Symbolic and Chase is one of London’s finest hidden secrets. In the heart of Old Bond Street in Mayfair, its private salon is discreetly located above ground level. Founder Martin Travis and director Sophie Jackson are constantly combing the world for rare jewels and objets that catch their curatorial eye, and they display their discoveries just as a museum would.
Business is going so well for the duo, who built their jewelry knowledge at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, that they took over a second floor space below the salon last year to house their impressive library collection and to be able to host exclusive events for jewelry and art connoisseurs.
We asked Sophie her tips for building an enviable collection of your very own.
Your collection spans many centuries, even millennia. What led you to offer such a wide range?
I think it is a reflection of why we find ourselves in this business in the first place. Every period of civilization has its jewelery, an anthropological eye can’t help but end up with pieces that seem eclectic but stem from the same fascination with humans and their need for beauty.
What do you love about ancient jewelry?
There is something magical about holding or wearing a piece of jewelry that was worn by ancient civilizations—a wonderful statement about continuity and change. The same piece is equally beautiful around a wrist or neck thousands of years later except it’s worn by a woman in jeans and a t shirt, and not an Egyptian dignitary or Bronze Age maiden. There’s something deliciously human about that.
You have a first-rate collection of art deco jewels. Since these have dominated the auction rooms for a long time now, does it make sense for savvy collectors to look to lesser known jewelers of the period?
Dealers and connoisseurs have watched with dismay as the financial gap between signed and unsigned jewelry (or well-known houses vs. lesser known) from the same period continues to widen. I suppose my advice depends on why you collect jewelry. If you buy jewelry to wear and love then I cannot recommend you ignore signatures enough, have faith in what you like and ignore who made it.
If you are buying for investment then the same considerations as those for many markets apply; a name that has a documentable history of performance is safer (especially short term), but something more speculative/knowledge-dependent could bring a higher yield.
Some of the most exciting jewels from the Art Deco period were made in small quantities by smaller houses that were wiped out by the war and therefore forgotten. You need only look at Belperron or Boivin prices over the last 10 years to know that all it takes is some awareness and you are sitting on a gold mine. You just need the knowledge or to trust someone else who has it.
Are objets like the minaudières and cigarette boxes of that era another opportunity for investment?
We touched on the question of investment above, and my broad advice on this subject is to buy quality over quantity and above all—buy what you love. Fashions and markets change, but the best will always be exceptional, rare and keep its value.
As you say, many aspects of Art Deco jewelry are a little over-saturated now, and the vanity cases and cigarette cases from the period are as rich in materials and style as the jewels but do not make anything like the same values at auction because less people understand them.The increased awareness following a couple of important collections being published and exhibited (The Kashmira Bulsara collection going to the V&A published in “A Kind Of Magic” and the recent Aga Khan exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC) is already beginning to have an effect on this market and there were some wide eyes at the recent auctions in Geneva and New York, which is encouraging.
For those who have had their fill of art deco, what do you recommend they move on to?
This is a very personal thing, and rather than answering directly, I would suggest people integrate jewelery more into their wider aesthetics or interests as the possibilities are endless!
Fallen in love with the latest Calder exhibition at MoMA? Why not try artist jewelry? You love 1960s fashion? Why not extend this to the jewels of the period, which were equally daring? Even broader than aesthetics, if you’re a Romantic, how about 17th Century Posey rings?
If jewelry is on someone’s Christmas list, what does Sabba offer the world of contemporary jewelry?
Apart from the obvious beauty and originality of Sabba’s work, he makes very few pieces a year and they are all unique, plus you can only find them in London or New York so, you know that if you are opening a Sabba-yellow box in a couple of weeks, someone has put a lot of thought and love into your new treasure.