Icons on Auction: What to look for this week

There was a saying were you a Jackie or a Marilyn? Well in the spirit of this week’s auctions I will alter the question by asking are you an Audrey or Vivien? This week in London the auctions of items belonging to Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn are taking place. As the format goes I will mention a few items to look for, then check back for the analysis of the results later in the week.

Vivien Leigh

This auction focuses on the life of Vivian Leigh. The personal items include paintings, gifts, clothes and jewelry. You get a sense of her life and tastes through the auction being held at Sotheby’s on the 26th. If you follow fine jewelry on social media you may have seen this brooch belonging to Vivien.

This diamond bow brooch made in the 19th century is predicted to go between 25,000-35,000 British pounds or $33,038 – $46,253. I think that is a good estimate. The rest of the jewelry estimates feel low.

What to watch

For the jewelry, I have 3 items that I am particularly interested in the results, in addition to the brooch mentioned. The first the costume bracelet Vivien wore on the movie, Ship of Fools. The estimate is $132-$198. I know the gems and pearls are synthetic but it was in several scenes from her last film.

Next is the ‘Eternally’ ring, a token of love from the passionate affair and marriage of Leigh and husband Laurence Oliver. Inside is inscribed, Laurence Olivier Vivien Eternally. Thought to go for $529 – $793. I say there must be an error in the predictions but we’ll see.

 

Finally, my favorite piece, the chrysoberyl demi-parure. The stones are beautiful and the earrings are screw back! As most of her earrings are. This is what I’d buy if I could. The estimate is $5,286 — $7,929.

Audrey Hepburn

The auction of Ms. Hepburn’s items tell the story of an icon. Almost like opening a time capsule you are transported back remembering Roman Holiday and running around with Cary Grant in Charade! Lots of photos on sets, scripts, accessories and mostly costume jewels. Christie’s is focusing on her clothes and style for this auction being held on the 27th. An online auction is going on now and ends the 4th of October. I am just focusing on the live auction for this post.

A gift from Steven Spielberg to Audrey in 1989. A Tiffany & Co. bangle inscribed, You are my “ inspiration” Always, Steven. Original box and note included. Estimate $4,065 – $6,775.

Gripoix clip on earrings made of glass and faux pearl. They are unusual and colorful, set to sell between $1,355 – $2,032.

A paste tiara that was worn for the premiere of The Nun’s Story and in the film Two for the Road. I am always interested to see movie props on sale. What fans will spend is fun to guess and learn the result!

That is why this final piece, trying to keep it even since I pick four of Ms. Leigh’s items, is another item of interest. A movie prop from my favorite film of Hepburn’s Roman Holiday! A gold pendant, that I will have to rewatch the movie to see if I can get some good stills of. This would be my choice if I got only one item of her jewelry to keep.

Anyone following either or both sales? What was a favorite movie of either of these stars? I have been waiting many weeks for these sales and after tonight we will get to see what the world still thinks of these Hollywood legends. Return soon for the analysis only found on Data in the Rough!

 

Bonhams 2017 Fall Jewelry Analysis: The $8 Brooch Sells

A busy weekend for me. Lots of auctions coming up but let’s finish our look at the auctions last week. I plan to make this a shorter analysis. I am not including a past auction of Bonhams to compare. Bonhams removes the unsold items from its list after the auction so if you do not gather your data before that then it is harder to get. My plan then is to focus on this auction only. I will look at the stats and percentage of sold versus unsold lots. Next, we will look at the top performing items and then look at the highlights from the post last week.

Sold versus Unsold

Note my results do not include buyer’s premium.

Looking at the table below you can see the percentage sold and unsold by category (type). There were 180 lots up for auction. The types are in order by highest percentage sold.

I also listed the total lots in each category so you get an idea how much was for sale. Watches did well but there were only 4. Same logic can be applied to the worst performing categories that only had 1 lot up for sale in that category. The category with the most items was the Ring category. From the Skinner analysis, we saw rings did well in that auction too.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the items. Below is the table with the mean, median, and mode. I describe the significance of using these metrics in the Skinner analysis.

The lots ranged from $2,000 to $1,500,000 for the high estimate. So it is no surprise to see the average be so far off from the median and mode. Those higher end products can throw off the average. We see that most items were around $10,000 and sold at or slightly (10%) above the estimate.

Were there any outliers? What were the best performing lots?

Top 5 Lots

I like to look at the lots that outperform their estimates, not look at the lots that made the highest sale. Sometimes those are the same as we saw for that emerald brooch at Skinner. This time that was not the case. There were no major outliers. I created a table of the top 5 lots that were above their high estimate.

It is a good mix of designer and early 19th century that made the list. Below are the first 3.

Diamond and ruby line bracelet from 1925 was estimated to go between $5,000-$8,000. It sold for $20,000.

The emerald diamond ring sold for $22,000 and was estimated between $6,000-$8,000.

This fine diamond pendant from 1910 was thought to go between $8,000-$12,000 and sold for $28,000.

Past Predictions

So what about the items we looked at last week?

The wooden gold brooch by Cartier…

and the black opal that was estimated around $300,000.

Both went unsold. I was surprised about the brooch, it was estimated between $10,000-$15,000. Which I did not think was that bad.

Now to the final piece the story of the yard sale brooch bought for $8 and sold for…

$21,000. Bonhams predicted that right. They estimated getting between $20,000-$30,000.

All photos courtesy of Bonhams.

What are your thoughts on this auction? Do you agree with my findings? What was an item you were watching in this auction? The coming week is going to be fun! I will look at two celebrity auctions based in London. Check back this week for more on Data in the Rough!

 

 

 

Skinner Fall 2017 Fine Jewelry Analysis: The Emerald Outlier

Skinner Fall 2017 Fine Jewelry Analysis: The Emerald Outlier

Week one is done of my auctions schedule. I know I was excited to see the results from the week. There were plenty of ways to look at the data from the Skinner Auction and I confess I took a bit longer trying to see what the best story to tell would be. So, after different ways of dissecting the results I am structuring the article to focus first on the mean (average), median (the middle value of the data) and the mode (the number that is repeated most often) with the % breakdown of the types of items sold vs unsold. Then look at our predictions from the last article and finally the stand out piece in the auction.

Items to remember I used results for both September 2016 and 2017 that do not include buyer’s premium. If the item was withdrawn I considered that unsold.

Sold vs Unsold

For both September Fine Jewelry auctions at Skinner, the percentage was the same, roughly 81% of the lots sold, leaving 19% of the lots unsold. But did the same percentage of items sell in each category (type)? Many did stay the same.  Let’s look at 2017.

Now 2016. I have the categories arranged by highest percentage sold in each category.

I have bolded 2 categories of interest the rings and watches. In 2016 there were 18 watches on auction and 2/3 of them sold. For the 2017 auction there were 11 and 9 sold. I have been reading about trends in the watch industry. I will dig a bit deeper on my own to see about the designers and make. Those numbers though of the count are small. Rings are a bit higher in amount of lots. In 2016 there was a total of 113 auctioned. In 2017 the total was 94. As you can see this auction had great luck on selling rings, 88 were sold! I have not seen as much out on rings trending but it may be something to keep in mind.

So now for the statistics. Last year had over 300 more lots on auction versus this year. Skinner ended up getting a large collection to sell from a museum, I enjoyed viewing the lots and lost a bid for some earrings.

I looked at the data two ways, what were the statistics for the high estimates on the lots and of the lots sold how many times did they go above the high estimate? That calculation was the result $/high estimate.

Looking at the table above we see 2017 had items that had a higher estimated value given to them than last year. The same for median and mode. So higher estimated items in 2017 than last September. What about the results? Looking at the amount above the high estimate it looks like the auctions are about the same. The average says that the auctions had their items make the high estimate. This is why I like the other two metrics. The median shows that the results are less than the estimate. To get the median I arranged the numbers from lowest to highest and went for the item in the middle, or if it is an even number the average of the two middle numbers. The mode looks at the highest number of times the item is listed. So highest amount of lots for 2017 sold for 30% less than what Skinner predicted. In 2016 that number is 20%. Even though the amount per item was lower in 2016 the results were a little better.

Past Predictions

If you read my post last week I had 2 items that I was following. Those were the natural pearl pendant selling between $50,000-$75,000 and the Georg Jensen pieces.

Natural Pearls

The pendant from my last post.

The pendant did not sell. What does that mean in the auction world? Are we seeing a decline in interest? That pearl was not the only one on sale. Lot 383 an Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace, estimated to go as high as $15,000; sold for $29,000. Almost twice the estimate. The pendant may have been priced too high or there was a flaw that was not disclosed.

Georg Jensen

This designer did better than the pearls. Below are all the Jensen lots that were in the 2017 auction.

Only one Jensen item didn’t sell and 6 of the 10 sold above the high estimate. Here are the top 2 Jensen items.

.830 Silver and Amber Brooch, Georg Jensen

.830 Silver, Amber, and Green Onyx Necklace, Georg Jensen

Now let’s see how Jensen did with the other items. Below is the table for the top 5 items above estimate. Some items tied so more than 5 items are listed.

You see lots 7, 11, 10 all are Jensen. I think this Danish designer is still hot on the auction block. Wait, does that look like a typo, a lot did 10 times better than estimated? Yes, it did. If listed correctly, I checked the catalog and online, the last lot 384, an antique emerald brooch was the stand out piece of the auction.

The Emerald Outlier

This piece was listed to sell between $7,000-$9,000 and its final price was $90,000 (not including buyer’s premium)! What a way to end the auction!

I saw this small piece at the preview.

The emerald measured 9.55 x 9.50 x 4.65 mm and the brooch was less than an inch long. The interest lines in the origin of the emerald, it was a certified Colombian emerald, the finest you can get. Fun fact the emerald brooch and pearl necklace belonged to the same owner, Natica Inches Bates Satterthwaite. A native New Englander whose father worked at Harvard University. She passed away in 2015.

What did you think of my auction recap? Anything you’d like to point out or comment on? Next is a quick recap of Bonhams then more auctions to look forward to on Data in the Rough! Photos except the first one are courtesy of Skinner Auction.

 

 

 

What to look for at the Auctions: September 18th 2017

Well the fall auction season has begun! I spent my Sunday checking out the Skinner lots in Boston. If you were in New York you could head over to Bonhams to look what they were offering. For this post, I am highlighting a few pieces to watch for the auction tomorrow. Then later in the week I will do a more in-depth analysis of how the auction did overall. I will start with Skinner since I got to see the pieces first hand.

Skinner Auction

There were plenty of opals, diamonds and colored gems to grab your attention but for me I am interested in the less flashy items. I am going to be watching the Georg Jensen items like the lot below. Photos from Skinner.

The post I had on the June Fine Jewelry Auction at Skinner, had the Jensen items beating their estimates multiple times. I want to see if it is a continuing trend.

 

Another item that I am curious to see how it does is the Antique Natural Pearl pendant. Photo courtesy of Skinner.

It is estimated to go between $50,000-$75,000. Natural pearls have had some moments of bringing in good sales at auction so this is another trend that I am looking at. For more items see the lots here.

Bonhams

Looking at this auction there is so much variety. That won’t be covered here but 3 pieces caught my eye. One for the story, one for its style and the final one for its scarcity. Photos courtesy of Bonhams.

If you have been following some jewelry bloggers the big story was this brooch bought at a garage sale for $8. You can read more on it here.

It is a fun story and one I’ll be following to see if the publicity helps the sale.

Another trend I have been seeing is the return of jewelry trends from the 1960s and 1970s. This unique brooch by Cartier from the 1960s is an interesting lot compared to all the diamonds and gems dominating this auction. A collector of Cartier is hopefully eyeing this piece, I know I am.

Now this is a rare black opal pendant estimated to go between $200,000-$300,000. My interest is to see if the estimate is right and someone is willing to pay for this beautiful stone.

You can see more at the Bonhams site.

Conclusion

This is a small sampling of what to look for. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the auction results. I also would love your thoughts on the auctions coming up. Did you like my picks? Is there a piece you are watching? Or maybe bidding on? Check back later to see if your predictions were right. Check out my Instagram for more pictures!

September Issues 2017: Jewelry Focus

September Issues 2017: Jewelry Focus

Above: Vogue photo with Buccellati necklace and Bulgari watch added by me

September is here and some of my favorite things are popping up; halloween candy, new collections of clothes/ accessories and the September issues of fashion magazines! How many make the annual trip to your local newsstand or bookstore to purchase several of the magazines out now? I have several subscriptions but there are a few magazines I only like to get once a year. A major reason I shy away from the subscription is too often the magazine is not consistent with the articles I like, jewelry trends and upcoming collections. For this post I am mentioning the jewelry related articles. I am also posting highlights of the jewelry from the top magazines and some articles online related to jewelry.

Harper’s Bazaar

I felt pretty good about the jewelry covered in HB when I saw that the Editor’s note on pg 80 had a red bead statement necklace by Dries Van Noten. I wasn’t disappointed. From the What’s In/Out section to articles focusing on the jewels, which is the title of one section; there was a good mix of fine and faux. Included were traditional jewelery designs you could easily find in your own collection and pieces of a more wow factor to inspire you to look for other ways to use your jewelry. My favorite example was with the Cartier bracelet below, Harper’s Bazaar had it styled in the models’ hair as something like a cover for the models’ bun of hair. Next to the cuff by Cartier, is a gold collar by Maiyet and Sidney Garber earrings at the end.

  • The In/Out List Pg 227
  • The Jewels Pg 264
  • The Extras Pg 312
  • Coded Cuff Pg 320
  • The Gold Standard Pg 458
  • So Bazaar Pg 474

InStyle

Another great read for updates on what is new in jewelry was the InStyle Magazine. InStyle is pretty good about putting accessories with outfits to complete the look. One section was dedicated to showing a few necklaces that were very appropriate for work and layering with sweaters and turtlenecks. The looks can easy be replicated in a less expensive piece and look good, which I like to see. Also seeing Bulgari’s new cake rings in the magazine was a perfect clip to introduce me to this new collection.

  • The Start- Sweet Rings Pg 117
  • Collar Me Pretty Pg 296
  • Accessories- Astro Effects Pg 310
  • Accessories- Shoulder Duster Earrings Pg 312

Bonus:

  • The Pick Pg 344

Not a jewelry article but related was a focus on gold makeup and skincare. I have some gold infused products that I need to try and report back!

A bonus web article from InStyle on Astrology inspired jewelry which is trending.

C magazine (California Style)

I found this in a local magazine rack. I am in Boston but seeing a California based magazine in a New England book shop had me take a second glance. If you thought California was laid back in their style their jewelry makes up for it! Though not article heavy what was plentiful were the jewels in the Jewelry Box section. A page dedicated to green gems like emerald and malachite. Also, the more surrealist art of the eye jewelry. The Fresh Picks article had top pick of places in or near Los Angeles by jewelry designer Rebecca de Ravenel. Overall worth the look. Earrings by Jane Taylor, cuff by Arman Sarkisyan and necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels.

  • Fresh Picks Pg 90
  • Fashion-Jewelry Box – Face Time Pg 114
  • Fashion-Jewelry Box – Emerald City Pg 116

Bonus article online of pastry chef turned jewelry designer.

Wall Street Journal Magazine

Not a magazine that can be bought on newsstands, I get this with my subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  It is relatively consistent about having good articles on designers, new collections and just appreciating the art of jewelry itself. If you look close at its choices you can learn a lot from a photo. Not many articles were in this issue about jewelry but a top pick had me curious on a new collaboration. The necklace below is from the Marc Jacobs Fall 2017 runway show that he paired with Urs Fischer to design some jewelry. The look Jacobs was going for was a hip hop urban look and this gold jewelry amped up his look to the desired effect. The image below as with the other pieces from the collection is of a sculpted mouse. I’m just going to let you read the article on Elle from the show.

My favorite piece came later with the Personal Charms article. I couldn’t find the jewelry online but Cartier has a new collection that is taking everyday items like a pillbox and perfume bottle and reimagining them as jewelry. Imagine a small perfume bottle with a stopper that is triangular on top as well as the body of the bottle having a slender pointed shape. Cartier has this as a pendant in rutilated quartz and diamonds!

  • The WSJ Five Pg 80
  • Jewelry Box- Personal Charms Pg 108

 

Honorable Mentions

Some magazines were pretty but not enough was there for me to say they represented jewelry well.

Vogue

Although a leader in fashion it was lacking a chance to display some fun gems. First off the cover needed to have earrings that were more of a statement. What Lawrence had on were nice but hard to see the details and appreciate the design. I will say that this was my favorite cover due to the beauty of the scene. I said the price on the newsstands was worth it to frame it.

Another cover inside had a fun ring that was better as a cover jewel than the earrings (from that distant angle). I looked to see a designer, none listed for the ring, earrings on cover by Cathy Waterman.

The last look section was the best in using jewelry, once you got through all the Happy 125th Anniversary ads. David Webb did it best spelling Vogue with its jewels and wishing Vogue the best.

Marie Claire

I don’t subscribe anymore but they do have a short article or two on jewelry happenings. This month it was 3 on Cartier, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Magazines that fell short

These magazines did not just fall short they left me disappointed. I am a subscriber to all 3 as they in the past have been good on representing jewelry and designers. 

W Magazine- They are a hit or miss. Some issues have nothing and are quick to be read and discarded. This issue is out the door, the only jewelry focus was a mention of stick pins, no explanation of it trending just a photo of high end stick pins arranged for the page. As I said disappointing.

Elle Magazine-They use to put out a separate magazine in the Spring devoted to accessories. Anyone remember? I still have a few. No real substance for the jewelry in the articles could be found in this issue.

Town & Country-They have had some excellent stories on designers and high jewelry trends coming but besides the earrings on cover girl Billy Lourd (which were nice to see) the jewelry was hard to find. I have seen sneak peaks of the October cover online and I think that T&C will make up for this slip.

My take on trends

If you look at the covers I posted, that telling trend is that jewelry is still not the front runner in completing a look. I know some of the articles inside have jewelry worth a king’s ransom but the real sign to me, was it important enough for the cover? Obviously not for these magazines. I picked more mainstream magazines because that is what a regular customer has the most access to and is exposed to. How will this affect the jewelry market? More is needed as we go into the auction season. A lot will depend on how the country and the world looks at the current hurricane crisis. Texas and especially Florida are major tourist destinations. Major work needs to happen to rebuild the communities and businesses that serve visitors. I think this season that will play a large part in the economy for the holiday season. Another indicator will be auctions happening in the next few months. Return to Data in the Rough soon for my looks at auction in the US and abroad.

 

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Late 19th Century

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Late 19th Century

We will now conclude this series by looking at the 25 years leading up to the 20th century. In the colonial era,  we saw jewelry that was available only to the wealthy as much of it had to be imported for lack of skilled labor and need. For the federal period, the innovation in machines created a bigger market for jewelry to be affordable for more people but we see goldsmiths start to grow in confidence about becoming jewelers. Then in the Mid-19th century the jewelry manufacturing start to decline as the people tire of mass produced jewels and jewelers start to grow their business by establishing jewelry stores that we know today. In the next 25 years, 1875-1900, there are major shifts in the jewelry industry. This is of course driven by the trends of the people and what the current climate is like.

Before we get into all the details and history a set of jewelry I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The set was made in France with amazing enamel details from 1900.

Front view:

Back of the jewelry also enamel:

What was happening in this period?

  • Queen Victoria ends mourning 1887
  • 100 years of America
  • United Press starts in 1880 to challenge monopolies
  • New wave of immigrants
  • Rise of millionaires ex. Carnegie, Rockefeller
  • Rise of the press

In keeping this post to a decent length, I will use a couple of examples to try and explain as much of this period affecting the jewelry industry in the late 19th century.

Let’s look at the beginning of this period at around 1876. The country is celebrating 100 years of independence.  At this stage in the country’s history we have 2 groups; the established Americans who have a long family history of living in America and those newly immigrated to America. Around the time of the civil war there was an influx of immigrants coming to America. I had family that came to this country from Germany in the 1860s through Ellis Island. As many celebrated their American roots there was a renewed interest in the jewelry of their patriotic ancestors.

Weddings are considered a good time to wear beautiful jewelry either as a bride or as a guest but before the 1880s wedding jewelry was not that common among the public. That changed when the Press started covering society weddings. The trend of jewelry at weddings started with Queen Victoria and then the wealthy started to have wedding jewelry be more common. One wedding listed in Martha Gandy Fales, Jewelry in America book, is the wedding of Lilia Osgood Vanderbilt in 1881. The gifts from family and friends included:

  • Pearl and diamond necklace
  • Set of diamonds
  • Diamond and ruby ring
  • Diamond necklace
  • Diamond clasps to secure lace veil for bride’s silver satin wedding dress

Could you imagine receiving any of these gifts? That was not all. The groom after spending a small fortune on the ring was expected to give each of the bridesmaids a gift and the traditional gift was jewelry. What did the bridesmaids for the Vanderbilt wedding receive? There were four bridesmaids all nieces of the bride, they received a diamond pansy pin from the groom. Small gifts were also given to the attendants and ushers from the bride and groom. The rest of America was being exposed to all this wealth creating a need to copy these trends.

How did these events affect jewelry trends?

  • Increase in wedding jewelry
  • Emulating trends of the rich
  • Increase in imitation jewels
  • Revival jewelry started to trend because regular people wanted jewels they did not inherit p315
  • Increase in popularity of silver jewelry
  • Immigrants bring in jewelry design skills
  • New styles of jewelry art nouveau and arts and crafts popular to combat the industrial trend of jewelry

Not everyone was a Vanderbilt so imitation diamonds were getting more popular and not everyone had family that came over to America in the late 1700s so copies of antique jewelry were also in demand. Cameos and diamond necklaces, all the trends from the past were being made and sold to those that had no family jewels. This was not limited to ordinary strands of diamonds, a major trend in the earlier times for the country was the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan jewelry. The revival jewelry we see in museums today.

I saw several of these pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A few of my photos below:

Earrings by Italian designer Castellini, made around 1870-1880, using ancient technique of granulation

Enamel ring from the 19th century created in 16th century style

Gold and Amber Archeological Revial necklace from Italy made around 1880

Elizabethan Revival necklace in silver, gold, pearl, diamonds, emeralds, agate and glass made in England around 1890, cameo depicts Queen Elizabeth I

You think jewelry manufacturing would start to see a revival? That was not the case. I have included the chart from the last post and added more years and removed the jewelry only listings to focus on the trends for the last half of the century.

We see a slight dip in the Boston Jewelry, Watch and Plate listings in 1876 around the time people are looking to grow their own collection without all the money the wealthier Americans have. This remains unchanged for about 10 years. Then something new happens, the trend is more handmade materials. The over saturation of mass produced jewelry has Americans looking for more novel artistic jewelry and this is the beginning of the Arts & Crafts movement. As we get closer to 1900 the trend for more jewelers and a decline in manufacturers becomes clear.

What gemstones & materials were popular in jewelry at the time?

There were lots of new designs and ideas taking off. Art Nouveau was becoming popular. The Arts&Crafts was unique because it used more affordable materials like silver and semi-precious gemstones. Below are some pieces from the late 19th century that are from the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Arizona turquoise, demantoid garnets, and gold pendant, by Marcus and Co made between 1891-1902, New York

 

Gold, peridot, diamonds, pearls, and enamel brooch, by Marcus and Co in 1900, New York

 

Gold, plique-à-jour enamel, diamonds, pearl, and ruby pin, made by Riker Bros in 1900, New Jersey

 

Gold, diamond, and enamel pin, made by Tiffany & Co. in 1890, New York

Silver vest chain made by Unger Bros. in 1900, New Jersey

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?

  • Rise of artistic jeweler
  • Price war and low margin for manufacturer
  • Recession, fire, theft major hindrances to industry
  • Establishment of Jewelry League of NYC 1877
  • Wholesales business increase created greater need for reps/salesman

We established in the last post that jewelry stores are starting to come into their own and expand into viable businesses. Jewelry is trending and there were years that were very good but the jewelry industry did suffer from some setbacks. Two notable ones occurred in 1877 and 1882.

In New York City in 1877, on a night in early March a fire broke out at the Waltham building in the center of the New York Jewelry trade buildings. Firemen immediately were at the scene but were unable to save the valuable goods due to how they were stored. The jewelry was stored offices and stores with iron clad safes, doors and windows to protect the building from theft. The fire got so fierce that the building collapsed. The work then began to salvage the wreckage. One company assessed their damage and found that of the $275,000 worth of valuables only about $10,000 could be saved.  Some lessons learned, better comparisons between brands of safes. Tests on how safes could handle damage were measured and shared for future purchases.

Other years that were notably bad for the jewelry industry were 1882, 1893, and 1897 due to combinations of recession, fire and theft. Some examples are a recession that happened in 1882. The Spring of 1882 saw a sharp decline in jewelry sales and many in the industry either lost their job or had to reduce the hours worked. Another problem at that time was a decrease in profit for the manufacturing industry. With the increase in competition the prices were lowered. To reduce costs for manufacturers better machinery and techniques were sought as well as using cheaper materials for the jewelry. Some of these attempts were successful but as you see in the present time cheaper materials is not always the best answer. The jewelry industry cannot wage price wars and still have the message of luxury product unique to the individual.

I covered a lot and still could go on for more posts but I hope you started to see the parallel themes from the past to the present. If you want to understand your industry and customers better, you must understand the environment around you and globally what is trending. Politics and those featured in society have a major effect on trends. America still gets inspiration from England and its royal family. Keeping up with what your neighbor has is still going to happen, just look at how people want the latest in technology. Don’t just follow what is happening in your industry, read business articles on retail trends and policies that can affect you customers. This is one of the best ways to keep up or be a head of your competition and if you are in the jewelry industry you need that advantage as I see this as one of the most saturated and fragmented industries to make it in.

If you enjoyed this series and are interested in looking at my take on the business of jewelry I encourage you to join my email list. I am looking to launch a newsletter soon with alerts and other insights from my blog. Please visit Data in the Rough soon for more articles and thank you for reading.

 

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America-Mid-19th Century

On to part 3 of this series, looking at the next 50 years of American history, we are now into the Jewelry Industry in the Mid-19th Century. There are a lot of changes going on and I’d like to highlight a few with two stories. Then look at some of the changes that occurred in the jewelry industry due to what was happening in the world.

Story #1: Farewell to two patriots

It is July 4, 1826 and the country is celebrating 50 years of freedom. John Adams, 90, a major player in the founding of the country and the second president to serve the country is on his deathbed. He served 1 term as president, he was into a more government approach to governing. Thomas Jefferson, a state’s rights advocated disagreed with President Adams policies and debated him fiercely on what he believed to be the better way to run the country. Jefferson was so passionate about the direction of the country that he ran for office in the next election, defeating Adams. Jefferson served 2 terms. This created a bitter rivalry that ended a few years after Jefferson left office. Adams took the initiative and reached out to renew their friendship.

As Adams time grew shorter he must have been thinking about his friendship with Jefferson and the role they played in the country because John Adams last words were, ‘Thomas Jefferson still survives’. Unfortunately, he was wrong 5 hours earlier at Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, Jefferson, 82, passed away. The end to an amazing chapter in American history.

Story #2: The Lady makes an entrance

Imagine an evening in July around 1841 at Boston, a ball is being held at Faneuil Hall. This is a very important ball as it is in honor of a prince. The trend for ladies was to adorn themselves with flowers as an accessory. One woman enters the ball dressed in a black velvet gown and adorned with only diamonds. This entrance made quite an impression on the press who reported about it many of the local reports. They recounted the event but added in her description that she was an unmarried woman.

What was happening in this period?

  • Deaths of Jefferson and Adams 7/4/1826
  • Increased productivity in manufacturing
  • 1828-tariff on imported manufactured goods encourages American jewelers to import unmounted stones and design/set themselves
  • Queen Victoria takes throne 1837
  • Discovery of gold and silver (1859 more silver discovered in Nevada)
  • Death of Prince Albert 1861
  • American Civil War
  • Discovery in 1869 of diamond mines in S. Africa increase diamond supply, better diamond cutting methods

I think the best way to look at this period is to break it down into 2-time periods. The first 1825-1850, the death of Adams and Jefferson mark a change in the country as the old fades away and the new takes over. New fashions, new manufacturing facilities, more technology a few of the many changes driving the US economy. Some things don’t change as America still follows the British trends. Queen Victoria has taken the throne as a young woman, starting the trend of wearing flowers more fashion forward. Flowers like the ones at the beginning of my post were commonly worn at weddings, just as Victoria had done when she wed Prince Albert of Germany.

Then there is the second half, 1850-1875, the debate on government versus states’ rights is becoming more of a hot topic as well as the idea of slavery. The end of this period is marked by war and death. The civil war lasting about 4 years took a major toll on the country and trade. Prince Albert’s death also put the Queen in mourning so the outfits and accessories were very somber for this time.

How did these events affect jewelry trends?

  • Neo-classic designs more Greek focused
  • Floral jewels-romanticism
  • Mourning jewelry
  • Patents for better closures/sliders for necklaces
  • Enameling becomes popular
  • Increased demand in diamonds
  • New finishes for metal

As mentioned above mourning jewelry is still popular but with all the death there is some signs of being a bit more novel than just wearing the typical crosses or miniatures like I showed in the Federal Era post. Below is a picture of a mourning necklace made of French jet in the shape of stars. This was made around 1865-1875. French jet is a glass made so fine that it looks like genuine jet. Photos taken by me at Historic New England Eustis Estate, unless noted differently.

What gemstones & materials were popular in jewelry at the time?

  • Diamonds
  • Colored Gems-opals, garnets, amethysts, turquoise
  • Hair
  • Pearls
  • Tortoiseshell jewelry
  • Cameos in glass and ceramics
  • Lava
  • Coral
  • Mosaic
  • Quartz
  • Scottish Pebble
  • Jet
  • Berlin Iron Jewelry
  • Ivory
  • Oriental
  • Swiss enameled jewelry
  • Irish Bogwood
  • Gold and silver discovery of gold in Black hills
  • Malachite and Lapis

This is a long list and what the real message here is that it was a much more prosperous time. Not all these styles and materials were found/ made in the US. At this time, more traveling was going on. Below are some mosaic buttons bought between 1855-1865 in Rome.

A closer look at these luxuries! Could you imagine your coat having that much detail?

Another item bought in Rome between 1840-1860.

This shell cameo was carved by the artist Constantin R. Franz, depicting the goddess Venus. At the exhibit where I took these photos mentioned in the details was the idea of how this piece could be used. Wearing the goddess of beauty was to send a subtle message to those around of the wearer’s powers of attraction.

More examples of jewelry at the time:

Carved Ivory bracelet made between 1840-1860 carved in Germany

Side view of bracelet

Bog Oak brooch, 1850-1880, Ireland

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?

  • Portrait jewelry better with invention of camera
  • Jewelry stores become more established, Tiffany, Black Starr & Frost
  • Patents for better methods of delivering jewelry to masses: pearls, electroplating, manmade materials, closures
  • Increase in diamond demand
  • South & West jewelry industry starts to grow

Business is now picking up, even with the troubles that the Civil War would bring at the end of this period, jewelry was clearly an item on people’s list. To try and stand out from others in the industry, jewelry stores are now trying to build their brand. For Boston, a good example is the jewelry store Jones, Ball & Poor built in 1849. This was no ordinary store the architect was very talented and his design was to rival all existing jewelry stores at the time. The store had a wholesale and retail department. You entered from a different door depending on your interest, the ladies could enter from one door and not be disturbed by the wholesale business men.

Let’s imagine entering this store on the retail side.  There were offices for bookkeepers and partners in a separate area and a workshop for engraving, repairing and setting stones downstairs. The store also had a bathing room to help in the health and appearance of the clerks. A safe is in the store and one is located downstairs. The downstairs safe was for clients who were going out of town and wanted a place to store their jewels and other valuables like silverware. As you walk in the store you see the ceilings and walls are painted with the interior in an Elizabethan style. You pass by cases and counters decorated in gold and white filled with jewelry that looked like it was a tale from Arabian Nights. You go up to the second floor to see a huge clock in the corner that has a golden American eagle winds out, in a pose that looks like it is guarding the clock. The store was also known for its watches and clocks. Can you imagine the treasures you’d find? Below are a few that I saw from that era and some from Skinner Auction House.

I wouldn’t forget the jewelry a brooch I saw in the Historic New England exhibit. A brooch from 1870.

 

The store has been renamed and has moved around Boston a few times. The current name is Shreve, Crump and Low.

So even though business is growing there are also divisions in the jewelry industry, specifically between jewelers and manufacturing jewelers.

I created a line graph from the Boston Almanac listings of the Jewelry and Jewelry Manufacturers. If you’d like to see the listings the link to the eBooks is here. Some were poorly copied so those were not counted. Also to note, some businesses have a listing in several spots. For example, there were some that were listed as both a Jewelry Manufacturer and in the Jewelry, Watches and Plate business. I included the double counting for this chart to illustrate my point. Some directories had a Watches category but I did not include them as I want to focus on jewelry.

Notice from 1842 until 1860 there are 3 categories Jewelry, Jewelry Manufacturing and Jewelry, Watches and Plate. Then we see that from 1865 on the category has dissolved into Jewelry, Watches and Plate.  I suspect that many of these businesses were wanting to branch out and expand their offerings.  At the start of 1842 the categories are all around the same amount but Jewelry, Watches, and Plate businesses really start to grow in numbers around 1867 and double in size to almost 120 listings in 1872. The growth in the Jewelry Manufacturing is nothing compared to this. So why the sudden change from lots of manufacturing to this new wave of jewelry businesses? Like many industries in America at the time there was one that focused on the craft not the machine. For the next installment and final post of this series we will look at the Arts & Crafts movement.

Summertime Jewels: Analysis of Sotheby’s Online Auction

Summertime Jewels: Analysis of Sotheby’s Online Auction

Summer has its moments but I’m excited for the Fall auction season to begin! While I wait there are a few auctions happening now. I ran across an article the other day on Sotheby’s website about their Specialist Picks: 10 Stand Outs from Jewels Online. The jewels on auction belonged to Marjorie S. Fisher. For this post, I want to look at a few key points to learn more about the items on auction. Look at Sotheby’s top picks and then give you 5 of my favorites.

The auction as a whole

What to know:

  • 99 lots total
  • 18 are marked by a designer
  • 81 do not have a designer identified with it
  • Over 60% are estimating to sell between $5,000 -$12,000
  • Range of estimates $3,000-$60,000

Graph breaking down the types of jewelry by count of lots.

The biggest surprise is that only 1 ring is for sale. A colored diamond ring that is a top pick of Sotheby’s. Not sure if that is intentional or not. Besides that, the variety is very good in my opinion. Mrs. Fisher had an amazing collection so it is not hard to pick a great piece from all the options. So let’s see what the specialist picked!

Sotheby’s Picks

A nice variety of pieces but a little heavy on the diamonds and price. Two of the picks are estimating to go as high as $60,000 (the 2 lots at the end, 96 & 99). It is a good start for building a solid collection but Mrs. Fisher had some fun pieces that should also be considered.

My Picks

I went for more warm colors. It is summer! Corals, citrine and gold caught my eye. The Michele Della Valle coral and diamond necklace (lot 2) is all you need with a great summer dress to go out for evening events. My favorite piece is at the end, Lot 40 the Egyptian inspired ruby, emerald, sapphire, enamel and diamond brooch! Very unique even among Mrs. Fisher’s items.

The auction ends tomorrow so bid now! If you saw another item that you really liked but is not listed above please comment below and return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Federal Era

Welcome back for part 2 on my series about the jewelry industry in America. We will look at the 4 periods leading up to the 20th century to give us a better idea of what to look for in trends that are happening now that will affect the jewelry industry. If you missed the first part here is a link to see how I plan on laying out the post and what other eras we will look at.

America: home of the free

The colonists are tired of taxes and English rule. Fighting for and winning independence started a trend of patriotism with Americans living in the Federal Era of 1775-1825. Taxes on imports lowered and a new wave of ideas swept over the citizens. Influenced by great thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, there was a trend for Neo-classical taste. Everything from art to fashion reflected these tastes. A classic example of the trend in jewelry was a coral tiara worn by Mrs. John Quincy Adams. This painting is dated around 1816. Mrs. Adams wore this while living in London with her husband who was serving as United States Envoy Extraordinary (Minister to the Court of St. James). Photo courtesy of Dept. of State, Washington, DC.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-John-Quincy-Adams

Wearing the coral tiara above, below is a close-up of her coral tiara and an alternate jet tiara. Photo courteous of the Smithsonian Institute.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-John-Quincy-Adams-Coral-Jet-tiara-comb

What was happening in this period?

  • America free from British rule
  • Wars (ex: War of 1812)
  • Reduced taxes on foreign goods
  • No organized currency
  • Innovation in manufacturing

How did these events affect jewelry trends?

  • Manufacturing in America leads to more local choices vs acquiring abroad
  • Lots of color in gems, diamonds still not super popular; topaz, amethyst and aquamarine top choices
  • Neo-classic tastes preferred, Rome trending in England and carried over to US
  • Jewelry created for state occasions, and diplomatic gifts
  • Watches easier to acquire

With a new government came new jewelry. Medals were created with a patriotic theme to be given as gifts to allies or for those in societies that had served the country. This feeling of newness inspired jewelry and clothes to model the Greek and roman era.  Innovations in manufacturing the jewelry industry reaped the benefits of mass production. Cameos were one of several items that with mass production created a way for more people to afford the luxuries that were only afforded to the wealthy and titled.

There was a trend still for mourning jewelry. Below is a brooch I saw at the Historic New England Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mourning-brooch-1793

This brooch was made in 1793. The person being remembered is Mehitable Livermore who passed away at age 29.  Her initials are given (M.L. on the urn) with the inscription on the stone, Not lost but gone before. A beautiful sentiment for a life not fully lived and a way to help those left behind find some comfort in their loss.

Not sure of what she died from but I did a little research and found she was married with five children at the time of her death at age 28. She lived in New Hampshire her whole life. The brooch is made of enamel, gold, ivory and hair. Hair jewelry was still popular as well.

What gemstones & materials were popular in jewelry at the time?

  • Pearls
  • Topaz, amethyst, aquamarine
  • Diamonds and paste
  • Amber, coral, carnelian (used in roman jewels)
  • Jet and shell
  • New materials (Wedgewood-imitation cameos, steel, iron, brass)
  • Gold and silver

You saw the coral and jet tiara of Mrs. Adams above but another warm colored stone was carnelian. I saw this picture at the Eustis Estate.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-Harrison-Otis-portrait-1804

This is Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis, painted in 1804 by Edward Greene Malbone in Boston. This Massachusetts native was said to be quite beautiful and a wonderful host.  The necklace of pearls and a carnelian cross is the perfect example of the on-trend jewelry at the time. The exhibit had the cross strung with carnelian beads due to the previous owner’s preference but this cross seen below is the one in the portrait.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-Harrison-Otis-carnelian-cross-1804

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?

  • Specialization occurs especially with manufacturing
  • Failure more common in jewelry industry
  • Few people buying due to wars and limited resources
  • Less taxes on foreign, non-British goods means more variety beginning of the modern jewelry store
  • More jewelers as Goldsmiths get more experience and start advertising as jewelers
  • With increase in specialization, jewelers can provide to other stores and clients outside their local community

For the jewelry industry, there is this energy of new ideas, new opportunities and an easier path to enter the jewelry business. The business outlook was good with more goldsmiths calling themselves jewelers and specializing in their trade making jewelry of their own. There was still demand for jewelry from England but now other countries could be imported and stores were soon filled with a variety of jewels. Then in the beginning of the 19th century the cracks in the government’s system widened creating problems for the jewelry industry.

Had the country been a bit more stable the opportunity to start a business may have had higher barriers, that could have saved many new to the jewelry industry the pain of failure. Several things were working against the jewelry industry in America at the time. Looking back at the what was happening at the time, no organized currency was detrimental to any business, not just jewelry. The Second United States Bank was not an institution until 1817 and still needed work that had them reorganize the system in 1819. Loans were liberally offered but many trying to make it in the jewelry industry failed near 1812 when the war broke out and supplies and customers were hard to come by.

What saved those few businesses that survived? Being very organized with their money and merchandise. Even though the taxes were changed by the new government there were still taxes on foreign goods. The government was trying to encourage more jewelers to produce their own goods, for jewelers relying on imports for their sales this created too much cost and crippled their profits, that was if the store could receive these goods with the blockades that occurred with the war. The bright side was the failed business gave way to the more established ones and the industry was on its way to creating some of the most iconic stores we know today. Next in the series is the Mid-19th century; what it was like, how it affected the trends and where it was taking the jewelry industry. Looking forward to you returning soon for more Data in the Rough!

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Colonial Era

A lot of talk has been made about the future of retail. I cannot walk down a street or look out a window on my commute without being reminded of the shift in consumer spending. Store closing and out of business signs seem to be popping up in Boston and online. Type in ‘store closing’ and see what that search brings you the words: panic, scramble and apocalypse were in the three stories at the top of my list. Much of the retail ‘apocalypse’ talk has been pointing to the apparel part of the industry. The question I ask seeing these stories is what does this mean for the jewelry industry?

To be able to better understand the future it helps to understand the past. A very overused saying but still insightful. For the rest of the month I want to focus on the jewelry industry in America. This will be a return to my book bling series by focusing on one book: Jewelry in America (1600-1900) by Martha Gandy Fales. It is divided into 4-time periods:

[1] Colonial (1600-1775)
[2] Federal (1775-1825)
[3] Mid-19th Century (1825-1875)
[4] Late 19th Century (1875-1900)

This book is more than just pictures of antique jewelry Ms. Fales looks at trends of the country and how the jewelers and jewelry stores evolved. That is how we will learn and be better prepared for the future by recognizing how trends in the country affect trends in the jewelry and the industry.

Confucius states it best, ‘Study the past if you would define the future’. Why use a quote by a Chinese scholar that lived long before the time America was founded? Because the beginning of this story starts in another country, long before America became a country of their own…

In the beginning
History tells of the Pilgrims that came over from England to worship without persecution, but traveling to a new world was typically for trade or war over resources. In 1608 John Smith was with a crew to look for new resources. Settling in what is now Virginia, Captain Smith thought practically about creating an environment for survival not treasure hunting. Reading Fales stories about Smith reminded me of the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas. So much of that movie was inaccurate but some of the plot was following history, the villain and leader of the crew, Governor Ratcliffe, is in a mad fever to find lots of gold, but the men have no real experience with it, they are hunters and builders not goldsmiths. But that doesn’t stop Governor Ratcliffe from having the crew devote their time to digging.

Disney Pocahontas scene: Governor Ratcliffe has crew dig for gold

Well in real life goldsmiths were sent over with Smith’s crew due to the false hope of their being large amounts of gold found. In fact, the crew included two goldsmiths, two refiners and a jeweler, none of which could practice their craft in the new world. What happened when there are no materials and few customers? The jeweler returned home to England.

Realistically, the crew needed to hunt and settle the land (build shelter, etc) to survive. Like Smith was doing in the movie as he surveyed the land.

Disney Pocahontas scene: John Smith explores new world

Had to sneak of photo Disney’s John Smith in!

Once more colonists settle trade picked up but the role of the jeweler was much different than it is today.

What was happening in this period?
• People were settling in America
• English influence
• Low morality rate

I mention the top two points in my story above but to touch on the last point, with this new land came disease and poor conditions of living that lead to deaths at an early age than we have now. Death was a major part of colonial life a fact that the people embraced and accepted as best they could.

How did these events affect jewelry trends?
As people came to America and started a new life they bought some jewelry with them but the trend in this era was simple jewelry. Colonists did not have a major need for extravagant jewels when they are doing daily chores. Also, many of these colonists had religious influence that did not put a lot of value on jewelry.

With the English being the ones who lead the start of the colonies in America, England held a major influence over the jewelry brought into the country. Colonists had their jewels brought from England and imported jewelry for buying. Jewelry was also still primarily for nobility and the rich. In addition, the trend until the late 17th century was that men wore far more jewels than women. Signet rings, buckles, buttons, etc. all sparkled on men with a high status.

With a low morality rate, memorial jewelry was a major trend. Lockets, rings, cameos, anything to mark the remembrance for those that had passed.

What gemstones were popular at the time?

Cannot fit all the jewelry I’d like to in this post but a great example of garnet jewelry from the time with a famous owner. This necklace was owned by Martha Washington, America’s First, First Lady. Order from London (no surprise there) by her husband George in 1759. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Virginia.

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?
Neither really existed at the time. There were not dedicated jewelers or jewelry stores. Silversmiths/goldsmiths doubled as jewelers and sold some wares in their shops. Not much was made with limited materials, skills and customers. Those that could afford the good jewelry bought from England, the most trusted source of jewelry at the time. England also had higher taxes on imports from other countries so English jewelry was what was most commonly sold.

I personally loved reading about a famous American patriot, silversmith and budding jeweler. Paul Revere was a Bostonian that has several silver pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston as well as a ring I got to see on a trip there last winter.

There were a lot of years in this period but not too much happening in the world of jewelry in America. Next, I will look at the Federal Era and America’s freedom from England and how that made great changes for the jeweler and the stores! Sign up for emails and return for more Data in the Rough!