Category Archives: News & Trends

Largest Girandoles

Princess Isabella of Parma’s girandole earrings in Meng’s painting below are modest in comparism to these 11 cm. long diamond girandole earrings. They are the largest pair known. The silver earrings are completely set with rose cut diamonds, all perfectly set to the point that they appear to melt into the floral design, Portugal, third quarter of the 18th century.

weight: 65.8 grams
length: 11 cm.

In jewelry, a girandole is a design, mostly earrings, in which three dangling pear-shaped ornaments are suspended from a central motif, often a bow. The girandole was the favourite court jewel in the 17th century and its popularity remained in the 18th century. The original 17th century model comprised one element above a central bows suspending 3 or 5 pear shaped pendants all moving independently creating a dramatic sparkle effect. In the 18th century new versions of the girandole model were created where the central bow experienced several variations. This model, where the central bow was replaced by a bouquet was the favourite in the European courts.


These earrings are from the collection of Américo Barreto, famous Portuguese jewellery collector and dealer in the 20st century. Barreto worked as a consultant of “National Palace of Ajuda” for the crown jewels collection and was widely recognized both nationally and internationally. He had a legendary private collection which was presented at Museum of Ancient Art until his death and that is can be found (partially) on the illustrated book “Five Centuries of Jewelry”.

The earrings were probably sold by Barreto in the 1970s. There is no information regarding the original provenance of these earrings but it is very likely that they have a royal or noble provenance. They are rich and extravagant. Here is another portrait of Queen Maria Luisa of Parma who was also painted by Mengs in 1765.

Queen Maria Luisa of Parma 1765

Queen Maria Luisa of Parma 1765



Bring jewels to life: a competition about Ilona Ptasnik’s jewellery collection in Schoonhoven

Ilona Ptasnik

Last year the Dutch Silver Museum in Schoonhoven received a generous gift from the estate of Ilona Ptasnik. A large collection of antique jewellery was given by this lady who had been unknown to the Museum before her gift. Ms. Ptasnik  was born in Amsterdam in 1918 from a Jewish Polish family. In 1938 her family emigrated to the USA where Ilona married Adriaan van der Bilt with whom she returned to The Netherlands after the Second World War. From her jewellery collection appears a preference of gemstones, but apart from this, a large variety of styles, techniques and fashions.

The Museum got curious; Who was this woman, how did she look and what does her collection tell us about her life? The Museum asks us to help them bring her jewellery to life. We can contribute with stories, drawings, collages, poems – anything – with your idea about who Ilona Ptasnik was. You can send your work to: All contributions will form a part of the exhibition that shows Ms. Ptasnik’s jewellery collection from 25 September until 25 November in Schoonhoven. You will see what promises to be a very impressive collection and if your ideas correspond with reality. I can’t wait to see and who actually knew Ilona??

Doris Duke’s pierrot by Van Cleef & Arpels

This charming Pierrot brooch has a nice provenance, it comes  from Doris Duke’s personal jewelry collection.

It was made for Van Cleef & Arpels designed and patented by Maurice Duvalet in 1949. Duvalet worked both for Van Cleef & Arpels and John Rubel & Co. and was most famous for his ballerina brooches that he designed for both companies.

One of the masterpieces at the Rare Jewels and Objets d’Art: A Superb Collection at Christies NY in 2009 was the diamond ruby and emerald “ballerina” brooch. Several ballerina brooches had been designed in the late thirties by Maurice Duvalet for the New York branch of Van Cleef & Arpels. This particular brooch depicts Maria Camargo, a Spanish star ballet dancer from the 18th century, posed in arabesque. The use of emeralds and rubies resulted in a brilliant rendering of the flowers set on her costume as pictured by a French painting from Nicolas Lancret. Maurice Duvalet designed this particular piece in 1942 and used mainly rose-cut diamonds which are reputed to have originated from the Spanish Crown Jewels. This piece was manufactured by John Rubel & Co, the usual manufacturer for Van Cleef & Arpels New York. Estimated by Christie’s at $80,000 to $120,000, the brooch reached $350,000 (before commission). Also the Arpels had close ties with the ballet and were influenced by the great dancers and choreographers of the day. They even approached George Balanchine to produce a ballet entitled ‘Jewels’ where various countries were represented by different precious stones.

Duvalet’s,  more modest Pierrot, is in the same style. It is made from 18 carat gold, weighing 9.8 grams.  The brooch has graduated cultured pearl arms and legs that move, and a cabochon ruby head.  It measures approximately 2 inches tall, and is signed and numbered: Van Cleef & Arpels, 15838.

This pierrot brooch was originally owned by the tobacco heiress, Doris Duke  (1912 – 1993).  All Ms. Duke’s jewellery was sold by Christie’s auction house in 2004.  Per Doris Duke’s instructions in her will, all of her jewelry was temporarily on display at her home, Rough Point, in Newport, Rhode Island prior to the auction.  Her jewelry collection was overwhelming.  Duke’s 399 piece jewelry collection was catalogued in Gems From the East and the West, The Doris Duke  Jewelry Collection, by Janet Zapata, Ulysses Dietz and Zette Emmons in 2003. Page 102 of the catalogue shows our Pierrot brooch.

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The Duchess of Windsor’s jewels, revisited

King Edward VII gave up the British Throne and country to marry the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson in 1936, making them the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. After this the Duke lived for The Duchess of Windsor. He adored her and gave her jewels for every occasion in their life together. Most jewels are larger than life, according to Wallis’ friend Lady Mosley.

On 30 November 2010 Sotheby’s London will sell 20 jewels from the Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery collection. 23 years after the much celebrated Sotheby’s Geneva auction of her jewels in 1987.  This auction was a global event in prosperous times and the 214-piece collection fetched a record price of EUR 35 million, seven times the pre-sale estimate. Reflecting the 1987 rage today’s estimates  are also completely over the top but will surely be paid. The total sale is expected to bring in around EUR 3 million.

On sale now are jewels that memorialize the most important moments in Edward and Wallis’ relationship. Wallis was greatly admired for her avant-garde style in fashion and jewellery alike. She combined simplicity with whimsy.

Many of the jewels were made by Cartier, two specifically by Cartier’s jewellery director Jeanne Toussaint,  the Onyx and diamond panther bracelet designed in 1952, is one of the finest examples of the ‘great cats’ jewels of which the Duchess was an avid collector. The bracelet is expected to fetch 1,000,000-1,500,000 pounds . This articulated cat forms a “stalking pose” when closed around the wrist.

Jeanne Toussaint also created this exotic flamingo brooch, decorated with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines, and diamonds which was bought by the Duchess in 1940. The flamingo brooch was bought for £498,000 in 1987 and is today estimated at £1m-£1.5m.

Another precious jewel is the diamond cross bracelet by Cartier, supporting nine gem-set Latin crosses, each marking significant events during the years 1934-44. The bracelet is expected to raise £350,000-450,000, while it fetched only £200.000 in 1987.

It is a very sweet; every cross has an inscription and a story to it, but not everyone believes Wallis & Edward were the greatest love story of the 20th century. For a different opinion please read here.

Sotheby’s David Bennett and historian Hugo Vickers, however, make a splendid presentation below.

“I Love Boobies” bracelets

Have you read my personal story on Bravery Beads, the necklace for kids with cancer? These beads are wonderful. Far more controversial cancer jewellery exits. Today I love boobies bracelets (and the Tough Titties walks) are the controversy.

Awareness bracelets

We have known the wristbands or so-called awareness bracelets for some time now. They are made from fabric or leather, but usually from silicon. They carry different kinds of messages expressing support for political (“make poverty history”), religious (“godstrong”) or medical causes, with cancer as number one.

Pink ribbons

Since the 90’s we’ve also known the pink ribbon symbol that expresses support to women with breast cancer. The first ribbons were handed out to participants in the New York City race for breast cancer survivors in 1991. Pink ribbons symbolize the big battle against cancer and aim to create awareness about it. You even see pink ribbons covered by gems or Swarovksi.

Pink industry

The color pink gets breast cancer a lot of attention and awareness, which is great! But related to cancer, it is also criticized. Pink now has enormous marketing power for every product imaginable, also those not relevant to cancer at all. In the US – more so than in Europe – even M&M’s are pink. It makes one wonder whether ‘pink’ is still about a potentially killing disease or about sales. When buying pink you should investigate how much of your money goes to which cause.

I Love Boobies bracelets

The bracelet-campaign by Keep A Breast Foundation causes a lot of debate.  The bracelet carries the rather crude message “I love boobies” (Ik houd van tieten) and is supposed to make young people aware of breast cancer.

They cost only 4$ and 50% of the money goes to the educational program of Keep A Breast and in the US it became a complete hype. The kids who refuse to take them off have been suspended from school, since the bracelet with the word boob on it was considered offensive and for this inappropriate school attire.

Many survivors of breast cancer are offended by the bracelet for a different reason. They are angry because they feel as though this campaign trivializes breast cancer by focussing on the body part, and by doing so disregard the person attached to it. Imagine how this explicit marketing tool must feel like for a survivor who is trying to reconcile with her body and sexuality. And some ex-patients may not even care about whether or not they lost (a) breast(s), they just care about their health. It is a very sensitive subject and everybody fully understands the aversion to the bracelet-campaign.

On the other hand, the expression I love boobies is used only metaphorically and the campaigners of Keep A Breast are trying to be funny and make the subject accessible. I do have full confidence that the kids wearing the bracelets are able to see past the catchy phrase and – after an initial giggle – will think about cancer instead of sex. Despite the blunt text, I hope this campaign encourages younger people to have serious discussions in classes and playgrounds. Sometimes you have to go a little bit further to reach your goal.

Tiffany & Co. vs. Ebay Inc., an online auction victory

The long-running litigation between Tiffany & Co. and eBay, in which Tiffany sought to hold eBay liable for counterfeit Tiffany goods sold on eBay’s internet auction, has ended.

Tiffany’s false advertising claim was rejected last week. This was Tiffany’s the last remaining claim of a series of trademark infringement cases against the online auctioneer. Tiffany first filed suit against eBay, alleging direct and contributory trademark infringement, false advertising and trademark dilution, the whole shebang. (In 2008, the District Court of New York ruled against Tiffany and placed the burden to proof the individual infringers on Tiffany rather than placing the burden on the platform where the infringers sell their counterfeit goods. Tiffany appealed and lost this April.)

Tiffany now accused eBay of advertising the sale of its goods through ads on its website, and through sponsored links on search engines, which would sometimes link to its own website and recommend visitors to “Find Tiffany items at [too] low prices”.

The judge agreed with Tiffany that eBay knew some of the goods being sold were fake. But he said that Tiffany failed to show that eBay’s advertisements actually misled customers or necessarily implied that all Tiffany products sold on its website were genuine. In addition, the judge thinks eBay takes substantial steps to prevent and detect the sale of counterfeit goods on its website. eBay says this costs up to $20 million a year.

Internet companies such as eBay, Google and other hosts must be thrilled they cannot be held responsible for users’ trademark and copyright violations.

Ebay sells millions of goods every second. Be careful in the streets of Gotham; not everything that says so, is Tiffany & Co.!

Barbie’s pink diamond

World news? Maybe not, but one month from now Christie’s New York will auction off the rarest and most expensive Barbie doll with an estimate of $545,000.

Mattel has asked the famed Australian jewellery designer, Stefano Canturi, to design a Barbie and create her ultimate accessories. He designed her a little black dress and a beautiful demi suite. The suite includes a ring and necklace with over three carats of white diamonds set in Canturi’s distinct cubism style: geometric lines in ditto or curved patterns. The necklace is highlighted by a pretty one carat bright pink square-cut diamond from the Australian Argyle mine. Just imagine this set life-size!

Canturi explains on his website: “I wanted the jewelry design to pay homage to Barbie’s modern yet timeless style, this is why I applied my Cubism design concept to her look; it is perfect for her.

Barbie will be auctioned at Christie’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale on October 20th 2010. Canturi & Mattel will donate 100 % of the profits to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Who’s bidding?

Below is Stefano Canturi with his Barbie.