Category Archives: Books & Catalogues

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.

Continue reading


Read my pins, says Madeleine Albright

The Museum of Arts and Design in New York has made a very special exhibition on the US’ former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s diverse and notable collection of brooches. Through October 2010 you can see over 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate a message during her diplomatic career, in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Jewelry has always played a part in world affairs, expressing power, impressing people or forging alliances, but it was never used so eloquently as by Albright.

It all started when Madeleine Albright criticized Saddam Hussein in her role of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Saddam’s personal poet responded by calling her “an unparalleled serpent.” When deciding what to wear to their meeting, Albright chose to make a diplomatic statement by choosing a snake pin. Although her method of communication was new, her message was not. From that day forward, pins became part of Albright’s diplomatic signature.

Albright: Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying “Read my lips.” I began urging colleagues and reporters to “Read my pins.”

She has written her own catalogue to the exhibition, Read my pins, stories from a diplomat’s jewel. Her stories s behind her extensive pin collection, which includes flags, fruit, bugs, birds and almost everything else, are very amusing and humorous. Included are the antique eagle purchased to celebrate Albright’s appointment as secretary of state, the zebra pin she wore when meeting Nelson Mandela, and the Valentine’s Day heart forged by Albright’s five-year-old daughter.

This brooch, called Liberty, is made by Gijs Bakker for an earlier exhibition Brooching It Diplomatically; A Tribute to Madeleine Albright. The clocks are arranged so that Albright, looking down, as well as her visitor, looking up,  can both see when the time for their meeting is up.

Madeleine Albright talks about her pins

Birthstones, the legend

Gemstones have long been attributed mystical and magical powers in relation to religion and superstition. The notion that a certain gemstone is associated with a specific month, ‘birthstones’, derives from these early beliefs regarding one’s time of birth and its relationship to the planets.

Origin of birthstones

The tradition of birthstones originates from the Jewish astral depiction of gemstones. The high priest and brother of Moses, Aaron wore a breastplate that was covered with twelve gemstones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The stones also corresponded with the twelve signs of the zodiac and later the twelve months of the year. The Breastplate of Aaron is referred to in Exodus 28:17-20 and Revelation 21:19-20.

Indian planetary gems or Navaratna talisman

The belief in a cosmic universe where heaven and earth are connected also includes the supernatural powers of gems. Divine powers are everywhere from macrocosm through the physical elements such as mineral products. In India nine planets – all designated as celestial deities – watch over nine gems; Saturn is the planet for the blue Sapphire, the Moon’s ascending node for Hessonite garnet, the descending node for cat’s eye, Venus for the diamond, the Sun for the ruby, the Moon for the pearl, Jupiter for the topaz, Mercury for the emerald and Mars for the coral. Navaratna jewels (nava= nine; ratna = jewel) contain all nine gems in a specific order.

Gem symbolism

It is also believed every gem is endowed with different power and symbolism. The oldest crown of England, for example, which is on view in the Tower of London, contains the Black Prince’s Ruby and emphasizes the power of the wearer. This ruby is in fact a huge 170 carat spinel (rubies and spinels were only told apart from the late 19th century when they discovered that spinel is a magnesium aluminum oxide, while ruby (corundum) is an aluminum oxide. )

Modern Birthstones

It is still a common belief that gems hold power and that wearing the gem associated with your birthday functions as a talisman and will bring good luck, health or power. This faith in working power of gems can even be seen as a tool to gain power in the world. In today’s world of danger, uncertainty and less religious belief people tend to reach out to other irrational or magical beliefs such as lapidaria (knowledge of stones).

Birthstone jewelry has become a poetic tradition for gift givers as this Art Déco Cartier catalogue illustrates. Please ignore the old prices!!

Who of you wears or is looking for his or her birthstone? For more extensive reading on birthstones read this Jewelers of America leaflet or our Cartier catalogue on birthstones.

Month Gemstone Alternative gemstones
January Garnet Garnet
February Amethyst Amethyst or hyacinth
March Aquamarine or bloodstone Jasper or bloodstone
April Diamond Diamond or sapphire
May Emerald Emerald or agate
June Pearl, moonstone or alexandrite Pearl, moonstone or alexandrite
July Ruby Turquoise or onyx
August Peridot or sardonyx Sardonyx
September Sapphire Peridot
October Opal or tourmaline Beryl or opal
November Topaz or citrine Topaz or pearl
December Tanzanite, turquoise, zircon, lapis lazuli or blue topaz

The Marlborough Gems: formerly at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The collection of about 800 engraved gems of the Fourth Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817) at Blenheim Palace was the largest and most important of the 18th-century English collections. It comprised a Renaissance collection of the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua, acquired by Lord Arundel in the mid-17th century; the mid-18th-century collection of Lord Bessborough; and the Duke’s own acquisitions. The Duke had to sell his collection after financial set backs in 1875. He sold it in its entirety to David Bromilow whose daughter sold the collection piece by piece at Christie’s in 1899, when it dispersed over the world.

Sir John Boardman (President of the Society of Jewellery Historians) has located the present whereabouts of almost a quarter of the collection. In his book The Marlborough Gems: formerly at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (OUP 2009) , Boardman has put a great deal of detective work to piece together almost the complete collection. The appearance of less than one third is known from autopsy or mainly 18th-century drawings. However, the Beazley Archive in Oxford possesses impressions and electrotype copies of virtually every Marlborough gem as well as the cataloguer’s notebooks.

Not much has been written on the subject of cameo‘s and intaglio‘s before, and it is very difficult to judge if a gem is it ancient, renaissance or 18th century. For example this famous cameo representing some sort of initiation ceremony involving Cupid and Psyche can be 1st century AD or renaissance. One is not sure. It is however one of the most famous cameo’s from the collection, now in Boston.

Perhaps the Marlborough collection is also the greatest collection in the entire world, judge for yourself. You can search the Archive for the identified gems from the Marlborough collection here. And for gems that are still lost look here.

Boardman’s book shows a lot of illustrative material; from the Archive, from drawings and from autopsy, study, and photography, at least of the surviving identified pieces. Each gem is described and discussed, and, in the accompaying text, the evidence for the Mantua collecting and the sources for the later collections are explored, with emphasis on the way the collection illustrates the history of gem-collecting in England, and the English reception of classical iconography that was copied in the 18th century. The gems are presented in chapters relating to the collection from which they were acquired.

This heavy book is very important to the history of engraved gems.

The 4th Duke of Marlborough holding a cameo depicting Augustus by Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

Brilliant Impressions – Antique Paste and Other Jewellery

June 2010 – SJ Phillips of New Bond Street has a wonderful sales exhibition of paste and other jewellery dating from the golden years of the 18th and 19th centuries

This sale exhibition provides an overview of paste jewels between 1750 and 1900. Beautiful 18th century girandoles, but also simple  mirror or Vauxhall glass jewellery (Vauxhall glass’ name derives from a mirror glassworks in Vauxhall, London that was owned by the Duke of Buckingham. Faceted glass was applied to a metal background which was then painted black) and French jet jewellery are exhibited. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue by jewellery historian Diana Scarisbrick, with a foreword by Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue.

Paste jewellery, with its wonderful colours has not dated, lately it has risen in popularity tremendously, appealing to women today.

The catalogue can be viewed online by clicking here.

17th century blue paste bow pendant from Kunsthandel Inez Stodel

Het sieraad in context, promotie Marjan Unger

Marjan Unger draagt hier haar iegen proefschrift als collier

Marjan Unger: ‘Alle menselijke lusten en lasten zijn in sieraden gematerialiseerd.

Marjan Unger is kunsthistorica en publiciste. In 2004 schreef Unger het standaardwerk ‘Nederlandse sieraden in de 20ste eeuw bij Uitgeverij Thoth in Bussum; een zeer lijvig boek met een fantastisch overzicht van Nederlandse juwelen uit de 20ste eeuw.

Aanstaande woensdag, 17 maart 2010 zal Marjan Unger aan de Universteit van Leiden promoveren op een multidisciplinaire beschouwing van het sieraad. Unger beschrijft “Sieraad in context” en behandelt de sociale aspecten van het sieraad, de driehoeksverhouding tussen maker, drager en beschouwer, modegeschiedenis en symboliek.

Ter gelegenheid van haar promotie schenkt Unger haar eigen collectie van 500 Nederlandse sieraden aan het Rijksmuseum. De collectie is geschiedkundig verzameld en niet op vormgeving en heeft als zwaartepunt de periode 1930-1970. Volgens het Rijksmuseum sluit de verzameling sluit naadloos aan bij hun collectie en kan het museum kan nu een overzicht tonen van het Nederlandse juweel! Wij hopen dan ook dat het Rijksmuseum haar prachtige juwelen uit het depot haalt. Een kleine selectie van de verzameling is vanaf 16 maart te zien in het museum.

Promotie woensdag 17 maart
Marjan Unger-de Boer, Sieraad in context
Promotoren: prof.dr. T.M. Eliëns en prof.dr. C.W. Fock

Pillenbroche van Paul Derrez, ca 1997, kunststof en metaal.

Touwtjesspringer, broche van Chis Steenbergen, 1954, in zilver en goud.


Sleeping Beauty van Robert Smit, rond 1990, gouden hanger en ketting.