12 Iconic Jewels Every Collector Needs

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Launch Slideshow

This December, Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale in New York will feature its inaugural Icons series – one of the many highlights of Sotheby’s A Life of Luxury week. Presenting a collection of the world’s most coveted jewellery designs from the last 100 years, this curated selection includes a decadent Art Deco bracelet by Cartier for vintage admirers, enamel bracelets by Schlumberger for those channelling their inner Jackie and a playful, gem-encrusted brooch by JAR for those seeking a piece of wearable art. Click ahead to preview these twelve exceptional jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Harry Winston and more.

Magnificent Jewels
5 December | New York

12 Iconic Jewels Every Collector Needs

  • A diamond ‘Magic Alhambra’ necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels, France.
    Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Since its 1968 debut, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra necklace has become the emblem of the elite maison, favoured by mainstays of the ‘best-dressed’ list such as Françoise Hardy and Princess Grace of Monaco. Adorned with quatrefoil motifs drawn from the royal splendour of Moorish architecture, the four-leaf charms double as symbols of luck, health, fortune and love, and are crafted in a range of auspicious materials gathered from all over the world. This diamond-set ‘Magic’ version—the most luxurious produced by Van Cleef & Arpels – is an essential piece in every stylish wardrobe.  

  • Diamond ring, Harry Winston.
    Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000.
    Channelling the zeitgeist of the Roaring 1920s, “King of Diamonds,” Harry Winston, began his career in Los Angeles before going to Fifth Avenue in New York. As fashion became more freewheeling, Winston pioneered the bold, geometric chic of the emerald-cut as exemplified by this remarkable diamond ring. Of all the shapes of diamonds, the emerald-cut is Winston’s calling card: the company’s iconic logo bears his initials inscribed in the crisp outline of an emerald-cut. This 19.54 carat, D-colour, VVS2 emerald-cut diamond encapsulates the epitome of a legendary Winston emerald-cut diamond: unparalleled provenance, exceptional craftsmanship, and stunning visual appeal.  

  • Pair of diamond ‘Snowflake’ earclips, Van Cleef & Arpels.
    Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    Snowflakes have been a consistent source of inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels since the early 1940s, shortly after the French firm opened its New York boutique in 1939. The elegant earrings offered here feature a dazzling array of diamonds set in platinum, their pear-shaped pendants illuminating and framing the face. What makes this design iconic is its display a touchstone of VCA’s craftsmanship: an absence of metal. With these jewels, the metal is almost completely unseen, making it seem as though the diamonds have glamorously melted onto the wearer, like a freshly fallen snowflake. Another example of a ‘Snowflake’ jewel by Van Cleef & Arpels is lot 220, a necklace mounted in yellow gold. 

  • Diamond and enamel bracelet and pair of earclips, Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., France.
    Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Enamel bracelet and pair of earclips, Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.
    Estimate $15,000–20,000.
    Available in a vivid array of colours, Jean Schlumberger’s enamel bangle-bracelets (shown here in black and white ) first designed by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. in 1962, are as stylish as the notable women who have coveted them, including Jackie Kennedy, Lauren Bacall and Rachel Lambert Mellon, also known as ‘Bunny.’ Bunny, a dear friend of both Kennedy and Schlumberger, gifted Jackie with a white enamel Schlumberger bracelet. The jewel was so admired that the First Lady immediately ordered another style in cobalt blue; she was seen wearing her enamel bracelets so frequently that they have since been referred to as the “Jackie” bracelets.  

  • Gold and gem-set sautoir, Robert Goossens for Chanel, France, circa 1960.
    Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    For nearly a century the House of Chanel has set trends and defined style. The Chanel “look,” quite simply, cannot exist without jewellery, a fact firmly established with the introduction of her first fine jewellery collection in 1932. Chanel often designed in collaboration with Robert Goossens who would become Chanel’s chief jewellery designer in 1960. Many of their designs, including Chanel’s signature Maltese Cross, were inspired by Byzantine art. Decades later, these same motifs appeared in costume jewellery on the runways of YSL, Lacroix and Dior.  

  • Sapphire and diamond clip-brooch, Verdura.
    Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    After working as a jewellery designer for Coco Chanel and Paul Flato, Fulco di Verdura opened his own jewellery salon in New York in 1939. His designs defied the trends of the time. Instead of focusing on linear forms like strap bracelets and sautoirs, Fulco played around with designs that borrowed from nature and mythology. His “winged” jewels were an amalgamation of these themes, inspired by both the wings of Mercury, the messenger God and the strength and grace of eagle wings. The design reached the apex of popularity when the actress Jean Fontaine wore a pink topaz, gold and diamond version in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Suspicion.  

  • Gem-set and diamond bangle-bracelet, David Webb.
    Estimate $20,000–30,000.
    Just after the launch of David Webb’s animal bracelets in the early 1960s, a newspaper article extolled them as “the most coveted knickknack in all jewelrydom,” and claimed that any woman with “a whole menagerie” of Webb bracelets on her arm had “won the international fashion status game.” Little has changed today. This opulent ‘fish’ version – set with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds – originally belonged to the peerless jewellery maven and lady of style, Estée Lauder. Its enamel body is one of Webb’s classic designs, and Elizabeth Taylor, an early aficionado of the designer, collected jewels in this rare white colour.  

  • Suite of citrine ‘Reflection’ Jewels, Trabert & Hoeffer – Mauboussin, circa 1940.
    Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    The American company Trabert & Hoeffer’s collaboration with the esteemed Parisian maison Mauboussin from the mid-1930s through the early 1950s resulted in some of the most extraordinary high-style jewels of the period, which were sold in the firm’s glamorous resort boutiques and flaunted on screen by Hollywood starlets like Marlene Dietrich and Paulette Goddard. Part of the firm’s “Reflection” line, this piece was promoted as “Your Personality in a Jewel,” as the owner assisted in creating a one-of-a-kind ornament by selecting from interchangeable design elements. The elaborate necklace also features a removable centerpiece that can also be worn as a brooch.  

  • Diamond bracelet, Cartier, Paris, circa 1920s.
    Estimate $160,000–200,000.
    The bracelet offered here captures a seamless stylistic transition from the delicacy and femininity of the Belle Époque period to the more substantial forms of the 1920s. Here, Cartier has created a highly refined jewel that avoids excess, focusing instead on simplicity, geometry and a hint of the exotic. The monochromatic palette of white diamonds against openwork platinum mounting allows the jewel’s Indo-Persian and floral motifs to speak as a whisper, constructing the appearance of a continuous, shimmering band.  

  • Gold, diamond and emerald ‘Serpenti’ bracelet-watch, Bulgari.
    Estimate 200,000–300,000.
    As one of the oldest Italian jewellery houses dating back to 1884, Bulgari has a longstanding tradition of creating pieces with the highest quality craftsmanship and the finest gemstones. One of the most recognisable designs, which Bulgari first introduced in the 1940s, is the tubogas “gas pipe” technique, which later developed into literal interpretation of the serpent in the 1960s. This lot is an exemplary serpenti bracelet-watch, comprised of a serpent’s head perched atop the snake’s coiling body, opening to reveal a watch dial. 

  • Diamond and green garnet brooch, JAR, Paris.
    Estimate $450,000–650,000.
    Born in New York City, Joel Arthur Rosenthal studied art history at Harvard University before heading to Paris to pursue his passion for creating jewellery. His shop was established on Place Vendôme in 1977 with no signs or windows, just his initials on the façade, which remain today. Widely acknowledged as being the most talented jeweller of his generation, he is best known for using unconventional gems and materials. Frequently inspired by nature, JAR often draws on rather ordinary subjects, transforming them into whimsical, unique works of art, as illustrated by this brooch’s meticulous micro-pavé, seamless gradations of colour and undulating form. 

  • Diamond, onyx and emerald ‘Double Panther’ bracelet, Cartier, France.
    Estimate $275,000–375,000.
    Under Jeanne Toussaint’s leadership as Cartier’s creative director, the panther became a hallmark subject for the house in 1918. ‘Panthère’ would later become Toussaint’s nickname, dubbed so by Louis Cartier himself. Toussaint’s chic and contemporary style helped the feline-inspired creations to flourish, with legendary jewellery collectors such as the Duchess of Windsor, Barbara Hutton and Princess Nina Aga Khan commissioning custom cats. The bracelet offered here sleekly swivels to be placed on the wrist. Cartier has consistently evolved and reinvented the panther over the last 100 years, proving that icons can stand the test of time.  

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