Published: June 20, 2017
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Rago Arts & Auctions
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. – Just over 1,000 lots of fine, signed and antique jewelry buoyed Rago Auctions’ June 9-11 weekend sale as bidders came out to take part in a glistening sale from estates around the United States. The dazzling selection of jewels and intricate metalwork were split between two days that featured a fine jewelry section, an unreserved sale and the Georg Jensen jewelry collection of Library of Congress curator and Jensen scholar David Taylor. Altogether, the jewelry sections raked in $1,492,131.
Quality and large estate gemstones pushed a number of top lots to the forefront. Four of the top six lots in the sale were diamond rings and all but one were set in platinum. The highest lot of the day was a 7.19 carat round brilliant-cut diamond ring on a platinum band. With a GIA J-color rating and a VS1 clarity, the lot brought an impressive $87,500.
When asked on how the diamond market is holding up, Katherine Van Dell, director of Rago’s jewelry department, said, “I think that they are consistent throughout. Good, quality gemstones of high color and clarity or large size are still in demand and we make an effort to price them conservatively so that they are affordable.”
Beneath that came a cushion-cut diamond and platinum ring that centered around a 3.05-carat stone, finishing at $22,500. Able to be converted to a pendant, a 2.22 carat oval-cut diamond ring on platinum band went out at $18,750. The only example in the group set in white gold, a 4-carat diamond engagement ring with color rating M-N and clarity VS1-VS2 found love again at $17,500.
The finest signed piece in the sale came in the form of a David Webb enameled kissing frog bracelet. A truly endearing form, the piece featured two outstretched enameled green frogs coming together at the center for a diamond studded moment. Set into 18K gold with Webb’s signature enamelwork, the piece featured ruby cabochons for the frogs’ eyes and closures, thick diamond lips set into platinum and gold studs dotting the bodies of the frogs. The form represents an aesthetic powerhouse in the Webb oeuvre and, accordingly, it sold comfortably above high estimate for $37,500.
“It was the best piece of Webb that we’ve had come through the auction,” said Van Dell. “He started making those in the 60s and our example was circa 1965-70. It’s so quintessentially Webb with the level of whimsy in the spiral gold nodules and the green enamel body. The sheer size made it such a statement piece. It really epitomizes his work.”
Gold Buccellati pieces fared well amid the top selling lots, with two necklaces and two bracelets finishing among the highest earners. The necklaces were made to different styles, with one featuring rose-cut diamonds set into airy and open work links, terminating at the bottom with a weighty baroque cultured saltwater pearl. With versatility at heart, the piece could be converted to wear without the pendant or as two separate bracelets. It attracted attention to the tune of $15,000. Two lots later, the other necklace resembled a double-stranded golden rope with sailors knots repeating all the way around. It came with a pair of matching earrings and finished at $10,000.
The Buccellati bracelets both leaned toward an Asian style. At the higher end of the two was an impressive gold work example featuring an engraved and overlapping foliate band around a central white and green carved jade plaque. It finished within estimate at $12,500. The other was a more standard form with a rounded edge band decorated with five pink tourmaline cabochons. The gold settings subtly crept outward from the stones in a finely detailed ornato decoration, making the small foliate outgrowths appear like a flickering sunburst. This one bested the high estimate and finished at $8,750.
Art Deco pieces, with their unyielding geometry and brilliant contrast, are resonating just as well today as they did during the height of their contemporary period. Their clean lines and sharp angles lend well to timelessness. At the forefront of this group was a Tiffany sapphire and diamond bracelet. The platinum set example featured five oval sapphire cabochons over a box link strap of double diamonds. The stunning contrast between the dark blue and white brought this piece to $26,000. In the same vein was a pair of hexagonal form earrings, each with a sapphire-edged border around a central 1.35-carat diamond. Circa 1925, the pair went out at $10,000. Lastly, the physical manifestation of Coco Chanel’s famous quote, “Fashion fades, only style remains the same,” was a small Cartier cigarette box in green and black enameled gold with inset diamond and onyx stones. Although the once ubiquitous trend is fading, the little box was a real stunner with green enamelwork that was made to appear like malachite stone. It sold for $9,375.
“People are looking for a piece that says ‘This is my piece, this is my statement’ and Art Deco jewelry is just inherently bold,” said Van Dell. “The color and geometry still speak to the average person who wants to have one important piece of jewelry, in line with the way we wear jewelry today.”
Singling out her favorite antique piece that ran through the sale, Van Dell pointed to a pair of Edwardian garland-style diamond and platinum earrings from 1910. The pair was designed with a ribbon bow surmount suspending strands of foliate diamond settings. It brought $5,000.
“They were so lovely and feminine, very representative of the early Twentieth Century. They were bridal, but also a pair of earrings that you could have forever and pass on,” Van Dell said.
Buyers grabbed at the opportunity to purchase rare and sought-after pieces from David Taylor’s Georg Jensen collection. Taylor is a noted scholar on Jensen, having co-written Georg Jensen Holloware: The Silver Fund Collection and editing the Bard Graduate Center’s release titled Georg Jensen Jewelry, in which a few of the examples from this sale were illustrated. His collection included rare and early examples, including a selection of gold works from the maker that are considered rare. While only comprising 27 lots, the section performed above high estimate with total sales at $43,562.
At the head of the collection came an 18K yellow gold bracelet with confronted scroll links, made between 1933 and 1944, which finished at $5,000. Following was a sterling and moonstone necklace that brought $2,750 and a pair of 18K gold and pearl earrings that brought the same. Two chrysoprase works, both in silver, came thereafter. The first, featuring an oblate stone held to the link chain by a flowing, leafy clasp, rose to $2,625; the other, an early openwork bracelet with ten stones, made 1910-25, found a new owner at $2,500. One of the most Modern designs from the collection was a collaborative brooch between Jensen and renowned Danish designer Nanna Ditzel. The 18K gold pinwheel form terminated at the outside edges with small pads, each holding a seed pearl. It finished at the $2,000 high estimate.
About what drove the collection, Van Dell believed that thoughtful collecting and connoisseurship was at the heart of the section’s strong performance.
Ringing in at more than 500 lots was Rago’s unreserved section that featured a myriad of affordable offerings from makers throughout history, including George Shiebler, Hermes, Rolex, Tiffany, Ilias Lalaounis, Taxco, David Yurman and many more. Styles represented were also numerous, including a wide variety of antique pieces that spanned the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Victorian ages. If bargains were to be had, this was the section to find them. As such, groupings reigned in dollars brought.
A single lot consisting of five pairs of earrings and a necklace, all gem- or diamond-set in predominantly gold settings, nearly tripled the high estimate to land at $3,125. A flashy gentleman’s grouping included a gold neck chain, a thick diamond and synthetic ruby gold ring and a yellow gold diamond tie tack. It found interest at $2,750. Finally, 17 items of Georgian-style jewelry from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century, including emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, turquoise, amethyst and more set into bracelets, brooches, pins and rings, capped it off at $2,500.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Rago is currently accepting consignments for their December fine jewelry auction. For further information, 609-397-9374 or www.ragoarts.com.
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