How Oscar Heyman became the Jewelers’ Jeweler

Full disclosure I have been waiting for this book, Oscar Heyman The Jewelers’ Jeweler, to be released for almost 3 years. I follow JCK news frequently and on July 15, 2014. This story by Jennifer Heebner showed up.

I clicked on the link immediately! There was the editor detailing how this book about the over 100-year-old jewelry company was being worked on by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The main point I wanted to know was the release date, which was estimated around 2015 or 2016. Well that was pushed out, but I waited and waited. Then on February 3rd, 2017 I received an email from the Museum of Fine Arts about the book’s release on April 1st.

April 1, 2017, arrived and I called the MFA to confirm they had this book. The weather in Boston on April 1st was terrible with snow, wind and rain, a good joke for New Englanders’ thinking winter was behind them. Once I knew the book was ready to buy I made my journey, by public transportation no less, to the museum. Why go on the worst day when I could wait for a sunnier day the next? I wanted this book and the wait had been long enough. Amazon was even behind, not releasing it until the next week.

So what got me to this point? What is it that drew me to Oscar Heyman’s jewelry? It wasn’t the jewelry that got me curious about this company it was their reputation and their story.

The Beginnings

In 1901 the Heyman family sent two of their sons, Oscar and his older brother Nathan to train to be jewelers in the Ukraine. They were living in the Russian controlled area of Latvia at the time. These young apprentices manufactured jewelry and other objects for international clients and the House of Peter Carl Faberge. I had previously seen this reference to Faberge in literature about the Oscar Heyman & Brothers Company. This is what caught my eye and had me research and follow this firm for many years now.

I have written some about Faberge. He is one of my (if not my) favorite designer! My goal is to own a small item manufactured by Peter Carl Faberge’s company. It does not matter what it is, because whatever I buy will be of the best quality.  That is what made Faberge’s company so wonderful every piece no matter the size or value had to be consistent in quality. Everyone that worked for him or represented his company had to meet his high standards.

From what I have seen and learned about the Oscar Heyman Company on my own and through this book is that they have several aspects of their company that parallel Faberge’s. One being their craftsmanship and the second, relationships.

 

Craftsmanship

I see a lot of jewelry at auctions, stores, designer open houses, etc. and the over used phrase of, ‘That is so beautiful!’, is frequently heard at these events. But there must be more than beauty to make a piece of jewelry be looked at as an object of art and desire. The jewelry needs a soul.

A story I have highlighting the character of an Oscar Heyman piece, is from a Christie’s online auction preview I went to last year.  I was going through the cases, starting at one end and working around, when I heard a Christie employee telling a woman that was trying on jewelry from the case about an Oscar Heyman ring that she identified. I tried to move inconspicuously towards the two. The woman telling the story continued telling how Christie’s received a group of jewelry to be cataloged for this auction and as she was going through the jewelry, a ring stood out to her as being something that looked like it was by Oscar Heyman. There was no stamp of the designer but the worker wanted to just see if it might be one of theirs. Pictures and details of the piece were sent to the Heyman office and sure enough Christie’s was contacted and told the ring was in the Heyman archives! Making it a total of three Oscar Heyman rings being offered at this auction! The woman trying on jewelry was no longer looking at the piece she was currently trying on but taking in this fun story of discovery. She quickly asked if the piece she had on was the ring. Her ring was of a gold alligator that wrapped around her figure, most likely a Kieselstein-Cord ring, definitely not an Oscar Heyman, the Christie’s worker confirmed that.  What was the ring you ask? Well the other onlooker wondered if she had picked it but did not ask about seeing the actual ring. I looked in the case and saw three rings with a similar design, a large stone with smaller stones around it. One stood out and I had a feeling that was the ring. So I asked to see the Oscar Heyman ring and the employee picked the one I had my eye on! A yellow diamond in the center with smaller alternating yellow and white diamonds around it. What stood out to me? The setting. The stones were layered and seemed to sit a little higher than the other similarly designed rings. Picture below:

So that was one down. I spotted the second one, a ruby that was in a case by itself.

 

Had to try it on!

The third one I had to ask. This sapphire and diamond ring was in another case, two out of three is not bad!

Not every quality piece I have seen is from Oscar Heyman, but every Oscar Heyman is a quality piece.

 

Relationships

Another aspect that the book touches on is relationships the company has with their employees and retailers.

Company loyalty can be hard to find. Even when you do find a stable job the conditions can be hard to be happy in. So, it was refreshing to hear a story about how the Oscar Heyman employees handled the 25th anniversary of the company. Oscar Heyman and his brother came over to America in 1906 and founded their company in 1912. The 25th anniversary took place in 1937, a time when the country was struggling with troubling economic hardships. The day was to be like any other but the employees wanted to mark the occasion. For the silver anniversary, the employees worked in secret for fourteen months to complete a clock to present to their employers. Picture below found from post by Couture Musings:

Around the globe are the letters O. Heyman & Bros each character marking an hour. The figure on the right is to represent a workbench jeweler. The figure on the left is the god Mercury, that represents commerce and financial gain. At the silver base are the names of all the current employees for that time. It was touching to read that story and to think how much those employees must have loved working for the company to do all this!

Faberge ran a workshop that also cared for their workers. The workers had good wages, excellent working facilities and even had the opportunity to manage small businesses within the company. Many pieces not only have the stamp of Faberge but the maker in charge of that object. It gave a sense of pride and ownership to the workers. Rare for a company to be so invested in their workers.

The retailers also had favorable comments about Oscar Heyman. Mr. Heyman passed away in 1970, the book notes that one retailer recalled during the Depression how Mr. Heyman granted his clients with the option of credit and the opportunity to sell the jewelry on consignment. This helped many businesses stay open as paying for those high-end pieces would have crippled their cash flow significantly, causing them to possibly go out of business.

These businesses were not just a few retailers Oscar Heyman’s business model is selling to stores not to consumers. Black, Starr & Frost, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few had Oscar Heyman & Bros manufacture jewelry to sell under their stores name. When going to auctions you can still find pieces marked as one retailer but were created by the Heyman Company.

Below is a bracelet that was clearly marked in the Sotheby’s catalog as being from Black, Starr & Frost but on Instagram Heyman shared it as one of the pieces they manufactured. In the book a similar bracelet is pictured and credited as Oscar Heyman. Details of this amazing piece at auction are taken by me below.

Looking Forward

The book spends its time focusing on Oscar Heyman’s business from 1912-1970. Ending their story with the passing away of Oscar Heyman on July 13, 1970.  A few paragraphs mark the centennial that the company celebrated 5 years ago but the focus on the book is the company through the years.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. I was a little concerned when I saw the page count, worrying it would be all photos and no real story, like a coffee table book. It would have been the easy way to make this book.  The thought of picking from hundreds of thousands of jewelry photos seems difficult but how could you go wrong with picking any piece, especially with all the rich history? This book was to show and explain why Oscar Heyman is the Jewelers’ Jeweler. This isn’t a title they claimed for themselves like a marketing campaign. The title has been given to them by the employees, retailers and customers who have been a part of their story. I look forward to continuing to see their jewelry at auctions, in stores and on social media for a new audience to appreciate.

Links to buy the book from Amazon are here or from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston click here

Will this be the year that the Pink Star shines?

April has arrived and with it some amazing auctions! Hong Kong is the major auction destination this week for Sotheby’s. If you have not checked out their items for the Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Auction, you should! That Auction is on Tuesday afternoon, but the real show is the diamond that is coming back on the market for a single auction in the evening. You may have seen or heard of the Pink Star. (Pictured above courtesy of Sotheby’s) This internally flawless pink diamond is a massive 59.6 carats was up auctioned off in November 2013 at their Geneva sale. The winning bid was $83.2 million dollars but the buyer soon backed out. The reason for the buyer’s change of heart? They could not afford it. Sotheby’s then acquired the gem and now is hoping that their investment pays off. You can read more on that 2013 auction here.

It was a disappointing end I’m sure for the auction house. Christie’s had sold the Princie Diamond, a 34.9 carat pink diamond in their April auction for $39,323,750 (buyer’s premium included).  I saw that one up close, the florescence was amazing. The glow unlike anything I had ever seen! (Picture of diamond below courtesy of Christie’s)

 

2015 would again bring mixed results for large colored diamonds at the auction house. Sotheby’s again faced disappointment at their Magnificent Jewels sale held in April 2015 at New York, with the Shirley Temple Blue Diamond failing to make the minimum estimate.

Shirley Temple Blue Diamond, my photo

Then Sotheby’s achieved a notable success. The Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Auction in November 2015 saw the highest price paid for a blue diamond. The Blue Moon a 12.03 carat blue diamond sold for $48.4 million, having the highest price paid per carat for a blue diamond. Christie’s also had success in their November Geneva Magnificent Jewels Auction that year. They set the record for highest price per carat for a pink diamond. The Sweet Josephine (16.08 carats) sold for $28.5 million dollars. What is interesting is both diamonds that year were sold to buyers in Hong Kong.

Sweet Josephine, courtesy of Christies

 

Blue Moon, courtesy of Sotheby’s

So will this be the year that the Pink Star shines and leaves Sotheby’s with a great return on investment? It can go either way. On the one hand the economy has been a little shaky the past few months. On the other hand, jewelry is being looked at more seriously as an investment piece again. Town and Country had a great article on that here.  Having the diamond sold at the Hong Kong auction is a smart move as that has had some major buyers in the past, mentioned above. Without knowing the estimate, it is harder to say if it will sell or not. People did bid on the Shirley Temple Blue Diamond they just did not meet the minimum required. I do not know how much Sotheby’s paid for the Pink Star, the minimum is anyone’s guess. There was no estimate listed the last time in was up for sale. I will be watching for it and commenting on my other social media channels. Have you seen the Pink Star? Do you think it will sell? Love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading and visit Data in the Rough again very soon for more!

Pink Star, courtesy of Sotheby’s

Reevaluating Your Social Media Plan with 3 Lessons from a Tortoise and a Hare

Two years ago, this month I started posting on Data in the Rough.  The time felt right to continue working on something I was passionate about, jewelry and analytics. I have not done as much analysis as I would like to but I see that as an improvement not a failure. With the holidays’ over and winter in its last stages, it really is an ideal time for anyone that has made a resolution to reevaluate their goals and benchmark their progress. For me it is focusing a little more on driving insight and results through data around me. One way is to refocus on my social media plan.

I am on the usual platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.  I have also consulted a few people on their social media for their personal or business use, mainly Facebook and Instagram. The comments and questions I get center around followers, engagement, content to put out, protecting your intellectual property and return on investment, to name a few. All these platforms have different audiences and expectations. So how does a small business owner or someone looking to create their personal brand do it and not waste too much time? A strong and adaptable social media strategy!

To do that you need a plan and a focus. For that I have 3 suggestions as you find the right social media plan and strategy. Since this blog focuses on the jewelry industry I am going to use jewelry from Christie’s auction house to highlight some important lessons from the Aesop fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, that you can apply to creating a stronger social media plan.

Rabbit – by Kutchinsky sold for $10,032 at Christie’s London Auction, gold and gemstones; Turtle – by David Webb sold at Christie’s online auction, gold, platinum, lapis lazuli, mabe pearl, diamonds

So you want to join the latest social media craze, everyone is talking about it, everyone seems to be on it. You should be too, right?

  1. Look at what you are currently doing and see if it is possible to effectively use this new tool. The tortoise challenged the hare to a race, not to prove the tortoise was faster but that he could beat the hare. Can you see yourself benefiting from this new platform? Are your customers asking about your presence on this platform? Is your target audience on this platform? How much time are you willing to spend or pay someone to spend?
Rabbit- by Cartier sold a Christie’s Geneva Auction for $18,118, gold, ruby, enamel; Turtle- artist unknown sold for $15,000, diamonds, pearl
  1. Look at your own attention span and current social media platforms you are on. Do you have patterns that may make it difficult to focus on starting this new social media tool? How can you improve your current social media accounts to learn about yourself and your business moving forward. The hare is clearly faster but he got distracted comparing himself to others. Taunting the tortoise on his slower strategy without thinking about his own did not change either racer.

    Turtle-unknown artist, online auction, emerald, diamond, ruby; Rabbit-by Raymond Yard sold at Christie’s for $37,500, diamond, multi-gem
  2. Don’t compare yourself with others on social media. This is the hardest and most important thing to remember when online. It is hard not to see others bounding ahead and you continue to inch by or feels like you are standing still. The tortoise (turtle) knew that the hare (rabbit) was faster but his slow and steady pace worked for this one race. As I mentioned above, had the rabbit worried about his own progress and not of the turtles then he would have easily done better by finishing the race at his own pace. The rabbit got distracted by the turtle. There are times you’ll feel like the tortoise and see lots of ‘wascally wabbits’ pass you by.
Turtle- by Van Cleef & Arpels sold at Christie’s online, pink and blue sapphires,gold; Rabbit-unknown artist sold at Christie’s London for $893, gold, diamonds, ruby

 

They get featured on a blog or have a photo that earns them a lot of likes and followers. That kind of thing happens with the world of social media and ‘overnight’ success stories. You need to only focus about your brand and your story. A clear focus and some daily effort can get you a clear path to your own finish line!

That also leads to another question you need to answer, what will be your primary measurement of success for this platform?  Using money as your only way to gage success can leave you missing valuable opportunities. For the jewelry industry, it can take several visits either in a store or online before a purchase is made. The platform you choose to be on is another touch point. Somethings to consider when looking at measurements for your return on investment:

  • Can you sell on this platform?
  • How secure is the payment method?
  • Will this affect your relationship with other stores that sell your product?
  • Is your supply chain agile enough to take an increase in your business? Do your other vendors/suppliers have other clients that may take a higher priority?

So then how can you make progress for your brand if money is not a great metric? Some suggestions for other metrics:

  • Brand awareness-Getting more people interested in your brand could lead you to be picked up by a store or featured on a blog.
  • Getting a specific message out- Are you supporting a cause that is affecting a greater population? I have seen companies that are wanting to make money but also have social issues that need to be addressed, like ending human trafficking.
  • Engagement with your customers-Social media is a great way to get feedback and test out new ideas with your fan base.

This is only a starting point. I am going to continue to look at different social media platforms and tools to see what might help you in moving forward with your social media plan. It’s a race with yourself that will determine your outcome.  Keep following Data in the Rough for more on jewelry and the data behind the diamonds. Let me know your thoughts on the subject and what platforms you’d like to hear about. Instagram is a favorite of mine so I’ll be posting a bit more on that throughout the next few months. As a thank you for reading this post below are my two favorite pieces of jewelry that I found when looking for turtle and rabbit jewelry to use for my blog.

A pink diamond and white diamond rabbits’ brooch with a ruby by Graff sold at Christie’s Hong Kong Auction for a little over $129,000. The turtle is an antique brooch sold a Christie’s auction for $70,500 and is made of opals, diamonds and rubies!

Revival Jewelry: Highlights from the Boston Exhibit

Spring will be here next month but while the weather is still deciding to go back to winter or move forward to warmer weather you can take in a new jewelry exhibit that has come to Boston. This new exhibit is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I signed up for a lecture last week to coincide with the new exhibit. The new exhibit is on revival jewelry. I was telling my dad about the lecture and the new exhibit when he asked ‘what is revival jewelry?’ My short answer was that is jewelry that is copied or inspired by jewelry from the past. Revival jewelry has a lot more history to it. I want to show highlights of the exhibit and hopefully give more detailed examples of what is revival jewelry is.

What is Revival Jewelry?

With images of the past readily available to artists, they can draw inspiration from the history, art and ideas to guide their current designs. Sometimes it is subtle and in other cases it is a copy of the technique.  This trend started in the early 1900s.

Revival Jewelry to connect with the past

Lots of exciting discoveries and inventions were made in this time but one discovery excited the early 19th century and that was the discovery of the Egyptian rulers’ tombs. Scarabs, hieroglyphics, golden gods were a few of the things that fascinated the British explorers and the public as they learned more about this exciting chapter in history.

The top item in the picture below, is a scarab from Egypt created around 740-660 BC. Beneath that is a brooch made of Gold, platinum, faience, diamond, emerald, smoky quartz and enamel by Cartier in 1924. Detailed view to the right.

To connect with a feeling

Nationalism

Revival jewelry was being made for the patriotic wave that swept over Europe in the 19th century cameos of Queen Elizabeth I were reemerging as a tribute to the current strong female monarch ruling Britain, Queen Victoria. The one featured as an example in the museum is below.  This cameo necklace was made around 1890 and made with gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, agate, and glass.

Vacations

Different parts of the world are known for different styles and techniques in jewelry. Coral was a souvenir from Naples, micro mosaics were associated with Rome. Recall any trips where you have bought jewelry because it was inspired by images or techniques of the past?

Revival Jewelry to master old world techniques

Sometimes the best way to learn is recreating the art itself. Some of the techniques featured at the exhibit were:

Enameling

This pendant was a favorite of mine from this group. It is titled Girl Blowing Bubbles, circa 1910 made by a designer from Spain of gold, platinum, pearl, ivory, sapphire, diamond and plique-a-jour enamel.

Granulation

This is technique uses small balls of gold to add texture to the designs.

These gold earrings were made around 1870-1880 by Italian Designer Castellani. Look at the bottom part and see all those dots, each separate when added.

A more current artist, Italian born Andrea Cagnetti created this Chort pendant in 2002. This is 22 karat gold!

Revival Jewelry to recreate familiar creatures

Stories and lore of the past have captivated many throughout history but there are creatures that keep drawing mystery and inspiration to artists trying to say what it is that fascinates them with a certain subject like…

Snakes

As early as the beginning of creation these creatures continue to mesmerize people all over the world.

An amulet with a vulture-headed snake made in Egypt around 664-525 BC.

Snake belt by Elsa Peretti, 1970s made of silver and sapphires.

One of my favorite ways the snake is interpreted is by Bulgari. This diamond, gold, platinum, ruby, enamel watch created in the 1960s was one of the highlights for me of the exhibit!

Medusa

This was another theme that had my personal favorite piece. The Head of Medusa pendant created by Cartier in 1906! The materials are platinum, gold, diamonds, natural pearl coral and enamel.

There were many other pieces, cameos, crosses, coins, but these were some highlights to give you a better understanding of the different types of revival jewelry. What is your favorite era? A piece above that you really liked? If you are in the Boston area between now and August 2018 you should make plans to see Past is Present: Revival Jewelry!

The Language of Pins: Stories behind Madeleine Albright’s Collection

Legion of honor pin owned by Madeleine Albright

I was going to post this earlier but the politics got so ugly I wanted to wait until the dust settled. With the inauguration this week a question I have is what jewelry will the first lady and the daughters of the President wear? I’m sure that and so much more will be analyzed over the next four years. Some of those small choices are not given much thought but for one former White House employee there was a distinct correlation between her pin choice and her mood.

Bejeweled Mickey pin owned by Madeleine Albright, made 1989, Disney

I posted on Instagram art from the all-night event at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few months ago. I was unable to attend the special evening events but Madeleine Albright spoke to a group of museum attendees. Some Instagram attendees shared selfies with the former Secretary of State , I’m not posting those but will share a photo of the pin Albright was wearing. I had seen it in a book I read a few years back, Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright. The pin is titled Breaking the Glass Ceiling, by an unknown artist.

Albright had a second pin on with the candidate she is supporting. I won’t mention that either since it only takes one guess knowing which president she served under. So, no more election talk on to the jewels.

The book is a fun read about a collector that happened to serve in a high government office but Ms. Albright’s history of collecting did not start when she got the job of secretary of state, but earlier at age 8. She was the daughter of an ambassador to Yugoslavia on a visit Madeleine’s mother was given an emerald ring surrounded by diamonds. That memory stayed with Madeleine and when she was old enough she was given that ring. The love of pins came from her college days when it was fashionable to wear pins with sweaters. Also in college, the tradition of getting pinned by your boyfriend was to be engaged. Madeleine was pinned by Joseph Albright, they had 3 children. Madeleine was still gifted pins by friends and relatives. Some antique and a few homemade. Below is a pin of beads on safety pin, common at craft fairs and similar to the one owned by Ms. Albright.

 

She had high end brooches as well like these two from Cartier.

Panther pin, Cartier owned by Madeleine Albright

 

Coral, Lapis Bird in Cage, Cartier made in 1944

How did her trademark pin wearing get started? The story is shared by Albright and starts with a snake. See below.

The Serpent’s Tale

The book goes through some of Albright’s family moments where she worn and acquired her pins but I am skipping ahead to her days in Washington where her collection got a lot more attention.

 

The major start to kicking off her jewelry collection in the White House was during Bill Clinton’s first term as President of the United States (1993-1997).  To set the scene, Ambassador Albright was coming in after the first Persian Gulf War and Iraq was required to accept the UN inspections and disclose about all their weapons programs. Saddam Hussein, the Iraq leader at the time, would not comply causing Albright to publicly criticize him. A poem was printed by the Iraq press in retaliation to Albrights behavior. I won’t reprint the poem but use the phrase that caused the start of her pin phase. In the poem the poet referred to Ambassador Albright as an ‘unparalleled serpent’, among other unflattering things. So when Iraq officials were scheduled to meet with her again she need to find the right item to make a statement. This coiled snake pin by an unknown designer was bought a few years back. The reason was unknown to Albright who mentioned in the book to ‘loathe’ snakes. It was perfect though and the press loved it. Albright was sending a message in her own way to the world. This soon became her trademark and still continues to this day.

Albright wearing serpent pin with her ‘don’t mess with me’ face!

Albright has many more pins and stories in this book that could be finished in an evening. A few more from her collection.

Bug Pin by Iradj Moini

 

Lady Liberty clock pin by Gijis Bakker of the Netherlands

Are there any pins you wear to work or wear on your coat for going out? I brought some that belonged to my grandmother that can take a commute to work or errands on the weekend! Thank you for reading and check back for more!

Top hat Eagle pin, 1940 by Trifari

 

Christmas Time in the City: Boston Jewelry Stores’ Holiday Window Displays

It’s that time of the year again! People are busy shopping for gifts and then cold and snow slow down your plans. You are determined to go out but with a plan and a list! Good for you! In these quests for gifts have you taken any time to just look around at the holiday window displays? I took last weekend to do some shopping and some admiring around the Boston area jewelry stores.

I went to Newbury Street first. This is a major luxury shopping street. It has several big brand and local stores. The windows of the shops are small so I only took photos of windows with a holiday theme that was present. A favorite window of mine when I go to Newbury Street is Cartier.

Cartier

With the New York renovation these windows don’t pull you in as quickly but the incorporation of the brand with the holiday season is excellent. I do miss the boxes on the trees outside the store that doubled as ornaments but it is still a beautiful display.

I couldn’t post just the display but I wanted to look at a few of the items that stood out in the display. The ring to the left is the Galanterie de Cartier ring that reads on the website to be made of white diamonds and black lacquer set in white gold. The earrings  are from the same collection with the same materials, links are included.

I love how they added the Cartier panther to the windows as a finishing touch!

Shreve, Crump, & Low

This display is my pick for the best jewelry! The window is traditional with garlands and winter figurines.

The jewelry however has a bit of everything! The window as you can see is very large so I will focus on some key pieces.

The first will be the three necklaces that are the main pieces of the window!

I edited out the glare and helped make the colors richer than my camera could pick up! The ruby necklace on the left is over a quarter of a million dollars and has 25.28ct of rubies and 32.29ct of diamonds set in platinum. The Diamond Wreath Necklace to the right has 65.15ct of diamonds set in platinum and comes at a lower price point of $200,000. My favorite is the ruby necklace but the final necklace comes very close to it.

This is a vintage one of a kind Boucheron Diamond Necklace from an prior estate that has made it to Newbury Street! The center cushion cut diamond is 3.52ct. The clarity of this stone is a VVS1, which for those unfamiliar with the grading system is a step below IF (internally flawless) which is about the best you can have in clarity. This really is a showstopper and just a little over half a million dollars! Links are underlined if you want more details on these pieces.

Shreve’s had the window with some winter/ Christmas themes next to smaller items. Those ruby earrings again pieces I love to see. One more before moving on…

The photo did not come out as well as I hoped because the color of the diamonds is hard to tell. This 11.16ct Blue Sapphire Ring is surround by a layer of light colored pink diamonds then a layer of white diamonds on the outside.

John Lewis

I don’t have too many details on this shop. The display is small but the prices are listed for these items which I like. I also thought the use of small wrapped packages was a nice touch in staying true to this small, minimalist display. All the jewelry displayed is sterling silver. A link to where the business is located here.

Alexis Bittar

Not a traditional fine jewelry brand, he has a line but my focus was on his fashion jewelry line.The holiday window display for his store was in my opinion, the most creative use of a display I saw that day!

A lot of jewelry is displayed but in the most traditional way for the holidays, hanging up ornaments! A close up below!

What do you think?

Tiffany & Co

There are two Tiffany stores in Boston. I went to the one inside an indoor mall, to reduce the glare and get some better light. I also love the extra touch of adding the diamond decals to the outside of the store. A close up of the design is below.

 

Another great part to the decorations is the Tiffany tree! Trimmed with the signature blue boxes and ornaments in the shapes of diamonds! Oh to have a tree stacked with all those Tiffany gifts!!

Now on to the windows. The store has two windows to have its holiday window display. The first one I saw was an elaborate dinner table set for a fabulous party.

I love the details of adding the jewelry on the plates as though the are only little party favors! It recalls stories I read of the high society life in America before income tax came into effect. One story I remember talked about guests opening their napkins to find a gold bracelet as a gift from the hostess.

The other window on the right is the traditional tree complete with Tiffany presents. I have always enjoyed Tiffany’s window displays especially the holiday window displays because of their more traditional approach. It’s nice to look at a window and think pretty instead of ‘what was that?’

What are your favorite stores to go and see the holiday window displays? Thank you for reading and return soon for more from Data in the Rough! And have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

 

Elizabeth Taylor’s Sapphire Earrings Return to Auction

Elizabeth Taylor Auction December 2011

I remember the day I went to see the Elizabeth Taylor Collection at Christie’s in New York. I made plans to see the collection on Friday December 9th. I waited in line as the auction house had the sidewalk lined up with people waiting in the cold to see this famous collection and remember the woman who was their guardian. I had to make plans over a month in advance. I usually wait to buy a ticket to NYC the night before I decide to leave, however this was an auction I have never experienced before and probably never will again.

It was unique for several reasons one being the history behind each piece, the second the amount of fine jewelry owned by one person and finally the fact I had to pay to attend an auction preview! Yes for those that did not see the Elizabeth Taylor Collection, you had to pay $30 plus tax AND…pick a time to reserve for your spot to see this collection. I have a piece of the email confirming my ticket below.

email

I signed up for a Christie’s account at the end of October so that on November 5 of 2011 I could be the 3rd transaction of thousands that would see this jewelry. Parts of the collection traveled around the US until it reached its final place which was Christie’s at Rockefeller Plaza.

It was an exciting day, as I mentioned above people were waiting in line for a turn to look at these amazing jewels. I had never seen so many fur coats in one place. The crowd was older but they were still awestruck at the wealth, beauty and lifestyle that was Elizabeth Taylor!

The Christie’s windows were dedicated to Elizabeth and her jewels. A shot below.

elizabeth_outside_christies

The First-Time I saw the Earrings

My time was called and I entered to find the jewels surround by glass with photos and stories of their role in Taylor’s life at every turn. The surround by glass is no surprise for an auction preview but there was no Christie’s assistant at any displays to let anyone try the gems on. The assistants were only at registers or walking to make sure everyone was where they should be. That was my only complaint for that day. Everything else was perfect the jewels were at times a bit gaudy for my taste were well crafted with the finest materials.

One item I truly loved were a pair of Sapphire Van Cleef and Arpel earrings. They have a mystery setting and were made in the 1980’s. They had that almost too over the top look, but the color was too beautiful not to go back a few more times to admire. I was also hoping maybe someone from Christie’s would walk by and let me get a closer look. I can still picture them suspended in the case. They were estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000 and sold for $338,500!

sapphire_earrings

Now, imagine my delight when I looked last month at the upcoming Christie’s auction and saw that these earrings were back on the auction block! The estimate now is $220,000-$300,000. I believe they will make that estimate if not exceed it. This is an item to watch but on Saturday when Christie’s had its preview I went with a goal to try them on.

Elizabeth-Taylor-Sapphire-Earrings

The set up was a little different from the past the earrings were in a salon like setting and placed in a window. I had another fabulous blogger with me Jill from Everything Just So join me to see if we could try on the famed earrings. With luck the crowd had died down and we did get a chance to wear the earrings. They looked over the top at first but on they are light weight with a subtle sparkle from the sapphires.

There is an inspired version selling on QVC to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor Trust. The link is here if you are interested.

qvc-elizabeth-taylor-inspired-earrings

They are also featured in My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor

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Getting a Second Chance

I was fortunate enough to make my bus on time to get to New York and to Christie’s where I was greeted by Jill from Everything Just So and her daughter. I saw the earrings displayed like a shop window display and proceeded to enter and ask if we could try on the earrings. Handling jewelry this expensive can be daunting but I had seen the earrings so much and wanted to wear them so badly that having the chance was a relief and so fun! See below!

Elizabeth-Taylor-Sapphire-Earrings

 

The drops are removable but I was not going to push my luck on seeing them like that, besides the mystery setting sapphire drops are part of the glamour. My favorite color is blue if you couldn’t tell from my blue top. I can’t describe enough how amazing these earrings are and how great I felt wearing them for the brief time I had.

Wearing-elizabeth-taylor-sapphire-earrings

I also felt like trying the jewelry on was part of the joy Elizabeth got from her jewels. The stories I heard from online accounts, QVC and personal acquaintances was she was generous in letting others try on her jewelry. I finally had to take them off so that they could be put up and the assistant could help another person looking to try on a piece. The memory will stay with me forever and maybe I’ll get a chance to see them again!  Come back for more stories about jewelry as I focus this month on Elizabeth Taylor the movie star, business woman and jewelry collector extraordinaire! Thank you for reading if you have a story or comment or have tried on some of Ms. Taylor’s jewelry I would love to hear about it!

Marie Antoinette: How a Diamond Necklace Ruined a Queen

book-cover

Marie Antoinette has been described as a beautiful, witty, wasteful, out of touch, the list can go but in How to Ruin a Queen by Jonathan Beckman, he describes a view of the Queen I never saw her as, clueless. Beckman details and pieces together the history of Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair as though you are part of the jury. He presents the different angles of the story that seem like unrelated events but combined created an unbelievable domino effect that lead to the end of the French monarchy.  There were three key parts that created this incredible story. The first transports you to 18th century France where you learn about a little girl named Jeanne whose father was the illegitimate son of priapic Henri II. Henri II was a king who ruled France from 1547 to 1559.  The family lost their right to reign in 1562 and the France was filled with uncertain times as the War of Religions took over the country.

Thankfully the family did not try and put Jeanne’s father in power, he was lazy and squandered his money. He married a beautiful maid that worked at his family’s home when she became pregnant. This woman was Jeanne’s mother and wanted to live an entitled life. This was not to be the family was broke and Jeanne and her siblings spent their early life begging and being beat by their mother. Jeanne’s father died and not long after Jeanne’s mother left her children, Jeanne age 6, to fend on their own.

Jeanne found a couple with children who took Jeanne and her younger sister in. The family tried to teach Jeanne a trade so she could make a modest living but that did not satisfy the wants of a girl who remembered her father’s tales of being a descendant of a King of France. Jeanne thought marriage would be a good escape except she got pregnant by a man with no fortune and little promise of moving up in his situation. The children died at birth and Jeanne was left with a husband she did not care for or would provide her the lifestyle she wanted. Both her and her spouse spent money quicker than they could make it and were always in debt to someone.

It did not seem that their future held any promise of living with little care of money.

The second part was Cardinal Rohan; he had come from a long line of family members whom had held high offices in the Royal Court. The role of Bishop for the French Court was the job Rohan was striving for. His downfall was he loved the excitement of court and got caught up in the gossip. He was working in the Austrian court when he overstepped his bounds and spoke rudely of Empress Maria Theresa. Her daughter, Marie Antoinette never forgot the slight and embarrassment to her mother. She held a grudge against Rohan from then on. That episode occurred around 1772.

The third part, the makers of the necklace. Louis the XV, Louis the XIV’s (the Sun King) son, wanted to have a special gift made for his long-time mistress Madame du Barry. Louis XV wanted Boehmer and Bassenge, a Parisian jewelry company to create a necklace so grand the likes had never been seen before. They took to the task of collecting the diamonds for a necklace named ‘The Necklace of Slavery’.

Sketch of Diamond Necklace
Sketch of Diamond Necklace

 

It had 647 stones and weighed 2800 carats. The streamers to the side went down the wears back to balance them out, so they would not fall forward! The cost today for this necklace would be around $14 million dollars. Unfortunately, Louis XV died two years later and Madame du Barry was banished from court. Louis XVI offered to buy the necklace for his wife and Queen Marie Antoinette but she refused it. From other sources the reasons were the money should go to other parts of the government/country. Another was she did not want jewelry made for another woman and a woman the current Queen did not like. So the jewelers were stuck with a necklace and no buyers.

Replica of Diamond Necklace
Replica of Diamond Necklace

This is where the stories intertwine, Jeanne wants money and feels entitled to have her share of prestige that was denied her due to her past. She lies about knowing the Queen. Rohan is desperate to get back into the Queen’s favor for his promotion that the possibility that this woman could help was an opportunity that he could not walk away from. The jewelers heard of Jeanne’s connection and got an opportunity to see if she could convince the Queen to rethink buying the necklace.

Jeanne gets her hands on the necklace and she and her husband try to pawn off a few stones at a time. They are not too successful and time is running out to keep fooling the jewelers that the Queen owns the necklace and will pay for it soon. When the news reaches the Queen about the necklace and its payment the King has Jeanne and Rohan arrested and a trial take place about all the secrets. One interesting idea that was mentioned was that the Queen would never have wanted that necklace, not because of the previously mentioned reasons but because it wasn’t her style. She was mentioned to like leaving her graceful neck free of adornment.

I looked up some photos to see about her taste in jewelry.

marie-antoinette-portraits

Other evidence is put out there but that was something I had not thought could be a major insight into Marie’s style.  What do you think a good point or not?

I won’t go on with how it ends for the major players but obviously, it tarnished Antoinette’s already fragile reputation. The trail started in August of 1785 and judgement was passed in May of 1786. For those that know important dates in 1791 the French Revolution, ended the monarchies major influence and in 1792 the family was arrested with Marie Antoinette being beheaded on October 16, 1793.

Today though is Marie Antoinette’s birthday, born November 2, 1755. The book had a statement that seemed fitting when looking at the lives of those involved in this scandal, either knowingly or unknowingly. You are never more unwittingly in peril than when you think you’re the author of your own fate, but are in fact a character in someone else’s plot. Something to think about in our own lives.

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painting of Marie Antoinette

I’d love to know your thought on this piece of history! Have you read the book or seen any of the movies that mentioned the necklace? Hilary Swank starred in a movie based on the scandal, The Affair of the Necklace (2001), did you see it? I hope you enjoyed this post return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Joseff of Hollywood: Jeweler to the Stars

princess-queen-belle

When choosing what you want to be for Halloween, the costume is the first start but what about the jewelry and accessories? Have you dressed up as a princess, Egyptian Queen or Southern Belle? If you have dressed up as your favorite movie character I’m sure you put some thought into the accessories. Well the jewelry about from the movies The Little Princess, Cleopatra, and Gone with the Wind all had the same company supplying and creating the jewelry, Joseff of Hollywood.

joseff-ad

I had known of the company for quite some time, the office that houses these Hollywood treasures is still running and located in California. You can read more on that in this article but I am reviewing the book Jewelry of the Stars: Creations from Joseff of Hollywood by Joanne Dubbs Ball. It was published in 1991. Which has now been 25 years but still a great book because Joseff’s wife was involved in the making of this book, otherwise the stories and extenstive photos of the jewelry created would not have been so in depth. The book is an easy read, divided into 8 ‘scenes’. Starting with the movie production beginnings and ending with the present state of the company. I will briefly cover some main points but not go too detailed so those interested in buying or borrowing the book can do so and not have all the interesting facts given away.

joseff-of-hollywood-book-cover

So in the beginning…

Movies produced had costume designers but a lot of the jewelry was real and belonged to the actress. This does not seem like a big issue but if a period piece on the early 1800’s is being made and an actress in the 1920’s has on trend jewelry the scene does not feel as authentic. You could try and buy period jewelry but again it may not suit the character and role being portrayed. This can also get expensive and hard to find.

 

Joseff’s full name was Eugene Joseff but many thought Joseff was his first name so he answered to that as well. Joseff was born in 1905 to Austrian parents in Chicago, Illinois. We he started out on his own his first attempt at business failed largely due to the Great Depression so Joseff headed to California to try it again at the jewelry business. His younger brother also went with him to be a part of the business.

 

In 1934, Joseff saw a movie starring Lucille Ball as a lady-in-waiting set in the 16th century he was distracted by her 20th century jewels. He knew the costume designer and went to complain about. The costumers’ response, ‘Well, if you’re so smart, let’s see what you can do.’ Well Joseph did and soon he was designing jewelry for most of the Hollywood movies.  Joseff had studied jewelry and its history so he had an idea of what a piece should look like. He also did a lot of research to get the jewelry historically accurate.

 

What I loved most about the book besides the beautiful photos was that it talked about the business side of the business and the strategy. Joseff was great at creating jewelry but he had so areas that he needed to improve, I will touch on 3 important ones.

 

1: The Manufacturing: Joseff had to use outside artisans to create his jewelry, this worked if they could fulfill Joseff’s artistic vision on a piece. There were a few times that the manufacturer claimed the request could not be done. So Joseff knew he needed to spend the money to create his own in-house manufacturing. So, that he could work on those denied requests and he could achieve the designs he created. So, that was one problem solved.

Would not want to attempt to recreate this!
Would not want to attempt                 to recreate this!

2: Selling his Jewelry: The time and effort going into this historically accurate jewelry was costly and time consuming, especially considering the early times when Joseff did not have the jewelry manufactured in house. So Joseff reached a deal with the production team. He would rent the jewelry to them. This was a win/win for both parties. For Hollywood, the cost was reduced by not paying full price and the headache of storing and finding it again was eliminated. For Joseff his creations would not need to be recreated and he would insure they would not get tossed out or forgotten in his archives. I loved this aspect of the story of Joseff. You can some of his jewels reused in several movies. Below is a movie that starred Angela Lansbury (left) the middle photo is Vivian Leigh and on both is the stunning necklace on the right.

scarlett-angela-amethyst-necklace

3: The bookkeeping/other business matters: Joseff did have some good business sense. However, he was not great at bookkeeping and other business related tasks. He recognized that and called a local business college to send over their best and brightest to help. For the University of California Los Angeles that student was Joan Castle. She quickly assessed that the design part of his business was consuming every moment which is why other business aspects were causing some troubles in his business that would grow worse without any one to fix them. Joan and Joseff worked long hours to get the business on the right track and somewhere in all of that they fell in love. Joan described Joseff as handsome and charming, it was love at first sight for her.

 

The story of them getting together is one you should read from this book. It was romantic, funny and filled with some twists. A perfect script for a Hollywood movie!

Joseff and Joan
Joseff and Joan

 

Movies was not to be Joseff of Hollywood’s only revenue stream. Since Joseff’s work was becoming so well-known he decided to go into the retail business. He sold creations seen on the stars he accessorized and made copies to sell in boutiques across the country. He was selective in who sold his jewelry and it was a major success and is still highly collectible. Some of the stars and the retail jewelry below.

joseff-retail-collection

Unfortunately, Joseff’s success was short lived. On September 18th, 1948 Eugene Joseff died in a plane crash. Joan was scheduled to fly with Joseff but had to cancel when some unexpected circumstances came up. The other part to make this more tragic was Joan and Joseff had an 11-month-old baby boy who would never know his father. Joan was inconsolable for weeks but with her resolve to be both mother and father to their son and continue with the business Joseff started she did get back into a routine. She even designed jewelry going forward but with lots of research and photos/paintings from that period to reference.

 

I loved the book and hope another is made maybe with the story on the manufacturing and suppling Hollywood in the modern day. Let me know if you have read this book. If you have any Joseff of Hollywood Jewelry, I’d love to know how you like it! Have a safe and Happy Halloween! Check back later for more Data in the Rough!

Opals: A Time When They Were Cursed

It’s October! A time for Fall Festivals, Daylight Savings Time, and October Birthdays! Oh and of course Halloween! Being in the New England area you cannot escape this holiday, not that I want to. Part of the fun of Halloween is the spooky stories. So I thought for this post I would look at the time opals were considered bad luck.  Opals are referenced in many cultures, aborigines believed opals were the ‘creator’s footprint that touched the earth at the base of a rainbow to bring harmony.’ Which is similar to an Arabic legend stating opals fall ‘from the heavens in flashes of lightning.’ Whatever way you describe them the flashes of color are undeniably breathtaking. It’s hard to think anyone could see these stones as bad luck.

dragon-opal

The bad luck started in 1829 after a popular novel written by Walter Scott, Anne of Geuerstein, made this reference to opals. The plot entailed, ‘Lady Hermione, who is falsely accused of being a demoness, and dies shortly after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on her opal and destroys its color.’ I see this as fiction and not to be interpreted literally but the public at the time viewed this story differently. The way the public interpreted the text, ‘to mean that this genius author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring, so they stopped buying the beautiful gemstone.’ You read that correctly, the public stopped buying opals and the opal market plummeted 50% within a few months of the novel’s publication. The market stayed down almost 50 years.

What brought opals back in fashion? A celebrity endorsement, by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Prince Albert was fond of opals and had jewelry for his Queen made with several.

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Painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Queen is wearing an opal tiara in this picture

One notable one was the Oriental Circlet a tiara made in 1853 by Garrard and designed by Albert. The Queen’s daughter-in-law had many of the opal jewelry switched out with rubies but I have photo shopped some opals in to recreate this tiara to its former beauty.

albert-opal-tiara

The tiara as it is now with rubies. From my research it seems Alexandra was a bit of a believer in the opal superstitions, or didn’t want to take any chances.

albert-ruby-tiara

Which do you like better the rubies or the opals?

Prince Albert’s love of opals was not enough to shake the curse, Queen Victoria who openly thought this superstition nonsense bought opal jewelry for her daughters as wedding gifts. This was a major sign of approval. Buying a wedding gift must be thoughtfully picked and there are plenty of superstitions associated with being married. This gesture made it clear if it was good enough for the Queen and her family then there was reason anyone else could give to counter that. This seemed to put opals back in fashion and have remained sought after gems ever since. Below is a pair of gemstone earrings owned by Queen Victoria that have some white opals included.

victoria_opal_earrings

Do you have any jewelry that you felt held a strange power or had occurrences that you couldn’t explain? Had you heard the superstition that opals were bad luck? Do you own any opals? I have seen plenty at the auctions and they aren’t cursed enough for them not to get a decent bid! Below are a few I’ve enjoyed viewing. Hope you enjoyed the article and come back for more treats from Data in the Rough!

opals-at-auction