And you thought auctions are for boring millionaires. Let’s break it to you that this is where jewellery trends are made.
As specialists of the auction world, we see jewellery trends being formed both organically and through influences from fashion, media, art, cinema, history, politics and culture. New looks develop, old styles return, sometime with reinvented twists. Designers, collectors and jewellery enthusiasts shape the momentum of the market, defining jewellery as a multi-dimensional luxury. To kick off the season, we muse over perfectly curated samplings of today’s trending treasures.
It has been suggested that the brooch has largely disappeared from a woman’s jewellery box due to changes in lifestyle and fashion. However, the brooch is still a prevalent category in today’s auctions — it is a jewel that has proven to be one of the most versatile pieces that a woman — or man — can own. For you can nestle a brooch in your hair, wear it at different heights along the shoulder or at the neckline of a dress, have it delicately sit on your waist, and even convert it into a belt buckle or a lapel. Or take a step further by wearing it on caftans and sashes or pinning it up to a handbag.
Vintage brooches designed by some of the most renowned jewellery houses such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels have been consistently exceeding expectations at auctions, along with brooches of bold design and exceptional craftsmanship. One such is a brooch formerly from the collection of Mona, Countess Von Bismarck. Circular brooches decorated with jade, rock crystal, onyx and coral, first became popular after Cartier’s display at the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. This brooch, with its chromatic contrasts and influences from the Far East, is an example of an art deco jewel pursued by many jewellery connoisseurs. With an estimate of $100,000-150,000, this piece soared above expectations during this year’s spring auction of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels in Geneva, selling at more than double the high estimate.
Another example is the Galaxy Brooch by Marianne Ostier from the Collection of Mamdouha and Elmer Holmes Bobst. Predictably from the 1960s, this brooch illustrates a swirled celestial design heightened by a layered setting of diamonds that evoke a sensational three-dimensionality. Woven nicely into a hairdo or pinned to a hat, this brooch’s multipurpose function and beautiful construction lends itself to the outstanding results at auction from an estimate of $45,000-65,000 to a staggering $250,000.
Colour has made a comeback. As exceptional colours are rare, coloured diamonds and stones have an increased demand. We have seen robust competition in the auction space from all audiences at the international level and foresee a continued, growing appetite for stones of superior, incomparable quality. Blue and pink diamonds are most popular among collectors as coloured diamonds are considered greatest finds in mining history. Burmese rubies, Kashmir sapphires and Colombian emeralds make for the most coveted in the coloured stone spectrum. The appreciation can be highlighted by two important pieces sold at Sotheby’s this year. The Apollo Blue and Artemis Pink, renamed The Memory of Autumn Leaves and The Dream of Autumn Leaves respectively, achieved a combined total of $57.4 million in Geneva, setting a new world record for earrings at an auction. The Pink Star, renamed CTF Pink was sold in Hong Kong for a staggering $71.2 million, a new world record price for any diamond or jewel at an auction.
Another example is The Stotesbury Emerald, a legendary Classic Colombian emerald mounted by Harry Winston went at $1 million at the New York auction this spring. This stone not only displays a beautiful depth of colour, but is also enriched by its provenance, one that includes two celebrity design houses and three iconic American women, all who shared an impeccable eye for renowned jewels and gemstones. As a result of this popular trend at the moment a lot of emphasis is also being given to the different approaches applied to the use of varying hues in jewellery design. For instance, classic white the diamonds are centrepiece, but the outline and design around it distinguishes a piece. The Pink Twist Earrings by Sotheby’s Diamonds is one such example that offers a lively alternative to the classic stud since it is accented by a swirling frame of pavé-set pink diamonds. This trend draws from the powerful, architectural, modernist aesthetic.
Everybody wants a necklace that is exceptional, a showstopper of sorts, a piece that warrants a remark or goes beyond the traditional, or an ornament that brings a relatively monotone outfit to life. 1970’s necklaces by Van Cleef & Arpels that embrace two very distinct styles are fine examples. The first, a necklace from the Family of Betsey Cushing Whitney and John Hay Whitney, has tassels. The second necklace, formerly in the collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan, was embellished with Burmese rubies. After a heated competition in the Geneva and New York auction rooms last fall, both necklaces well surpassed their high estimates.
Along with Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, works of JAR, Viren Bhagat, Hemmerle, Nirav Modi and Wallace Chan have established a strong momentum and international acclaim in the auction space all through the last few decades. JAR is considered the greatest living jeweller of modern times, has arguably the strongest following and demand in the auction block with his revolutionary designs. In toe is Mumbai-based Viren Bhagat who blends tradition and modernity through his contemporary designs. Nirav Modi, too, is not far behind with his high end jewellery that invariably makes its appearance at the red carpet. Germany-based Hemmerle creates ornate objects with exploratory metals, while Hong Kong-based Wallace Chan brings scientific innovation to jewellery. It is evident that certain jewellers and designs have made a profound impact and are continuing to influence collectors and creators.
By Nikita Manilal, Specialist-Jewelry, Sotheby’s, New York