Analysis of Audrey Hepburn Auction at Christie’s

Analysis of Audrey Hepburn Auction at Christie’s

 

‘I have learned how to live, how to be IN the world and OF the world, and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life. Or from love, either.’ ~ Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina 1954)

Remember watching Sabrina and hearing Ms. Hepburn’s voice speak these lines as she is writing to her father? Maybe you remember the first sign of her up in the morning peering into the Tiffany window with her long black dress, pearls and sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? No matter the movie Hepburn became that part and it was fantastic! In late September her family auctioned off some memorabilia, personal items and photographs of the late Audrey Hepburn at Christie’s in London. Another Hollywood legend had her items auctioned that week too, you can read my analysis here.

I had some assumptions about this auction and in my analysis, you can draw your own opinions about the sale. Let’s start off with the types of items sold and location of the auction.

Types of Lots

I condensed the lots to a total of 10 types/ categories to better analyze. Fashion is for clothes, outfits and fashion accessories are shoe, hats, gloves, etc. Personal accessories included luggage, makeup cases, etc.

In contrast to Vivien Leigh’s auction, Hepburn’s was more focused on her Hollywood persona. Many of her lots were photographs and scripts from various movie roles. Which is why I was disappointed in the location of the auction.

Location

The sale and preview resided in London, England. There was not even a tour of Hepburn’s key photos and movie memorabilia.  Hepburn was Hollywood royalty, even though she lived abroad I think there was a devoted enough fan base in the United States for it to have made sense to hold the auction here instead of London. There was interest worldwide naturally but in Hepburn’s case not enough to sell all her items like Vivien Leigh.

Sold versus Unsold

Note: I am only looking at the live auction not the separate online auction that went into early October.

Below is a bar graph of the sold and unsold lots by type.  The gray bar to the right with the percentage marks how much out of 100% did not sell.

Only 4 categories had a lot or two that did not sell, those were personal accessories, jewelry, fashion accessories and fashion. To get a better idea of the amount which was small, I have a table with the count of what sold versus unsold by lot.

You can see the biggest types sold were Photographs, followed by Documents/Scripts. This auction was not Hepburn the person but of the movie star. Jewelry had the highest number of items unsold (to be fair it is only 3 items). So, what went unsold and why?

Unsold Lots

Below are the 8 unsold lots with type, lot number and description.

I am focusing on the jewelry for the interest of this post.

Unsold Jewelry

Hepburn’s collection was of costume jewelry except for a few items I will mention later, so the amount it would sell for was not expected to be extremely high. I was a little surprised to see these 3 unsold until I looked at the pearl necklace lots, they are just strands of costume pearls, very basic with no special sentiment tied to them. The colored glass bead set was one of the first lots up. I loved the colors of this set!

A closer examination saw how deteriorated they were and would need major restoration if possible. Something to think about when listing, is this piece in good condition or is there significance to the piece that can be translated to a story? So, what did sell?

Top Lots at Auction

Hepburn’s items still did very well of the 246 that did sell 90% were above the high estimate and many were in the 1000’s for the percentage above calculation. I removed the buyer’s premium for the calculation of the percent above high estimate. Here are the top 5 lots (in USD).

No surprise Breakfast at Tiffany’s lots made it to the top. The jewelry item is my focus for this part.

The Always bangle was given to Hepburn by Steven Spielberg, for her role as Hap in her last film the 1989 film, “Always”. Spielberg wrote to Hepburn about how she inspired him and loved her in, “Wait Until Dark” and “Two for the Road”. After the filming her present Hepburn with this bangle inscribed on the inside, You are my “inspiration” Always, Steven. Outside is engraved, Audrey. It’s no wonder that this piece sold so well!

What were your favorite Audrey Hepburn movies? What items were you watching for the auction? If you were able to go to the viewing or have any comments, please share! I hope you enjoyed my take on the auction. Return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers Pays Off for Vivien Leigh Auction

It’s been too long since my last post, but I have a lot of exciting things planned for this blog! First though I want to finish my analysis of the auctions I had in my last post. First is the Vivien Leigh auction held at the end of September at Sotheby’s in London.

It was an interesting auction to follow due to the star having passed away about 50 years ago and her last movie was over 52 years ago. Even though Ms. Leigh did not have as many films to her credit as other stars of her generation, the films she did were outstanding. I have not seen all her films but of the ones I have she made it feel as though she was meant for that role. Many remember her for Gone with the Wind but a favorite of mine was That Hamilton Woman, starring her then husband Laurence Olivier. Even in black and white her beauty and talent shown through. All photos courtesy of Sotheby’s

Caesar and Cleopatra, 1944, photo by Cecil Bateman

The auction had many of her personal possessions such as clothes, jewelry, photographs and furniture from the 1930s-1960s. This auction was interesting in how it tried to recapture the memories and life she led privately with her husband Olivier. It was clear that even though their marriage ended in 1961 after 20 years of marriage that she clearly continued to cherish the time they had together. So how did this translate to the bidders… very well in my opinion.

Leigh and Olivier

For my analysis I looked at US dollars and took out the buyer’s premium from the result when calculating how far above the estimate the lots went. My first thought when looking at the auction estimates was that they were too low. I was right all the 321 lots sold and of those 287 sold above the high estimate given by Sotheby’s.

I grouped the lots into types/categories, so you could get a better idea of how well the groups did.

Typically, when I look at auctions I see percentages above the estimate by lot go between 100%-600% for the top lots. For this auction the percentage was in the thousands. Below are the top 5 lots picked by percentage above the high estimate that they sold for not including buyer’s premium.

If you read my blog post before this, you would have seen that I picked the ‘eternally’ ring as a lot to watch. It is ridiculous to think that this ring given by Laurence Olivier to Leigh was only thought to go as high as $793. This tells me that the bidders were sentimental as well to this union.

Next was the Ship of Fools bracelet. I saw this movie recently, funny and sad all at once. Even though she is playing a bitter and aging beauty she is still charming, witty and striking as she had been in her previous movies. This bracelet went above the $198 to result in a sale of $7429.60, good for a costume bracelet.

Ms. Leigh was also a fan of art. She painted, collected and received artwork. Winston Churchill had been noted to give Ms. Leigh some of his own paintings as they were good friends. This piece is an illustration by Roger Furse around 1948 made of watercolor, pen and ink and pencil on paper. Vivien loved cats and I think this was a great tribute to those interests. This was only thought to bring in about $1982, its final price $67,540. As I said something was off with the predictions

Another jewelry lot consisting of a culture pearl brooch from 1964. Estimated to go to $159, sold for $5403.20.

Furniture, books, personal accessories such as dishes for entertaining was the biggest part of the auction.  The fifth lot to do better than its high estimate was a Pier Mirror made between 1765 and 1780.

You might be wondering what was the lot that brought in the most money? That was reserved for the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill whose oil on canvas board titled Study of Roses brought in $719,020.

It really is beautiful. Made in the 1930s by Churchill and given to Leigh as a gift in 1951.

One more lot to note is lot 307 the diamond bow brooch that had been shared countless times on social media.

It was estimated to go for about $46,253. It sold for $49,980 (without buyer’s premium). Sotheby’s predicted that correctly.

 

Takeaways

Sotheby’s London clearly underestimated the interest in Vivien Leigh. Four of the five lots to outperform their estimate were personal items to her. Three were jewelry and not high-end jewelry, a gold band, a costume bracelet and a small pearl brooch. The illustration was of her and what she loved: reading and cats, among many other things.

 

For those looking to bid in future auctions keep in mind the emotional value an item has that may not be accounted for by the auction house. For those selling an item if it has a story, tell it! Sotheby’s I’m sure got a bit of a surprise with the success of those lots. Maybe though if they had shared other lots stories on social media those items may have done better still! The diamond bow brooch was nice, but Ms. Leigh had so many items that were noteworthy, not for the value of the lot itself but of the value of the owner. Ms. Leigh led a complicated and in some instances tragic life but always was a professional who continues to leave an impression on the public to this day.

Leigh photograph taken in 1950s

There are so many other angles to look at this auction data. If you are interested in this return soon as I look at Aubrey Hepburn’s auction that occurred after Vivien Leigh’s at Christie’s London. Also, any comments about my thoughts or opinions on the auction or actress are welcomed. Please return for more 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.

 

 

 

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!

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!

The Pinky Ring Campaign: Analyzing a Potential Trend

Which is more important the product or the marketing? A combination of both is best for getting sustainable results for your business but if you needed to choose one area to improve what would you choose? For the company, Fred and Far, they are focusing their marketing campaign on a common item in the jewelry industry a diamond ring. The marketing gimmick is that the diamond ring is for your pinky. The meaning is to represent self-love. This is not to be confused with a signet ring, that can also be worn on your pinky finger.  I heard about this pinky ring from an article from JCK (Jewelers Circular Keystone), that publishes a jewelry insider magazine and has online articles about topics facing the industry. The article is, New Pinky Ring Means I Love Myself , a link is included.

I had to learn more about this company and product. This campaign felt similar to the Right Hand Ring Campaign De Beers launched in 2003 and ended in 2005. Ads were in magazines and mainstream media showing strong women with a diamond ring on their right hand. Do you remember any of the advertisements below?

DeBeers Right Hand Ring Ads

The campaign stopped after two years because De Beers research saw the focus moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’. It looks like Fred and Far are feeling that there is a need for self-love jewelry. I went to their site and saw the campaign front and center on the landing page.

Women holding hands to campaign for self-love pinky ring

The product is defiantly geared towards women. There are two founders, both women, who started this business in 2015. The company’s Instagram posts started about 5 weeks ago and has just under 9,000 followers. The focus of their media is choosing yourself. Has the thought shifted from ‘we’ to ‘me’? I think that Fred and Far should just expect a niche revolution not a mass revolution. The rings range in price of $150 for a sterling setting and $325 for 14K in the three metal choices, rose, white or yellow gold. At those prices you know that the stone is not a real diamond but a lab grown white sapphire. Pictures of the ring and description from the Fred and Far website below.

screen shot of Fred and Far Pinky ring page

At the lower price point I think the campaign will start a mini trend among millennials. I don’t see too many women 40+ buying into the self-love hype. I personally was not moved by the De Beers right hand ring campaign. I wear a ring on my right ring finger but not due to advertising. I also do not need an excuse to buy a diamond ring. If I like it and can afford it I’ll buy it, no encouragement necessary.

Pinky ring in yellow, white, rose gold
(L) Pinky ring shown in rose, white and yellow gold. (R) Side view of rose gold ring. Photos from Fred and Far website.

To conclude my thoughts on the pinky ring, I would advise Fred and Far to look at other products to sustain their business long term. This pinky ring is the only item sold on the website for now. That’s one issue I see with the company it is hoping to spark a trend but trends will fade and that pinky ring will be dated. De Beers was smart in that respect it used what it had already to market to a different group and when the trend with that segment ended those rings went on to a new campaign. De Beers right hand rings will not be dated because it was pure marketing not inventing a new product. For those reading did the De Beers campaign convince you to buy a right hand ring? What do you think of this potential pinky ring trend? Do you own a pinky ring that you wear? Have you seen anyone wear a pinky ring like the one above? Thank you for reading and return soon for more Data in the Rough!

pinky ring worn on hand
Views from Fred and Far Instagram of pinky ring being worn.