Jewelry and Wearable Art Sold at Auction
June 2018
By Ettagale Blauer

A Charming Keepsake

Art Deco Charm Bracelet, $47,500
Bonham's New York
April 17, 2018

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Jewelry and Wearable Art Sold at Auction

A Charming Keepsake

Art Deco Charm Bracelet, $47,500
Bonham’s New York
April 17, 2018

A charm bracelet is like a portrait of a life, as personal as a family photo. When the charm bracelet of a well-known person comes to auction, the question is always, “Why was this very personal item allowed to leave the hands of the family?” Sometimes the answer is simply that the object has outlived all the family members. Presumably, that was the case of the unique Art Deco all-diamond charm bracelet seen here. Each of the nineteen charms is set with single-cut diamonds, with an estimated total weight of 9.50 carats. The charms depict nearly all the years between 1922 and 1940, with elements such as a palm tree providing clues as to the likely venue of the owner.

The bracelet came anonymously to the sale but was said to have been the gift of a producer to an actress, with a charm given after the wrap of each Hollywood film production. Each charm has a different geometric shape, with the year depicted in a variety of styles. Even without a known provenance, other than the Art Deco period, the bracelet was sold for three times the pre-sale estimate. A fascinating parlor game could be played in trying to discern the name of the actress and of the producer, who must have been part of the studio system of the time. This charming memento serves as a token of their long collaboration.

Courtesy of Bonham’s

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Sotheby’s Auctions

Naturally Radiant

Green Diamond Ring, $596,279

Sotheby’s Hong Kong

April 3, 2018

This fancy intense green diamond weighing 1.97 carats, surrounded by a frame of round pink diamonds, is set in a ring of 18k pink gold. This green diamond is a true rarity in the world of fancy colored diamonds, remarkable for the absolute purity of its color. The exact nature of its tone might be compared to a Granny Smith apple. Diamonds come in a rainbow of colors and acquire their distinctive body color in very different ways. Some are naturally colored by other minerals present when the diamond was formed. For example, blue diamonds owe their color to traces of boron, while yellow diamonds get their tint from atoms of nitrogen.

From there, it becomes much more technical. Pink diamonds rely on a distortion of the crystal lattice of the diamond for their color. Whether modified by orange, brown or purple, it is the unique arrangement of the crystals that allows a pink diamond to blossom under the hand of a skilled cutter. Conversely, that color can be drained away by the wrong placement of facets. A wrong cut, and the color seems to slip away, right before your eyes.

Green diamonds are in a class all their own. These are the only diamonds that obtain their color from millions of years of exposure to naturally occurring radiation in the earth itself. This makes them particularly difficult to grade since radiation may also be introduced by the hand of a technician. Green diamonds, including those modified by yellow, blue or gray tones, are very rare. To find a green diamond with no secondary or modifying tone is the rarest of the rare.

It is rarer still to find a diamond whose green color is dispersed evenly throughout a piece of rough, let alone one that lends itself to cutting in a round or brilliant shape. The degree to which a diamond displays an intensity of color is defined by descriptives ranging from “faint” to “fancy vivid.” These color saturation grades are an attempt at pinpointing the exact amount of hue in a colored diamond. In this piece, the jeweler has used complementary colors to further enhance the diamond’s green. The use of pink diamonds and pink gold is an ideal way to intensify the color.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s Auctions
Sotheby’s

Unchain My Heart

Verdura Wrapped Brooch, $52,500

Sotheby’s, New York

April 18, 2018

The Hollywood theme continues with this iconic ruby and diamond-wrapped heart brooch by Fulco di Verdura. The first example of the ruby and diamond heart was created by Verdura at the request of actor Tyrone Power for his wife Annabella in 1941. The heart has many appealing elements, starting with the plump cabochon rubies that look like delicious pomegranate seeds. The perfectly matched buff-top stones are set within gold prongs. Tying up the rubies with ribbons of diamonds, Verdura topped the brooch with a diamond bow.

The heart motif can be found in jewelry through the ages, but this brooch has become a signature piece for the designer. More than 75 years after the first piece was created as an expression of love, the exact design continues to be produced by the firm, now under the guiding hand of Ward Landrigan, who purchased the company in 1985. Landrigan and his son, Nico, now president of the firm, are dedicated keepers of the Verdura oeuvre, ensuring the integrity of the pieces that carry the name. This same design, replicated in every detail, may be found on the Verdura website for $175,000.

Verdura was one of the first jewelry designers to align with Hollywood stars. He moved easily among the headline makers of his day, and enjoyed the patronage of Cole and Linda Porter, designing a series of cigarette cases that commemorated each of Porter’s shows.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s
Doyle Auctioneers and Appraisers

Oceanic Waves of Gray

De Vroomen Enamel Brooch, $4,062

Doyle, New York

April 24, 2018

A lifetime of artistry is expressed in a brooch with matching earclips by de Vroomen. The pieces feature undulating waves of gray enamel in a fan-shaped brooch, centering an orange spessartite garnet within an arc of round diamonds, and suspending a round gray Tahitian cultured pearl. The matching earclips echo the materials and the shape of the brooch. Both pieces are set in gold frames. The rolling waves of gray enamel evoke the sea that produced the pearl.

Placing the contrasting shades of gray enamel calls for a remarkable control of this most demanding and unforgiving jewelry technique. This work shows artists at the top of their form. The pieces are both organic and geometric in feeling, giving them a very broad appeal.

Leo and Ginnie de Vroomen are an artistic couple whose 50-year long career has been recognized globally through two Diamonds International Awards and a retrospective at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. The couple’s diverse talents are perfectly reflected in these pieces. Ginnie’s artistry and Leo’s technical abilities combine to form unique, wearable jewels. Their lifelong collaboration is on view in their retail shop in London.

Courtesy of Doyle Auctioneers and Appraisers
About the Author

Ettagale Blauer

Ettagale Blauer is an author and authority on all aspects of jewelry design, wristwatches, as well as diamonds and gold, and is the author of Contemporary American Jewelry Design, the seminal book on the subject. She has also written extensively about Africa, including a series of books for Grolier Publishing. Most recently, she published Woodstock 1969, The Lasting Impact of the Counter Culture, with photography by Jason Lauré, available now from the author.