Jewelry and Wearable Art Sold at Auction
By Ettagale Blauer
May 2019

Winged creatures have captured the imagination of mankind through the millennia. Here is a glimpse at the varied ways in which jewelers have sought to express the freedom and beauty of these wonders of nature.

Tropical Delight

Van Cleef & Arpels ruby brooch, $25,512

Sotheby’s Hong Kong

April 2, 2019

Jewelry and Wearable Art Sold at Auction

Tropical Delight

Van Cleef & Arpels ruby brooch, $25,512

Sotheby’s Hong Kong

April 2, 2019

The unmistakable outline of an elegant parrot, claws grasping its perch, is captured by Van Cleef & Arpels in this gold, diamond and ruby brooch. This French-made jewel features a face set with round diamonds, the body puffed out in round, prong-set rubies, with one emerald eye. The wings, crown and tail feathers are all depicted in 18k yellow gold. Delicate etching suggests the feathers while the perky beak is depicted in bright polish gold. While this little parrot will never fly, the lot soared up to its pre-sale high estimate, fetching $25,512.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s
Bonhams

Evanescent but beautiful

Opal and plique-a-jour brooch, $4,075

Bonhams, Los Angeles

March 5, 2019

In nature, a butterfly may live through its entire life cycle in just two months but this exquisite, highly decorated butterfly brooch will live forever. The brooch is life-size, measuring 3 ¼” x 2 ⅜”, and features opals set within diamond frames and ruby eyes. The entire four-part winged shape comprises plique-a-jour enamel, the gold cloissons filled with shades of blue. The central body is also set with opals. The irregular shape of the opals helps capture the beauty of a butterfly in nature with its iridescent wings. The translucent enamel evokes the daylight shining through. This jewel was particularly well-suited for a California sale since one of the best-known butterfly migrations takes place annually when the Monarch butterflies of the West migrate, including a wintering over in southern California.

Courtesy of Bonhams
Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers

Wise and wonderful

Turquoise Cartier owl clip, $8,125

Doyle, New York

April 18, 2019

Wisdom seems to glow in every gem of this fierce owl clip by Cartier. The piercing sapphire eyes are set within twisted wire frames. Its ribbed gold crown and tail are set with round diamonds while the claws comprise platinum-set baguette diamonds. The main body is set with numerous round turquoise gems, offering an alluring contrast to the eyes. The varying sizes of the turquoise stones, and the slightly irregular shapes, hint at the feathers of a real bird. Though completely adorable, the design of this owl manages to capture the mysterious gaze of the bird. The fine design, make and choice of gems sent the price soaring to twice the high estimate, bringing $8,125.

Courtesy of Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers
Sotheby’s

Netting a butterfly

Boucheron jadeite butterfly brooch, $9,567

Sotheby’s, Hong Kong

April 2, 2019

Jewelers may be inspired by nature or by the gems they find in the marketplace. In this elegant jadeite and diamond brooch, Boucheron Paris married the two to create a jewel that soars, though it is earthbound. Two carved jadeite plaques, mirror images of each other, form the wings. Their mottled green color gives the material some of the lightness one would expect to find in a creature that flits and soars. The dazzling brilliant-cut diamonds, set in yellow gold, form the four points of the wings. The main body is set with smaller round diamonds, while each of the antennae ends in a single round diamond. A few diamonds are set on the jadeite sections, again adding sparkle and light. The brooch was sold for $9,567, at the top of the estimate, at Sotheby’s April 2 Hong Kong sale.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers

Draped golden wings

Tiffany gold butterfly brooch, $2,500

Doyle New York

April 18, 2019

This highly stylized 18k yellow gold butterfly brooch by Tiffany & Co., Italy, captures the essence of the butterfly in a single color. The wings appear to be soft and in motion, an effect achieved by the master goldsmith who worked the pliable gold sheet into patterned surfaces. Just a suggestion of dazzle is achieved through the use of baguette diamonds on one wing, with round diamonds acting as a fastener between the wings. Twisted gold wire forms the antennae. The abstract raised pattern of the wings has a moiré appearance, adding to the richness of the surface. The unique piece floated well above the high estimate, selling for $2,500.

Courtesy of Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers
Bonham’s

Gossamer wings

S. Rudle dragonfly brooch, $5,325

Bonhams, Los Angeles

March 5, 2019

Richly gem-set wings and tail form one of nature’s most intriguing insects, the dragonfly. Here, a variety of colored gems, set in gold, make this delicate creature seem ready to take off. The brooch, sold in a single lot along with a gem-set butterfly, by S. Rudle shows the dragonfly in its mature, adult stage. This brooch comes close to evoking the remarkable transparent, colored wings of the adult dragonfly. While the dragonfly exhibits its most flamboyant colors only during the two-month long period that marks the end of its one-year long life cycle, this brooch will glimmer for years. Here, the colors are expressed by ruby, blue and yellow sapphires and garnets, with a touch of diamond for sparkle. Dragonfly wings have the appearance of stained glass, with tiny demarcations traced all along the feathery surfaces. They are as colorful as peacocks yet so tiny in size. Some, indeed, have a jewel-like appearance, making them ideal inspirations for a jeweler.

Courtesy of Bonham’s
Christie’s

Proud as a parrot

Schlumberger, Tiffany parrot brooch, $20,000

Christie’s, New York

April 16, 2019

Reproducing the iridescent colors of a parrot calls on a jeweler’s best tools: subtle tones of enamel, a lavish hand with gold, and an imagination that soars. All those ingredients are part of the legacy of Jean Schlumberger who created fantastic jeweled creatures for Tiffany & Co. for many years, starting in 1956. This gorgeous bird features blue and green enamel enhanced by a palette of colored gemstones including tsavorite, turquoise, onyx and pink sapphires. Schlumberger always took his inspiration from nature but it was his own design aesthetic that brought these creatures to the height of jeweled art. Schlumberger collectors are devoted to his designs, and one of them pushed the price of this example to $20,000, well above the high estimate.

Courtesy of Christie’s
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.

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