Jewelry auctions are attracting a lot of attention these days for both record-breaking prices and uncovering hard-to-find collectibles or jewels with a fascinating provenance. On April 24, Bonhams in New York will offer 133 jewelry lots featuring some of the most desirable trends and collectibles, including colored diamonds; signed pieces from the likes of Cartier, Verdura, and René Boivin; and a curated collection of art deco-, Sixties-, and Seventies-era designs. Here, Susan Abeles, vice president director of U.S. Jewelry at Bonhams, reveals some of the best buys on the auction block.
What are the most collectible or desirable pieces in the sale?
In general, the most collectible pieces are signed jewelry or fine-quality diamonds and colored gemstones. A diamond rivière necklace is collectible, not because of the signature or the era, but rather form. A simple, elegant, and mainstay of any jewelry collection, a single line or “river” of diamonds remains popular today as it has for centuries. Lot 133, “A Diamond Rivière Necklace” ($200,000 to $300,000), is a single strand of 63 graduating round brilliant-cut diamonds, with the largest diamond approximately 3.05 carats, weighs a total of 44 carats, and is mounted in platinum.
Other top collectibles: Lot 132, “A Fine Ruby and Diamond Clip Brooch” by Cartier, circa 1935, is collectible because of the signature, period, rarity of color palette, and use of superior quality gemstones. Lot 131, “A Diamond Solitaire Ring” by Harry Winston, is always collectible. This example features an emerald-cut diamond, weighing 5.33 carats, F color, VVS2 clarity. Signed jewelry sells exceedingly well; and this lot offers signature, quality, and classical elegance—and versatility.
What is the best value in the sale?
Lot 126, “A Fancy Colored Diamond” ($30,000-$40,000), featuring a 1.30-carat fancy light pink diamond might well be the best value. Fancy colored diamonds continue to set world-record prices and within this category, fancy pink and blue diamonds show the most significant increase in price per carat. The current estimate for this ring is conservative and based on the GIA certificate. While I am not a diamond cutter, I believe that it may be possible to recut the center diamond and get a better color grade, which will indeed change the value of the ring.
Lot 11, “An Art Deco Diamond Bracelet” ($6,000 to $8,000) by Linzeler-Marchak, circa 1925, also represents good value. The collaboration of Robert Linzeler and Alexander Marchak, which only lasted three years, from 1922 to 1925, had limited output. This bracelet was created during a very short window in France during the height of the art deco period, and demonstrates superior technical quality and design from lesser-known master jewelers.
What are the pieces under-the-radar buyers should consider?
Lot 38, “An Opal, Diamond, Colored Diamond, and Colored Sapphire Brooch” by Carvin French. This brooch reflects the quality and design of jewels produced by master jeweler Andre Chervin of Carvin French. Carvin French produced jewelry for the important and well-known jewelry houses of Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Verdura, Cartier, Yard, and Tiffany, as well as creating private commissions and personal creations for inventory. This brooch displays skillful carving of the opal and a real sensitivity to color. Andre Chervin’s work is artistic, he has painted a flower that moves and changes color with light and is expressed by an unconventional pairing of gemstones.
Lot 29, “A Set of Three Plique-a-Jour Enamel and Gem-set Butterfly Brooches” by Leila Tai. Leila Tai, is a talented contemporary-jewelry artist that creates beautifully sculptured gold and silver jewelry, as well as more traditional pieces featuring plique-a-jour. Like Andre Chervin, she has worked for known American jewelry houses, and her technical knowledge and skill are superior, as illustrated in her work. I particularly like this set of three butterfly brooches, because I see this lot as a playful and beautifully executed jeweled sculpture. Rather than one brooch, the set of three butterflies involves participation and personal expression from the wearer—allowing forever changing dimension and flexibility of presentation. I also think the symbol and use of a butterfly is interesting and likened it to Leila Tai’s modern interpretation of art nouveau era reflecting a feminine metamorphoses.
What is your personal favorite?
I hate to pick a favorite, as I am drawn to each lot in the sale. Today, my personal favorite is lot 21, “An Art Deco Jadeite Jade and Gem-Set Pendant Necklace.” I love this piece because the design—a sautoir—is a classic example of period art deco jewelry. I am attracted to the bold use of color and geometric lines, and ease of wear. This necklace is well manufactured, simple, and elegant. It represents an important time during jewelry design, and although has little “gem” quality, it has enormous chic.