The last auctions of the year have unveiled their treasures and the number of great finds is overwhelming. While the major auction houses always have bountiful sales full of amazing pieces, a couple of smaller auction houses outside New York also have fabulous jewels in their year-end jewelry sales.
At Chicago’s Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the star lot of its Fine Jewelry sale on December 7th is a beautiful, and incredibly rare, Art Nouveau Orchid Brooch by Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Co., circa 1890. This brooch symbolizes the establishment of Tiffany & Co. as a force to be reckoned with on the international stage of the jewelry world in the late 19th century. At the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Tiffany’s head designer, Paulding Farnham, exhibited original jewelry inspired by Native American artifacts, a collection of diamond jewelry and twenty-four enameled orchids – the entire display earned Tiffany & Co. a gold medal at the fair.
However, Farnham’s orchids really stole the show. His innovative method of interpreting this newly imported flower to America using enamel and limited gem accents was most likely inspired by the hummingbirds and orchids that painter, Martin Johnson Heade, captured on canvas while in Brazil. To create these exceptional brooches, Tiffany’s went to great lengths to achieve the botanical verisimilitude of the jewels. In addition to access to the most recent reference books at the time, Tiffany’s designers opted to sketch straight from live specimens imported from such distant locales as Mexico, India, Guatemala and the Philippines. Each flower variety was preserved in copper to achieve the precise mould and the resulting gold jewel was then expertly and faithfully enameled. Not too surprisingly, the enormous demand for the orchids prompted Tiffany’s to add 15 additional varieties to the existing 24.
The orchid brooch at Leslie Hindman is titled “Style No. 4: Calanthe Veitchli” and is composed of yellow gold and polychrome enamel set with diamonds and emeralds. The rare jewel is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.
Other highlights in the Fine Jewelry sale at Leslie Hindman include:
On December 9th, Skinner of Boston will host its Fine Jewelry sale. Chief among the highlights is a pair of Edwardian platinum and diamond ear pendants, by Cartier, New York (est. $100,000 – $150,000). However, my favorite lot in the sale by far is a ‘Sailor Mouse’ brooch, by Donald Claflin for Tiffany & Co. (est. $10,000 – $15,000). The brooch has previously sold for $17,625 at Skinner in 2005.
Another highly talented and visionary artist who worked for Tiffany, Claflin began working at the American jewelry firm in 1965. For eleven years, Claflin created his most iconic jewelry pieces. Amongst his most beloved jewels are those whose designs are based on characters in popular children’s stories, such as Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty and Chicken Little. The ‘Sailor Mouse’ brooch in the sale depicts Stuart Little dressed in a blue and white enamel sailor’s jacket and white cap, his body covered in pavé diamonds.
Other highlights from the Skinner Fine Jewelry sale include: