After surviving last night’s blizzard, I couldn’t help but to dream of some place warm with lots of sand. You’d think the beach would immediately come to mind, but today I’m thinking of the desert sands of Egypt, ancient Egypt to be specific.
While reading about the Egyptian revival pieces made during the Art Deco period, I was inspired to pull some of the best examples of jewelry made in this style from the auction archives and share them today. Enjoy!
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE GEM-SET EGYPTIAN REVIVAL PENDENT SAUTOIR, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS – Christie’s Geneva, November 17th, 1998
The pendant designed as a pavé-set diamond panel with central seated figure of Maat in domed calibré-cut rubies to the chevron border with lotus flower terminals and gem-set fringe, suspended by a series of twelve shaped rectangular panels, each depicting a falcon, with collet and buckle spacers to the ruby, emerald and diamond winged scarab clasp, December 1924, 75.5 cm., with French assay marks, in a later green leather fitted case
Signed by Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, no. 23336
This sautoir ranks amongst Van Cleef & Arpels’ greatest achievements. Of exceptional quality and inspiration, it was one of two similar pieces to be produced. As fine examples of creations from this period become ever rarer, it is unfortunate that the other necklace has disappeared.
Jewellery production in the first quarter of this century, particularly in the years just after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, was marked by a prevailing Egyptomania. Pieces inspired by the pectoral, an ornamental breastplate placed on the chest of the mummies, were executed by both Cartier and Van Cleef. Though Cartier’s initial designs are of an earlier date – circa 1910 – preceding the 1922 find and probably more influenced by the 1911 Franco-Egyptian exhibition at the Louvre, they were never quite as ambitious as the present necklace.
Typical of the Egyptian-inspired creations of the time, the motifs and hieroglyphs incorporated into this sautoir were chosen strictly for their decorative value. As an ensemble, they have no meaning. The central image represents the Goddess Maat. According to Egyptologist Regine Schulz in “Egypt: the World of the Pharaohs”, “the concept of Maat stood for the principal of the structured world, that is, for order and equilibrium, ethical values and justice, culture and creativity.” Accompanying Maat to the right is a hieroglyph representing the ostrich feather. In ancient Egypt, an efficient postal service existed. To identify themselves, the postmen wore ostrich feathers. Thus, the symbol came to mean “bearing good intentions”. She is sitting below a circle representing the sun and above the zig-zag hieroglyph for water, which has been inverted. To her left is the symbol for a sceptre. To either side of the pendant are lotuses, symbolising lower Egypt.
The surmount depicts a winged scarab, representative of Khepri, the morning sun. Such objects were placed on the chests of the dead as a symbol of ressurrection. The cartouche shaped-panel surrounding the scarab is reminiscent of those used to write the names of the Kings in hieroglyphs. The falcon, an image repeated in the neckchain, was the protector of royalty in ancient Egypt. It also sometimes represented the God Ra or the supreme embodiment of power.
A FINE ART DECO DIAMOND AND GEM-SET BROOCH, BY CARTIER – Christie’s London, December 10th, 2008
Of Egyptian design, composed of two gem-set tassels with alternating cabochon sapphire and emerald, and circular-cut ruby and diamond lines, to the triple lotus leaf surmount suspending a pavé-set diamond plaque with cabochon ruby centre and calibré-cut sapphire and diamond collet detail, circa 1925, 5.2 cm wide
Signed Cartier, New York
EGYPTIAN-STYLE LAPIS LAZULI, TURQUOISE, DIAMOND, BLACK ONYX AND ENAMEL BRACELET, CARTIER, PARIS, 1929, MADE BY SPECIAL ORDER FOR MRS. COLE PORTER – Sotheby’s New York, December 9th, 2009
Centering a black enameled cylinder originally fitted with a hollowed ancient faience amuletic bead in the form of the eye of the falcon god Horus, now absent, flanked by lapis lazuli discs inset with diamonds alternating with turquoise discs and anchored by 2 turquoise beads, the bracelet a flexible platinum tube of diamonds, small cabochon black onyxes and buff-topped calibré-cut turquoises, 2 missing, with barrel-shaped pavé-diamond and black enamel clasp; length 6 ¾ inches, unsigned, with French assay marks.
Egyptian bracelet, 1924, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection
Van Cleef & Arpels Egyptian Bracelet (1924)
EGYPTIAN-STYLE JEWELED SCARAB BELT BUCKLE, CARTIER, PARIS, 1926 – Sotheby’s New York, December 9th, 2009
The hinged gold mounting centering a cobalt blue scarab flanked by turquoise faience wings, all studded with small cabochon sapphires, the wings edged by round and baguette diamonds set in platinum and with black enamelled ridges,length 5 inches, signed Cartier, numbered 0123, French assay mark, workshop mark.
The sketch of the belt buckle is from the Stock Design Record Book, 1926, page 53, Cartier archive, Paris.
Ancient faience is a manufactured material created to imitate the bright colors and gloss of precious stones. It was used in jewelry throughout Egypt and the Near East beginning about 5500 years ago. It was made by grinding quartz or sand crystals and mixing them with various levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and/or copper creating colors including turquoise, cobalt blue, purple and yellow and was shaped into such forms as amulets, beads, and scarabs. Faience is considered one of the earliest forms of glass making.
Egyptian clip, 1924, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection
EGYPTIAN-REVIVAL JEWELED FAN BROOCH, CARTIER, LONDON, 1923 – Sotheby’s New York, December 4th, 2007
Composed of an Egyptian glazed steatite plaque of semicircular shape, circa 600 B.C., inscribed with hieroglyphs, the border of papyrus and lotus motifs decorated with pear-shaped cabochon sapphires and square segments of onyx and enamel within a ground of pavé-set old European-cut and single-cut diamonds, the base centering a stylized lotus blossom similarly set with old European-cut, single-cut and rose-cut diamonds and accented with 2 kite-shaped cabochon sapphires and a band of black enamel, mounted in platinum and gold,signed Cartier, Londres, numbered 7300. With original signed case.
AN ART DECO EGYPTIAN REVIVAL DIAMOND AND MULTI-GEM BRACELET – Christie’s New York, December 13th, 2011
Composed of six pierced pavé-set diamond plaques, three depicting a buff-top calibré-cut ruby, emerald and sapphire falcon, the other three depicting an ox, a seated figure, and a sphinx, enhanced by calibré-cut sapphire trim, with baguette and bullet-cut diamond accents, mounted in platinum, circa 1925, 7 5/8 ins., safety chain of later addition
A EXQUISITE PAIR OF ART DECO EGYPTIAN REVIVAL BROOCHES – Christie’s Sale 1306 in St. Moritz, February 19-20, 2003
Each single and old European-cut diamond plaque of elongated oval form, decorated with buff-top calibré-cut rubies, emeralds and onyx depicting a winged scarb, a standing figure holding a pierced scepter, and the figure of the god Anubis, circa 1925 (2)
The influences of the treasures and wealth of Ancient Egypt were once again stimulated in 1922 by the discovery, in the desert landscape of the Valley of the Kings, of the uniquely complete tomb of the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun who lived 1333-1323 BC. Visitors staying by the Nile at the Winter Palace Hotel, in the ancient capital of Thebes, now Luxor, with its magnificent Karnak temple, would have returned home with stories of gods and myths, ceremonies and celebrations, gold and jewels. The imagery and symbolism of this extraordinary civilization could only impact the contemporary art, design and architecture of Europe and the West at this time. The most avant garde jewellery houses and jewellery makers adopted these motifs seen in the hieroglyphic writing, carvings and sculpture and incorporated them into their jewels as illustrated in lot 379 and 380
This pair of brooches depict a winged scarab, symbolising regeneration or rebirth, often in association with the rising sun, the figure of pharaoh or the High Priest and the hieroglyphic of the crouching jackal figure of Anubis, the god who presided over the embalming and funerary rites, also responsible for guiding the dead to the Underworld
Van Cleef & Arpels Art Deco Egyptian Revival Box 1924 – Bonham’s Hong Kong, November 24th, 2010
Designed with a figure of an ancient Egyptian, set with emerald, sapphire and ruby cabochons, opening to reveal a mirror and separate powder compartment, mounted in 18k yellow gold, signed ‘Van Cleef & Arpels’ and numbered, box length 4.1cm.