When a jewelry auction can offer pieces at accessible price points, characterize different time periods and features pieces that have never left their families—provenances all known—it’s worth taking a look, particularly now when we are purchasing more online and searching for rare, one-of—kind, collectible jewels from home. Skinner Auctioneers’ Important Jewelry Sale, which is going live at 12 Noon at the Boston gallery on November 17, 2020 features over 200 lots of jewelry highlighting different time periods and pieces from renowned companies from Georgian time to present day.  

Here is a preview of four of the lots that represent 18th century through mid 20th century pieces. What’s so special about  these four lots is that all  were handed down through generations before being consigned to this auction. I spoke with Kaitlin Shinnick, Director of Skinner’s Jewelry Department about how each lot reflects the different time periods and different the provenance of the pieces.

Lot 2 Georgian Rose-cut Diamond Giardinetto Slide

To find an authentic giardinetto or giardinetti (small flower pot or flower basket piece) that is in its complete original condition is extremely rare today. Shinnick says, “I was thrilled to find one of this pieces in excellent condition with its original slide in the back. The foil-backed rose cut diamonds reveal so much character and were truly designed to catch the candlelight. For collectors of early jewelry, this one is amazing piece that is has two very narrow loops and meant to slide on to a ribbon and be worn around the neck.” She adds that this piece was one that was in a family for decades before being consigned for the sale. The catalog reads:

 “The giardinetto form, which is an Italian inspired vase of flowers or flower basket, was popular c. 1740-1780 as love tokens to be exchanged between friends and lovers. This example is composed of beautiful rose-cut diamonds, which were backed with foil in the traditional construction to intensify their appearance by candlelight. It is rare to find diamond jewelry from this period intact, as many jewelers would later melt down pieces and reuse the stones as styles changed.”

Lot 21 Antique Tiffany & Co. Gold, Enamel, and Diamond Flower Brooch

Floral jewelry changed throughout the different time periods and this is an exquisite example of a Tiffany & Co. enamel floral brooch, created in the 19th century. many of these enamel three dimensional floral designer were created under the direction of the masterful d direction of G. Paulding Farnham. “This is a really wonderful piece and very indicative of the beautiful and fine execution of the G. Paulding Farnham Tiffany & Co. floral designs which were created in the 1880s and 1890s. It was America’s reaction to naturalism and the French Art Nouveau designs,” explains Shinnick. This particular brooch features three purple enamel flowers each with moveable diamonds which are suspended like dewdrops and was created c. 1890.

Shinnick adds, “Here is another piece that stayed in the family until now. It was passed down through generations by a major collector of Tiffany & Co. pieces. Here is what it reads in the catalog:

“In the late 19th century heiress Cornelia A. Atwill became an avid collector of Tiffany & Co. She donated the famous Magnolia Vase to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1899. This brooch, from her personal collection, has remained in the family until now.”

Lot 27 Art Deco Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Pendant 

The early 20th century is the time period of this next piece “which is quite remarkable for numerous reasons,” says Shinnick. They are Art Deco and they passed through five generations before I had the opportunity of going to the consigner to pick them up. While there I was able to see a portrait of one of her ancestors wearing the pendant with a gossamer light fabric and upswept hair. It looked perfectly suited to the fashions of the day and exactly as it looks today. The wonderful aspect about Art Deco pieces is that they feel as modern today as they did when they were first designed,” She continues,  “The pendant is also quite rare in that the sapphires are Kashmir and the mines that produced those stones went dry in 1887.” 

About this piece, “ Passed down in one family for generations, this pendant has two remarkable Kashmir sapphires. Sapphires from the fabled extinct Kashmir mines are sought after for their distinctive cornflower blue color and velvety texture. Sapphires were first discovered in the region in the early 1880s, but the mine was exhausted by the end of the decade. Over the last 140 years, numerous efforts have been to find new deposits, but to no avail. Their rarity combined with their unmatched color makes Kashmir sapphires valued above all other sapphires.”

Lot 150. Oscar Heyman Platinum, Emerald, and Diamond Ring

“As certain rings were passed down through generations in a family, the gemstones were reset to fit the time in which they would be worn and to complement the new wearer’s personal style. Such was the case with these emeralds and diamonds which originally were set into antique settings. Shinnick explains as we moved into the mid 20th century woman wanted a more modern look to their jewelry. The client who consigned this ring to us had a mother who owned a diverse collection of gemstone jewelry. Our client loved the shape of the emerald and the side stones and decided to go to Oscar Heyman to remount the stones in a setting the company has designed in the 1940s. the mounting was only produced twice in Oscar Heyman’s long history.” She continues, “ Although it’s always wonderful to see pieces in their original condition when they are passed down through generations and the gemstones are special, it’s also a treat to see what a design company as renowned as Oscar Heyman will create. And it became a very special ring to the owner.”

Here’s what the catalog says about this ring: “At the 1939 World’s Fair, the firm of Oscar Heyman was nicknamed “The Jeweler’s Jeweler,” as they had produced had manufactured most of the jewelry displayed by retailers. The firm has made jewelry for Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, JE Caldwell, and Shreve, Crump & Low among many others. They are known for timeless jewelry with the highest quality craftsmanship. 

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