, French ultramarine, cobalt blue, madder red (crimson), and vermilion. It was only by meticulously mixing these colours that he was able to achieve the range of hues necessary to evoke the sense of sunlight dappling through the leaves of trees or dancing across the surface of water.

The Japanese Footbridge, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA, photograph by Alexander R. Pruss

Even a painting that seems to overwhelmingly use one colour – for example, green in The Japanese Footbridge – actually contains countless variants of zingy apple, lush fern and deep forest shades to imbue the image with vibrancy. Precise tone is equally as important in coloured stones, but especially with emeralds, where colour is the most important element for valuation. A deep and vivid green is the most desirable, but emeralds also present with undertones of blue, yellow and brown. The shade is determined by trace elements of chromium and vanadium.

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