M agnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels: Part I will be open for bidding from 16–24 June, offering a broad selection of jewelry dating from the 19th century through to the present day and featuring spectacular jewels from the world’s most renowned jewelry houses, such as Sterlé, Suzanne Belperron, René Boivin and Hemmerle.
Celebrating Noble Jewels
From the days of antiquity, royal and noble women have covered themselves with priceless jewels. These jewels embody beauty, glamour, romance and the allure of noble provenance.
Discover the Dazzling World of Antique Jewellery
T he notion of an ‘antique piece of jewellery’ is multi-layered and like the gemstones which adorn it, multi-facetted. Antique jewels are those considered to be over 100 years old and include many decades and periods. Within each era are a myriad of designs, trends, influences and inspirations. The eras include Georgian, Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Edwardian and Deco. Fascinatingly, under the antique jewellery umbrella are jewels which have drawn inspiration from even older pieces. “The 19th century had such a variety of different styles," says Daniela Mascetti, Chairman of Jewellery Europe, " It opened with revival of Egyptian jewels in 1800s and moved to the naturalistic inspiration with the 1820s and 1830s’’.
“Jewels became a reflection of what happened in the arts and cultural world. That makes them so intriguing.”
Antique jewels can be regarded as treasures of human civilisation. They have survived wars and disasters, they have born witness to the rise and fall of monarchies, governments, economies and populations; they are gifts from the past, waiting to share their tales. The jewels which have survived, have captivating stories to tell. “Even if you were extremely wealthy, you had to unmount and reset the stones into more fashionable jewels simply because the materials were not available’’, shares Mascetti. “The concept of collecting jewels didn’t exist back then. The wealthy collected paintings instead. Jewels were mostly for ornamentation. Women wanted jewels that were extremely fashionable and recognisable, but that were created for you and you alone”.
“The idea of having a piece no one else possesses has become core motivation for antique jewellery collectors. The period is so rich in possibilities making it a dream for any collector.”
The last few decades have seen a revived interest in antique jewels. Collectors have turned their discerning eye towards these great treasures which have been lying dormant, awaiting discovery …. and a new life. “The great jewels of the 19th Century provide insight into the glamourous noble or royal families of the past as well as society during that time. It’s now become a recognised collector’s field”, says David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery. David Bennett also highlights education as a catalyst for the resurgence in the antique market, “For years antique jewellery was unexplored, but that’s changed thanks to awareness and education, especially since the high-profile sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels in 1987’’.
Arguably one of the most important collections of antique Jewels, The Collection of Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma family was sold by Sotheby’s in 2018, resulting in a ‘white glove’ sale and a total of $53.1 million. The sale spanned centuries of European history, from the reign of Louis XVI to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and offered fascinating insights into the splendour of one of Europe’s most important royal dynasties. In December 2019 a ground-breaking public exhibition ‘Awaken: Royal Jewellery Arts from Renaissance to the 20th Century’ was held at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning in Shenzhen China, illustrating this increased appreciation of jewellery as works of art, throughout the world. Daniela Mascetti states, “The public has started to appreciate jewels as a form of art, and so many of these creations are mini works of art. In fact, during the Renaissance period, many jewellery makers were artists who covered various disciplines such as painting or sculpting’’.
The value of an antique jewel is based on several considerations. Market trends always play a role, as certain periods tend to be more popular than others. Such is the case with Art Deco, which collectors tend to favour over the slightly earlier Art Noveau period, mainly because the later style encompasses a highly creative period which offers a large breadth of work to choose from. Daniela Mascetti has also observed the re-emergence of 19th century Renaissance Revival Jewellery. A recent sale in New York recorded sky-high prices which hadn’t been seen since the second half of the 1980s. An antique jewel’s value can also be determined by a combination of workmanship, successful design and provenance. The latter is becoming more important for collectors, despite the fact it is the most difficult element to value. Daniela Mascetti highlights the historic natural pearl and diamond pendant that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2018. It was valued between one million to two million dollars but far exceeded the estimate due to its provenance, selling for more than US$36 million.
While there are no set guidelines to follow, according to David Bennett there are a few areas collectors should understand and be aware of before investing in antique pieces. Among them is the topic of authentic signatures or signed pieces. Examining the jewel is also of paramount importance and recognising the cut of the diamond that would be accurate to the period. Even the jewellery case itself, if included, should be considered. “Buyers will appreciate different aspects more than others,” Bennett said. “I always stress that the most important thing when you are entering this field is to get good advice on how to build a good collection, and what pitfalls to avoid.”
The Cutting Edge: Contemporary Jewels
Exceptional contemporary jewels demonstrate the continuing mastery and creativity of modern-day diamond cutters and master jewellers. From Hemmerle and Graff to JAR, these houses are both widely recognised as some of the most talented jewellers of the modern day.