For our first stop, the group arrived at Kentshire Gallery of New York where we learned a bit about jewelry house, Marchak Paris, from Clive: “Marchak, situated opposite Cartier in the Rue de la Paix, attracted a particularly elegant clientele. Known for feminine goldwork that seemed to be like woven fabric incorporating old Indian gems, their jewelry was bought more as a chic accessory than statement wear. These pieces were made in the 1950s for Marchak by the the House of Verger workshops, who were makers for the other prominent Paris jewelers such as Boucheron and Van Cleef & Arpels.
We then turned our attention toward the front cases that glistened white with sparkling diamonds of every period. Everyone’s attention zoned in to the case’s main attraction: a Victorian diamond rivière with over 80 carats of old mine-cut diamonds, which Clive Kandel pointed out was almost identical to one owned by the late Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth. The thought that the original owner may have worn several of these, as was the fashion, was the the subject of much speculation.
One of my personal favorite pieces at Kentshire was also in the diamond case, just in front of the rivière necklace. A beautiful Art Deco diamond bracelet in a geometric stylized floral motif which struck me as a fine example of the simplified aesthetic of 1920s jewelry.
Our next jewelry exhibitor was Epoque Fine Jewels of Belgium. Jewelry from nearly every period including antique, Art Nouveau, Retro and Art Deco was represented here, making it difficult to select pieces to highlight. For Clive, a Mauboussin brooch from the Art Deco-era was of particular interest, the 1928 emerald and diamond jardinet brooch in the shape of a flower pot, where he noted the crisp geometric appearance of this stunning jewel that is particular to the straight edged settings used at this period by Mauboussin.
In honor of the recent passing of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, the second set of jewels represented the type of jewelry that paired superbly with the glamour and grace of de la Renta’s timeless gowns. The designer encouraged his best-dressed list clients such as Mercedes Bass and Jayne Wrightsman to wear dramatic period jewels that complimented his art. A Napoleon III vine like en-tremblant brooch and late 18th century diamond girandole earrings were chosen as examples that the couturier might have approved of.
We then moved toward the center of the show, where treasures awaited at A La Vieille Russie of 5th Avenue. The jeweled objets that first struck my interest were a selection of Fabergé round and oval jars. Displayed in a tower case with other bejeweled Fabergé desk objets vertu, the light green and fair pink enamel curiosities immediately caught my eye. I had no idea what they were until Clive muttered ‘Gumpots’. At first I felt I was being fooled and then I was enlightened that years ago stamps were not peel and stick nor lick and paste but these charming small pots held gum that was spread by a sable tipped brush onto your stamps and envelopes. I yearn for a Fabergé case for my iPhone.
Also on display at A La Vieille Russie were antique brooches and hair ornaments of exquisite workmanship from the 18th and 19th centuries. One brooch in particular, made of diamonds and natural pearls, is believed to have been part of the Imperial Russian Crown Jewels.
Close by, Véronique Bamps of Monaco displayed a stunning Indian-inspired diamond tassel necklace by René Boivin that was made in 1945 for Princess Irene of Greece. Made of hundreds of tiny bezel set diamonds that lay like a fringe at the base of the neck, this collier demonstrates that Boivin understood the female sense of adornment.
Another highlight at Bamps, was an Art Deco Mauboussin lorgnette pendant necklace that imparted the value of investing in great period jewelry. The lorgnette, was purchased by Clive in 1975 for $3,600. Today its current price is over $148,000 at Bamps. Clive pointed out that it was made for the 1925 Paris Art Deco Exhibition. The inspiration for it is derived from Turkish floral motifs. He considers this to be the purest form of Art Deco jewelry akin to the ivory inlay work seen on Ruhlmann furniture.
At James Robinson of New York, Joan Boening, fourth generation principal, shared her passion for Victorian Scottish agate jewels. Explaining the reverse chic of popular 19th-century jewelry that blended with and complemented Scottish tartans and tweeds.
Next we arrived at Sandra Cronan where a series of Art Deco clips and Tutti Frutti jewels commanded attention. Most notable among the group were a 1928 Tutti Frutti double clip brooch and bracelet set made by Henri Picq, one of the principal Cartier workshops in Paris known for gem-set platinum jewelry. Their use and wearability were shown to the admirers.
The tour ended at Hancock’s of London, where Clive Kandel and I went shopping for dreams of magnificent jewels fit for a grand finale. A pair of antique cushion-cut diamond earrings, each weighing over 20 carats, wowed with their impressive size and hefty $2 million price tag pulled at my heartstrings. I hope a certain person can hear me.
However, Clive went into near stages of speechlessness and agony over a Cartier Paris Turtle clock made in 1928. Telling us how when he first saw this miracle of art, he exclaimed ‘’Everything except the kitchen sink!’’ The clock was made, he told us, at the very end and height of the 1920s boom where no amount of over-the-top existed. Tomorrow was going to be bigger and better. The Great Gatsby era was one of excess. This is how the clock was seen by our tour guide’s expert eye. The Chinese carved antique nephrite turtle , which in Chinese folklore represents strength, is decorated with Chinoiserie black and turquoise enamel motifs. The turtle’s head has eyes of large piercing red ruby cabochons accented by black enamel whilst the reptile nose is encased in a black enamel Chinese good luck symbol. The gemset lid opens to reveal the clock with a dial inset with mother of pearl marquetry, a central turquoise engraved maze, lapis-lazuli gold set Roman numerals and finished off with diamond set hands. The clock rests on a base of frosted rock crystal carved as if flowing water and that rests upon a plinth of black onyx that is further embellished with a Tutti Frutti basket in the front. “ Everything except the kitchen sink’’
Another choice from the Art Deco era was a Cartier New York early 1920s enamel and jade nécessaire, made to hold cigarettes,powder and lip rouge, . Clive shared with us that the color of ivory enamel was nearly exclusive to Cartier New York and distinctly American. The box had been engraved in 1977 as a gift from the actor Richard Harris to his wife Anne Tuerkel.
Of course, Clive and I could not leave out the Duchess of Windsor’s colorful turquoise and amethyst torsade bracelet by Cartier at Hancock’s. Famous for her sense of style and fabulous jewels, the Duchess loved jewels with plenty of color, and this bracelet, that matches with her well-known bib necklace by Cartier, exemplifies this to perfection.
Though Hancock’s displayed a great many fabulous treasures, a rare Van Cleef & Arpels ram’s head cuff and matching ring, circa 1970s, stood out in their uniqueness. An ancient Greek design, this set finished the tour of jewels through the ages.