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Posts in Estate Jewelry

A Flapper’s Ingenuity & Elegance

by on July 1st, 2016

Rarely does combining one generation’s design with another’s meet with success, but in the 1920s, women claimed a new right to define their own style with boldness and genuine audacity, sometimes to fantastic effect.

Pictured here, is an example of the combination of periods, assembled to produce an utterly new jewel that still respects, but re-creates a collector’s prize possession.

Subtly and almost, impossibly graduated colors and sizes of natural pearls move and suspend an equally rare and carefully grouped collection of natural-colored diamonds. Honey and cinnamon brown diamonds find company with iridescent brownish pearls descending into little cascades of pink gulf and conch pearls. Nearly invisible settings of old mine diamonds framed by perfect milgrains and piercings make up the Beaux Arts/Nouveau pendant that is the original long chain of the Edwardian aristocrat, and then the magic happens… The long chain, split at the back, becomes the suspension of the Art Deco colored diamond and black pearl dress clip attached.

Worn with tassels to the diving back or modest front of the flapper’s dress, the complement is stunning in it’s integrity. Every delicate quality of the original pendant is echoed in the perfection and artistry of the Asscher family cuts of kite and square yellow diamonds. The hints of peacock iridescence in the chosen black of the Deco pearls with now brilliant-cut diamonds perfectly paved in geometric settings joins seamlessly to fit the costume of the liberated and striking owner.

Old jewels carry far more than their gems alone. The history and lives of the time always linger, waiting to come back to life, to tell their story together with that of each owner: Worth times worth.

Art Deco Multicolored Diamond & Natural Pearl Necklace with Front & Back Pendant

Art Deco Multicolored Diamond & Natural Pearl Necklace with Front & Back Pendant

An Extraordinary Demi-Parure from the 1860s

by on April 16th, 2016

Time capsules are meant to be rare and wonderful discoveries. To find them in the same condition as when they were first worn is to be transported back (in this case, to the time of the Civil War).

This garnet ‘parure’- set of jewels- is completed by its original French velvet fitted box. There are no repairs and none needed. The gold setting and central natural pearls are rarities reserved for the extraordinary Bohemian work on display here.

1860-70 in its glory.

demi-parure

A Jewel’s Meaning: Less Price Point than Story

by on February 7th, 2016

There’s a lot of reasons to give a present and it seems like a new one every day; the culture of giving has grown with the addition of new cultures to the US. Always, the greatest quality of any of these gifts though, is meaning.

Rarity, beauty, craftsmanship and history are a part of the message, but the heart of it, is the heart that gives it. Picking something rare and appealing to someone you know well, carries that care forever. Suddenly, a thing becomes beautiful in a new way, unique to its moment and imbued with qualities of another dimension of thought and memory.

This is why, carefully chosen, a relatively inexpensive engagement ring can be valued as highly as the Hope Diamond: it’s just a matter of meaning.

1920s Old Mine Cut Diamond Princess Ring, $2,200

1920s Old Mine Diamond Princess Ring, $2,200

A Flock of Jeweled Birds

by on December 11th, 2015

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They are swallows by the curving swoop of the wing and forked tails; the fighter pilots of the insect eaters. Here, in the iPhone photo from the day I bought them from Argentina, they move whether upside down or tumbling just as the real bird does in flight, but with the added benefit of the tiny spring fitted into a barrel on the pin, to let the diamonds do their stuff and to “tremble” with every step: Mounted “en tremblant”.

At the end of the Beaux Arts period, maybe 1895, these were made by a Parisian of the first order when it came to skills. The upside down bird shows the extraordinary piercing work known as “azuring”…. daylighting, where wonderful geometric patterns give a delicacy that allows cleaning but maintains the strength of the piece.

Done first by an engraver to mark the line, next by the saw piercer who shaped the cuts and finally by the “thrummer,” who threaded cotton cording charged with diamantine powders through the holes and stroked the string up and down the cavities until they were mirror polished- even where no one would ever see after the diamond surface was pavéd.

The flock together is never the same. They tremble and turn; are removed and re-grouped and always show a style and grace marking one of the great periods in truly, high jewelry making.

victorian-diamond-swallow-pins-news

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Diamond Heart Pendant, Circa 1895

by on February 14th, 2013

victorian-heart-pendant-brooch

At the end of the 19th century, platinum was for the first time being used to set diamonds, though still with the historically used gold backing.

Seen from behind, the pendant’s setting is almost entirely pierced and filed away. It creates the appearance of a honeycomb in gold and platinum whose engineering would make Buckminister Fuller proud. Perfect strength with a minimum of material, though a maximum of labor.

After the sawing and filing, cotton string and pith wood charged with fine abrasive powders and carried by beeswax were “thrummed” to mirror polish the cutaways. The process creates the perfect seats for each small diamond.

From the back just as much as the front, this is perfection seldom seen.

Whimsy as High Art

by on August 11th, 2012

Occasionally, the great Parisian jewelers all stepped back from classically opulent jewelry making to design something artistic and amusing, while still maintaining unsurpassed quality in material and design.

By Van Cleef & Arpels, this jewel of a British bulldog is a representational tour de force. With enameled wingtip collar and chained diamond monocle, not only is all England invoked, but Winston Churchill in particular. Tenacity and single-minded purpose dressed as a gentleman…

I’ve spent much of my life on the hunt for wonderful and unique jewelry pieces. My favorite jewelry has meaning- in this case, the historic allure of one of the most important men, and greatest characters, of modern times.

Van Cleef & Arpels 18k Gold, Enamel & Diamond Bulldog Pin

The Value of History

by on August 9th, 2012

This antique snuff box or bonbonnière is hand-engraved and engine-turned below multiple layers of colored glass (a technique Faberge becomes famous for copying an hundred years later). Trapped within the early 19th century Parisian enamel is the golden inscription, “DON DE L’EMPEREUR” (“A Gift of the Emperor”)- for you know who…

A Fine, Napoleon Snuff Box

A Lesson in Time & Taste

by on October 28th, 2011

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

The 1930’s were a glorious period for the great Greenwich estates. Stone cutters, plaster workers and wood carvers put extraordinary finishing touches on grand houses; classically trained landscape architects designed wondrous gardens, then left in the hands of hereditary stewards; families hosted splendid dinner parties in wide backyard fields.

It was a time of grandeur, and within these walls, jewels of simple, but powerful beauty were worn with ease and abandon.

Below is a star sapphire of over 50 carats, beautifully set during that period. The rays of the star, glowing on fields of microscopic minerals riding the crystalline structure, extend vividly to it’s horizon.

30 Carat Star Sapphire Ring

An Elegant 30ct Star Sapphire Ring

Mimicking the geometry of this asterism, the gemstone is enhanced by triangular and kite-shaped diamond shoulders. These side stones were carved with no regard to the amount of diamond dropped away on the cutter’s floor to achieve the perfect symmetry demanded to follow the points of the central star.

My grandfather always maintained that to truly judge a jewelry craftsman’s care and ability, you have to look beneath, in this case inside, the piece; he’d have been thrilled by this ring.

Between bridging of platinum polished to mirror-like brightness (only achieved by “thrumming” leather or cotton strings through the ring’s openings for days), is the original owner’s cypher.

Cypher Underneath the Sapphire

The Original Owner's Cypher

To cut sapphire at all- the second hardest of substances- it takes a diamond; and to fashion this perfectly entwined monogram, it took a master cutter, working a graver formed from a diamond and then skillfully wielded in the most delicate and hardest task imaginable: carving an elegant cypher.

Pop used to say that the thirties were a time when you had to have taste to have money. Although some might suggest that this no longer remains the case, this jewel from one of Greenwich’s truly “Great Estates” could make you a believer that it once was the rule.

P.S., so would seeing Old Mrs. Wilshire, who early on in my career had her chauffeur stand outside the store’s door, holding a brace of massive, dignified wolfhounds…

Value, Ever an Increasing Virtue

by on November 5th, 2010

Betteridge Collection Rose-Cut Diamond Drop Earrings by Otto Jakob

Betteridge Collection Rose-Cut Diamond Drop Earrings by Otto Jakob

Without the creation of new jewelry and the ever-changing world of fashion, there would not be the enticing and fascinating arena of antique and period jewelry.

Importantly, in an era in which the value of a label or name may seem transitory, entering the secondary market of a well-known brand can offer exciting opportunities.

It is remarkable how quickly contemporary pieces come onto the market. especially when considering the significant decrease in value. By stripping away manufacturing costs, marketing budgets and celebrity sponsorship (to name a few) the natural value of an object becomes compelling to buyers where in today’s world hard assets are becoming an integral part of people’s financial portfolio.

This week alone, jewelry by Bulgari, Cartier and Tiffany & Co., along with the work of Pomellato and Cathy Waterman have all been bought and sold in the store.

Highlighted here are some elegant rose-cut diamond and 18k gold drop earrings by Otto Jakob, a popular contemporary jewelry designer. Over ten years ago, these earrings commanded a price in excess of $50,000. Today, while still just as beautiful as the day they were made, they retail from Betteridge for just $34,000.

Value and great jewelry can go hand in hand, but discipline and determination are wonderful virtues to have in this fast paced and really fun part of the second hand jewelry market.

Gem Lore & Legend

by on November 5th, 2010

Betteridge Estate Collection Diamond Riviere Necklace with Pear-Shaped Diamond Drop

Betteridge Collection Diamond Riviere Necklace with Pear-Shaped Diamond Drop

The lore of gemstones is as romantic and exciting as any subject. Dynasties have been destroyed, fortunes made, and legends created over the pursuit of stones.

And while literature or Hollywood may have exaggerated- many of the tales of daring do- it is important to know that the reality is also very objective and pragmatic.

The imagery surrounding gems involves the pursuit, and stories around any character, but once presented with a gemstone or gemstone jewelry one has to be objective with one’s analysis.

Diamonds and colored stones have so many subtleties, highs and lows, that to encapsulate them in a single paragraph is impossible.

As a snapshot of gem jewelry, this antique diamond necklace is a wonderful example of 19th century diamond elegance. The pear-shaped diamond drop of 4.57 carats is of exceptionally high quality, E color VS1, and is cut to portray a drop of frozen air suspended below a single line of wonderful old mine cut diamonds.

Exuding personality it has the imagery of old money inherited jewels, but is in fact as wearable now as the day it was made.

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