Back for part two of my analysis of the Skinner Fine Jewelry Auction of June 2017. If you missed my highlights from the Susan Freeman collection that was a part of the June fine jewelry auction, click here.
The results are in! This article will look at how Freeman’s collection of % sold did against the other items in the Skinner auction for this year and last year. Then I will look at what the regular items did by category and see the bottom 6 and top 6 of the auction.
This year versus last year
In my last analysis, we saw that the lots sold were 68% and unsold were 32 % for the Freeman collection. Below a chart of sold and unsold lot % for the 2016 and 2017 June Fine Jewelry Skinner Auctions.
Freeman’s lots are included in the chart for 2017. You see the bars to the left is the % for 2016 84% sold. The right has this year which is a little lower at 83% sold. If the 14 unsold lots had been sold from the Freeman collection, this would only bump that number up to 86% sold, not a major change from last year. Had all of Freeman’s lots been removed from the auction the sold rate would be at 85%. Even though her collection did not perform as well as the average it did not have a significant impact on the % sold versus last year.
What didn’t sell
So then what categories did not perform as well for the items that did not belong to Freeman. Below a table that does not include the Freeman Collection. The total lots on auction were 413; 37 were Freeman’s leaving us with 376 regular lots at auction.
The category with the most lots were rings at 108 lots. 90% of them sold. The lots in the same category as necklaces and earrings were the lowest performers with only 78% and 76% selling. Without making the article too long and tedious the categories can be drilled down to see if for example studs sold less than long earrings etc. but I am just showing a high-level view for your interest. The categories are not as important as seeing what big ticket items did not sell. For example, which would you rather have if you were employed by an auction house, 3 pairs of earrings estimated to sell for $500 each that do not sell or a ring estimated for $10,000 that is not sold? For me, the later would be worse because more money is lost to me than if the former scenario happened.
The top 6 unsold items by their estimate below:
Hard to believe the Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels pieces did not sell. Do you think it was due to the cost, lack of interest, or the design was not pretty enough? As I work more with auction data I will hopefully have a better answer for that.
So, what did better than expected?
A list of the top 6 sold items that performed better than their high estimate. This is different than top selling items by price. If you want that go to the Skinner results and sort by that. I am hoping to dig a little deeper with this data.
For this auction, it was all hail King Georg Jensen! 5 of the 6 pieces did better than estimated. All these pieces were signed. I feel there may be a trend for well-made silver jewelry emerging. I have seen Jensen do well at auctions but time will tell if this will be a designer whose pieces are increasing in value at the auction block.
I hope you enjoyed my auction analysis for the June Skinner Fine Jewelry. Return soon for more from Data in the Rough!
Spring will be here next month but while the weather is still deciding to go back to winter or move forward to warmer weather you can take in a new jewelry exhibit that has come to Boston. This new exhibit is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I signed up for a lecture last week to coincide with the new exhibit. The new exhibit is on revival jewelry. I was telling my dad about the lecture and the new exhibit when he asked ‘what is revival jewelry?’ My short answer was that is jewelry that is copied or inspired by jewelry from the past. Revival jewelry has a lot more history to it. I want to show highlights of the exhibit and hopefully give more detailed examples of what is revival jewelry is.
What is Revival Jewelry?
With images of the past readily available to artists, they can draw inspiration from the history, art and ideas to guide their current designs. Sometimes it is subtle and in other cases it is a copy of the technique. This trend started in the early 1900s.
Revival Jewelry to connect with the past
Lots of exciting discoveries and inventions were made in this time but one discovery excited the early 19th century and that was the discovery of the Egyptian rulers’ tombs. Scarabs, hieroglyphics, golden gods were a few of the things that fascinated the British explorers and the public as they learned more about this exciting chapter in history.
The top item in the picture below, is a scarab from Egypt created around 740-660 BC. Beneath that is a brooch made of Gold, platinum, faience, diamond, emerald, smoky quartz and enamel by Cartier in 1924. Detailed view to the right.
To connect with a feeling
Revival jewelry was being made for the patriotic wave that swept over Europe in the 19th century cameos of Queen Elizabeth I were reemerging as a tribute to the current strong female monarch ruling Britain, Queen Victoria. The one featured as an example in the museum is below. This cameo necklace was made around 1890 and made with gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, agate, and glass.
Different parts of the world are known for different styles and techniques in jewelry. Coral was a souvenir from Naples, micro mosaics were associated with Rome. Recall any trips where you have bought jewelry because it was inspired by images or techniques of the past?
Revival Jewelry to master old world techniques
Sometimes the best way to learn is recreating the art itself. Some of the techniques featured at the exhibit were:
This pendant was a favorite of mine from this group. It is titled Girl Blowing Bubbles, circa 1910 made by a designer from Spain of gold, platinum, pearl, ivory, sapphire, diamond and plique-a-jour enamel.
This is technique uses small balls of gold to add texture to the designs.
These gold earrings were made around 1870-1880 by Italian Designer Castellani. Look at the bottom part and see all those dots, each separate when added.
A more current artist, Italian born Andrea Cagnetti created this Chort pendant in 2002. This is 22 karat gold!
Revival Jewelry to recreate familiar creatures
Stories and lore of the past have captivated many throughout history but there are creatures that keep drawing mystery and inspiration to artists trying to say what it is that fascinates them with a certain subject like…
As early as the beginning of creation these creatures continue to mesmerize people all over the world.
An amulet with a vulture-headed snake made in Egypt around 664-525 BC.
Snake belt by Elsa Peretti, 1970s made of silver and sapphires.
One of my favorite ways the snake is interpreted is by Bulgari. This diamond, gold, platinum, ruby, enamel watch created in the 1960s was one of the highlights for me of the exhibit!
This was another theme that had my personal favorite piece. The Head of Medusa pendant created by Cartier in 1906! The materials are platinum, gold, diamonds, natural pearl coral and enamel.
There were many other pieces, cameos, crosses, coins, but these were some highlights to give you a better understanding of the different types of revival jewelry. What is your favorite era? A piece above that you really liked? If you are in the Boston area between now and August 2018 you should make plans to see Past is Present: Revival Jewelry!
Conspiracy theories, revolts, grandeur, murder and cover ups are only the start to describe a book that explains how some of the Russian family jewels were saved! It is a relatively short book of 143 pages of text, the drawback at first glance is the few photos and even fewer colored photos in this book. The way the book started out also caused some early doubts about how good the book would be. I didn’t really have any set notions about how the story should go but the intro talking about the unmarked grave in Paris of a man I never heard of in all my reading on Russian Royal History caught me off guard. The photo of him (only one that seems to be publicly available) seemed a bit spooky. (Note: The photographer of the photo below is Cecil Bateman which was a name I know).
If I had not loved the jewelry of the Russian Royal Family (specifically Faberge) I might not have continued on. That would have been a mistake. The man in the picture above is Albert Stopford, born in England to a family of modest means. Albert left to pursue a job selling jewelry of Cartier and Faberge at his shop in London. There he got to be involved with the high society of London. When World War I was starting his connections soon put him in a position to spy for the Allies and members of the Royal family to see what was the state of the war front. The major contact that is important for this story is Albert’s connection to Grand Duchess Vladmir aka Maria Pavlovna (pictured below). Maria was married to the Czar Nicholas’ Uncle, Vladmir.
For those that do not know the history of the Russian Revolution it is worth taking a deeper look into. The book describes life in Russia for Albert as he watches what is happening to the Czar and the Russian people. I want to just focus mainly on the two chapters in the book about saving the jewels and the fate of the jewels once recovered. The Russian royalty was under strict watch and subjected to searches of their living quarters in hopes of finding jewels and other valuables. Maria was not located in the place that housed her jewels, so she got help from her sons, other royal relatives and Albert to sneak back in and claim her jewels. In the meantime, her sister the former Queen Alexandra,(her husband King Edward was dead at this time), got her son King George (current Queen Elizabeth’s Grandfather) to help get his Aunt out of the country to save her from a soon to be death. Sneaking back into the palace was no easy task, it was guarded and watched by outsiders. A story in the book told of a royal family member hearing of their palace getting ransacked because the maid forgot to turn off the lights when she left the palace that evening and suspicions were raised about who was in there. Once the men snuck past the guards, Maria’s details of where they could find her jewels was perfectly described. This made it easy for the men to locate where they should be and thankfully were found untouched. Albert and the group wrapped up the jewels in newspaper and placed them into Albert’s two Gladstone bags. I found a photo of what a Gladstone bag for a gentleman in the early 1900’s would look like. (below)
Maria is not reunited with her jewels until she gets to London, much later. Albert puts them in a London bank vault until she is safe and able to deal with them. Albert also does not do this for money but out of a sense of friendship and duty.
With the end of the Russian Royal family it also marked an era of amazing wealth and glamorous social scene. I want to share an except from the book talking about Maria’s jewels and how she enjoyed them. The first account is by Consuela Vanderbilt who visited Maria Pavlovna at Saint Petersburg : ‘She [Maria] had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’ What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honored female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be ok with seeing jewelry at a dinner party!
The other account of Maria and her jewels describes her relationship with her granddaughters. ‘The glass cases were set into four corners of her dressing-room, with red stones (rubies), blue (sapphires), green (emeralds), and white (pearls) in each corner, giving the room an almost octagonal appearance. Her grandchildren remembered their visits as small girls to the Vladimir Palace, and especially the inner sanctum of their grandmother’s dressing-room. To amuse the girls Maria would often invite them to choose what jewels she should wear for her next formal occasion. Red, perhaps? Or blue, green, or white? Olga, the eldest [granddaughter], usually made the final choice.’ Sounds like a typical day spent with a grandmother, lots of fun and laughter playing with grandma’s treasures!
So what became of these jewels? The Russian royals were left with little more than the clothes they came with. Maria needed to sell many of her jewels to continue to live a comfortable lifestyle. Many jewels were discreetly sold to other members of Europe’s royal family, but most were sold far below there true value. An example of a jewel that stayed within a royal family is the Diamond and Pearl Vladimir Tiara, a favorite of Maria’s.
You can see on the far left, in the photo above,Maria is wearing the tiara which was purchased later by Queen Mary who was Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother and passed this crown onto her.
Another look at the tiara worn by Queen Elizabeth (below) shows it missing its pearl drops.
Queen Mary had a set of Emerald drops made that could be interchanged with the pearls or just plain as shown. It is nice to have options right? A close up of the tiara with both pearls and emeralds (below).
Which look do you like better?
Another jewel that went through a few hands was a set of emeralds. Maria is shown wearing them in a head dress (I got a close up and colored in the emeralds green to highlight), that was converted into an emerald necklace. Remember that center stone with the six sides, in the next set of photos.
The next owner was Van Cleef & Arpels that sold them to heiress, Barbara Hutton. She had them as a necklace and then converted them into the iconic tiara that is shown on her. It was also shown in my last review of Famous Jewelry Collectors. You can read more on that transaction through this Sotheby’s article.
Hutton’s emerald’s were then sold again and used in a set of jewelry by Bulgaria that was bought and famously worn by none other than Elizabeth Taylor!
I remembered the name of her jewelry being called the Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite in some articles and saw that many of these emeralds were indeed from Maria’s collection. Bulgari bought back the collection when Dame Elizabeth’s jewels hit the auction block in 2011.
A photo combining the British royalty and Hollywood royalty was found online from the later 1970’s when Taylor was married to Senator John Warner. I like seeing the jewels out and enjoyed!
My Final Thoughts
Albert Stopford’s sacrifices to help save these treasures are still being appreciated today even if many are unaware of his story. I highly recommend this book. It does jump around at the beginning trying to establish different characters stories but it all ties up as the revolution plays out. With the recent world events there were some passages about the people over throwing the ruling family and the struggles of surviving in this paranoid, desolate and divided society as a product of the revolution that had some difficulty for me to focus on the history and not see some current parallels to the modern day current events. That makes this book all the more necessary to read, so history is learned from the past and not repeated! Check back soon for more book bling!
May is almost over and there are only a few more major auctions before summer is here. So before May ends I want to look at the emeralds that went on auction in the 2015-2016 season. Emeralds are the birthstone for May but they are also the stones for celebrating a 20th or 35th anniversary. The interesting meaning behind emeralds is that they are called the ‘Stone of Successful Love’. ‘Emerald promotes friendship, balance between partners, and is particularly known for providing domestic bliss, contentment and loyalty. It was dedicated in the ancient world to the goddess Venus for its ability to insure security in love’.(CrystalVaults)
I will look at 4 auction houses: Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Skinner. I have picked 3 emerald lots from each auction house, all for their beauty and design, and a few for their story.
The first piece to the left is an emerald necklace created in 1810, this was a major piece auctioned at the November Magnificent Jewels Auction in Geneva. It has a detailed and rich history behind it. This necklace belonged to royalty. This necklace was a wedding gift to Princess Hlne, whose family were descendants of Louis Philippe 1st, King of France. Princess Hlne ended up marrying Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Italy in 1895. This necklace also came with a tiara from her godfather. Gifts like these were traditional when both parties go into a union to strengthen the alliance between their countries. Emeralds seem like an appropriate gift considering their meaning. The princess became involved with the Red Cross in Italy during World War I and with the turmoil royal families were enduring at this time the necklace stayed out of sight. The princess died in 1951 and the necklace and tiara then were in the possession of Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley. When that woman died in 1989 the jewels were auctioned and this necklace made another appearance 25 years later. This necklace was estimated to go between $1,500,000 – $2,500,000 and made the estimate with a final price of $2,625,522 (buyer’s premium included). The necklace now starts another chapter in it’s exciting story!
The piece in the middle is an emerald, onyx and diamond brooch by Graff. I chose this piece because of the design and appearance of this bird of paradise. The emerald is about 11.18 carats and from Columbia. This item was auctioned at the Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels Sale in December. It was estimated to sell between $233,345 – $362,981 and far surpassed that estimate selling for $767,445 (buyer’s premium included).
To the right is a pyramidal cabochon emerald and diamond ring. It’s hard to tell with this photo but the emerald is about 53.46 carats and comes from Columbia, where the best emeralds are mined from. This was sold in December at the New York Magnificent Jewels Auction for $1,685,000 (buyer’s premium included). It was thought to go for about $200,000 – $300,000, a great surprise for Christie’s.
The left item is a platinum, emerald and diamond brooch by Marianne Ostier from the Magnificent Jewels sale from April (Another jewel sold from this auction I wrote about in this post.) This design has the emerald hollowed out from behind, so instead of focusing on carats the dimensions are given of being about 21.3 to 20.9 mm by 9.6 mm. The designer of this jewel is the real story Marianne Ostier got involved in jewelry designing in the late 1930s when she married her husband who worked as a jeweler. Mrs. Ostier is credited with inventing the pincushion clip and free-form jewelry. She was also the first life-time member elected to the Diamonds-International Academy and received other honors in her career. She closed the business shortly after her husband passed in 1969. You can read more about her on this blog. This item estimated to sell for $175,000 — $275,000 sold above that for $346,000 (buyer’s premium included).
The earrings in the middle are from Bvlgari and made in 1970. I love that it is not just the emeralds that are carved but the rubies as well the emeralds together weigh 65 carats and the rubies 22 carats. I could not find the origin of the emeralds but I assume they are Colombian. The interesting piece is in the conditions report which states: articles of jewellery containing jadeite or rubies of Burmese origin all less than 100 years old may not be imported into the US. So it looks like the buyer if American will not be bringing these back. This Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Auction was held in April 2016 at Hong Kong. The earrings were estimated to go between $20,630 – $30,946 and sold above that for $53,188 (buyer’s premium included).
The last piece to the right is a favorite piece of mine. This was from the same auction that sold the Marianne Ostier brooch from above. This is a platinum, emerald and diamond clip-brooch created by Seaman Schepps. It is a favorite not just because of it’s design but it is an original item from this jewelry house. I know it is a piece that the designer was involved with because of the date it was made. It was made in 1935. Schepps started his business in 1920s and retired in the late 60s. He passed away in 1972. So this brooch is one of his earlier works. I heard one of the men who took over Schepp’s business, Anthony Hopenhajm, speak at a Christie’s class and he mentioned that unique pieces from the time Seaman Schepps was involved in his business sometimes get bought back by the firm. It doesn’t seem that this one made the cut if the company knew about it. The piece failed to sell for the $20,000-$30,000 estimate. Another of the many times I wish I had had the money for a piece I saw.
My final New York auction house had pieces that focused more on design than the size of the stone. The necklace to the left not only has emeralds and diamonds but includes rubies and a sapphire. This necklace is by Graff. You can tell it is a high end house that designed this due to the unique cuts of the central emerald and sapphire. You do not often see trapezoid shaped gems in jewelry. The reasoning is that these shapes go to a specific design and can not be easily incorporated into other designs so it is more expensive of a loss if the item does not sell because the stones can not be reused. This piece is also fun because it is from 1985. I feel a lot of jewelry auctioned is early 20th century so seeing some more recent but dated jewels is refreshing. This piece sold for $ 32,956 ( inc. premium) at the Fine Jewelry Auction held in London on April 20, 2016. No estimate was available when I found this piece and it too has restriction to the U.S. because of the rubies.
The pieces in the middle are a pair of twentieth century emerald and diamond dress clips from Hong Kong Rare Jewels & Jadeite Auction, November 2015. These emeralds have a total weight of about 55 carats. I love how the diamonds and metal surrounding the emeralds are styled like peacock feathers. These clips sold for $159,662 ( inc. premium).
The pendant to the right looks a bit out of place to the more refined picks I have made up until now. The colors are bold and the pendant is large at 9.5cm (3.74 inches) in length but the details and pave work are amazing. The front of this cross has 24 carats of emeralds surrounded by 22.7 carats of demantoid garnets. The back however is completely cover in 27.6 carats of diamonds!
The last set of emeralds we will be looking at comes from Skinner Auction House in Boston, Ma.
This emerald and diamond brooch dates back to the Edwardian period. The exact date is not listed but the report on this piece places the origin of the emerald as being from Colombia. The diamonds are also old European-cut. I saw this in person it is smaller than many of the pieces listed but the emerald was eye clean and flawless looking. It was estimated to sell between $50,000-75,000 and out performed its high estimate by 547% selling for $410,000 (premium not included). Sold at the December Fine Jewelry Auction.
The earrings in the middle are not primarily emerald but the look of these 18kt Gold Gem-set Day/Night Ear pendants by Van Cleef & Arpels were too fun to pass up! These were sold for $67,650 (inc. premium) in the March Fine Jewelry Auction, above the $30,000-$40,000 estimate.
This antique emerald and diamond pendant/brooch has an emerald measuring 8.00 x 7.90 mm (.31 x .31 inches) surrounded by larger mine cut diamonds with rose cut diamond accents and is 3 inches in length. This was also sold in the March Fine Jewelry Auction. It just made its estimate of $2,500-$3,000 by selling for $3,198 (inc. premium).
I hope you liked my selection! Do you have any emeralds from a loved one for marking an anniversary or special event? Anyone with an emerald engagement ring? Would love to hear your stories about your own emerald treasures! Below are some of the emeralds from my article that I got to see in person from my photo archives! What are your favorites?