Category Archives: Auctions

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.

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.


Priceless jewellery

On Tuesday 1  June 2010 this beautiful 1960s Cartier bracelet was sold for USD 6,942,856 at Christie’s Hong Kong. Untreated Kashmir sapphires are extremely rare and this bracelet with all its matching natural stones is really perfect, so you could consider this as the perfect price. Still, this is the highest fee ever achieved for a bracelet. And coincidentally it was sold by Christie’s before in 1988 when it fetched USD 902,000. Not too bad if we calculate the representation of USD 1.7 million in today’s currency. This ‘priceless’ bracelet contains almost 50 carat cushion cut Kashmir sapphires alternated by marquise-cut diamond spacers with the biggest center stone measuring over 10 carats, all set in platinum.

Priceless trading happens in Hong Kong nowadays. This city is definitely the most important city in the world for the sale of fine gems such as Kashmir sapphires, jadeite and natural pearls. The Hong Kong auction was able to sell for over USD 60 million in total. Nice statistics: the most expensive jewelry sold at the auction was a ‘simple’ jadeite bead necklace at the price of USD 7,303,791. The necklace contains 51 jadeite beads of really a vivid emerald green colour and glassy translucency, all measuring circa 1 cm. with a star ruby clasp weighing 8.80 carats. They all are mounted in 18 carat rose gold. So far so good for priceless decoration….