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Archive for April, 2015

A Time for Cloisonné

Cloisonné is a French word that refers to an ancient and meticulously detailed technique for designing metalwork. This technique, which requires thin silver or gold wire strips to separate the object into compartments, has been used for clothing, weapons, and jewelry, among other things. From its place of origin — the Ancient Near East — this style traveled eastward, reaching China in the 14th century. The “compartments” (called cloisons) made by wire edges were filled with brightly colored gemstones and glass inlays or, in more recent eras, enamel. These inlays are made into intricate and ornate patterns that inevitably attract the eye. It’s not surprising, therefore, that pieces of jewelry with this design would fetch a heavy sum. Especially one that is also a timepiece, where this tricky design technique is made even more complex by the presence of the inner gears and outer hands that move along the watch’s face. A wristwatch made with a cloisonné dial is fairly rare. Even rarer — given this method’s frailty — is a cloisonné dial that is still in perfect, never-been-repaired, condition.

For these reasons, the 18-karat gold Rolex in Christie’s December auction of Important Watches attracted an impressive sum. The dial of this automatic wristwatch depicts an exquisitely colorful map of the Western Hemisphere, replete with fish and seagull shapes and daggers as well as a polychrome cloisonné compass in the bottom left quarter of the face. After an estimate of $200,000-$400,000 value, the piece sold in New York for $425,000. A great catch, according to Jeffrey Hess, who co-wrote a book about Rolex watches. Hess generally avoids offering advice to collectors about what to buy, but when it comes to cloisonné dial watches, he is more than willing to break his own rule. They are, as he explains, “the crowning glory of any collection.”

A Blast from the Past

If you’re seeking the newest in fashion trends, your best bet may be to look back at some of the “oldies.” Back in the sixties, a self-taught designer by the name of David Webb popularized the rock crystal quartz. This crystal comes in a range of hues, from completely transparent, to translucent, to cloudy and opaque. For the next two decades this stone was one of the most popular options in nonprecious gems and often got paired with materials as fine as diamond.

Well, it seems as if that crystal clarity is making a major comeback. The latest creations come in all sorts of styles. You can find more traditional pieces, like the simple Rock Candy earrings — clear quartz elongated teardrops outlined by 18-karat gold — or a sleek modern design like the Large Navette ring, an 18-karat yellow gold ring with a large, almond-shaped crystal dotted on either end by two small round diamonds. There is also a middle-ground of strong, personality-filled pieces: a large pendant upon which the crystal itself is encrusted with gold and silver stones.

While these crystals are still in style, make sure you root through your (or your parents’!) old boxes of jewelry to see what the sixties and seventies left behind. You won’t regret it!

Geisha Gold

Here’s a piece that’s worth a second look: Sylvie Corbelin’s pair of intricately designed geisha earrings. A long-time Parisian jewelry designer, Corbelin finds her work inspired by women in artistic professions, a path that led her to the geisha — or, as Corbelin explains, “a mysterious woman who dedicates her life to fine arts.” In fact, the Japanese word “geisha” literally means “artist.” Geishas are adorned with varying degrees of paints and makeup, depending on their ranking, a facade that the earrings mimic with sterling silver (rather than the white rice paint used in real life). According to Corbelin, the earrings seem to come with personalities of their own, so much so that they have names: Geiko, which often refers to a geisha specifically from the western Japan region, and Maiko, a word meaning an apprentice geisha (literally, a “dance child”).

In full geisha fashion, this dangling duo is clad in 18 karats of gold lined with rubies, emeralds, tourmaline, and turquoise to capture the spiced-up color of a geisha’s kimono. Each geisha earring also has a diamond-studded fan to give a “silky finish” to the ensemble.

These 4-inch long earrings will be showcased at the end of May in Las Vegas, priced at $25,000 — quite an success for Geiko and Maiko’s (not to mention Corbelin’s) career!

 

Wendy Yue

Take a look at one of Hong Kong’s most successful jewelers: Wendy Yue. Since its inception, Yue’s jewelry design firm has grown to become one of the city’s most renowned labels. What’s her secret?  Mostly, dedication and determination, not to mention a seemingly limitless abundance of inspiration. In fact, Yue creates a new piece almost every single day! In addition to her incredible rate of productivity (as if that wouldn’t keep her busy enough), Yue is also a mother of four children, including a set of twins, as well as a number of pets. And of course, let’s not forget hobbies: somehow she carves out time in her week to fix up homes and properties, a pastime she enjoys during leisure hours.

But even with this packed schedule, Yue clearly exhibits tremendous depth of thought in every single piece she creates. Her motif of choice is the bond between wildlife and human existence, after young adult travel across Europe left her utterly inspired. She decided the best way to capture those memories was in jewelry, an everyday wearable reminder — “an enduring monument,” as Yue explains — of her travels.

Her creations range from animal to botanical and even to the mythological. The Sacred Phoenix is an explosively vibrant ring, studded with jade; white and brown diamonds; pink, yellow, blue, and white sapphires; and tsavorite. Meanwhile, the Chimpanzee Wonder depicts in precise detail a pensive chimp out of mother-of-pearl; it is surrounded by sapphire, ruby, and jasper leafy branches and, on one side, a playful monkey out of brown diamond.

These beautiful creations have many other companion pieces, so be sure to check out more of her work!

Copper Fun Facts

You may think your copper jewelry is just another “pretty face” in a sea of silvers and golds, but you’d be wrong about that. Copper has plenty more to offer than its fashionable looks and more than pulls its weight in other areas of life. In fact, copper is a lot of the reason you’re still alive!  Inside the body, it supports nerve function and helps the body produce energy. It’s at work in enzymes and even functions in the production of skin color.

In folklore it was believed that copper bracelets were a remedy for arthritis. Some claimed that the bracelets worked by allowing tiny amounts of copper to get absorbed into the bloodstream, where they helped regrow cartilage and relieve arthritic pain. While scientific studies and disproved its usefulness in this department, copper certainly has many other functions in the health market. For one, some studies have indicated that copper’s natural antioxidants help prevent cancer. For another, copper is known to kill bacteria growth. Long before modern medicine, copper was used to sterilize wounds and drinking water. This phenomenon was documented in the Smith Papyrus, one of the oldest recovered texts in existence.

Another little factoid you might enjoy: copper is actually the first metal ever to have been used by humans in any capacity.

Setting Records

If you’re interested in world records, then you’ll love this little Guiness­-worthy tidbit: priciest pearl necklace.  About two weeks ago, Christie’s had an auction that garnered some impressive profits.  Of those, the four ­strand natural­ color pearl necklace topped the list at a price of $5.76 million.  It beat not only the world record but also Christie’s own estimate of the piece, which was set between $3.8 and $4.5 million.  The pearls, measuring between 4.9 to 12.65 mm, are varying shades of metallic blues, greens, and purples; they are strung in four consecutive rows, the largest pearls at the throat with the size receding gradually up the nape of the neck. The clasp is an elegant flower ­shaped gem.

 

Rarities

Mid­-May of this year Sotheby’s will be hosting an auction.  But they won’ be offering just any gems; at the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale, you can expect to find one Historic Pink Diamond.  This vivid pink-­toned diamond, cushion cut and weighed at 8.72 karats, is believed to have once belonged to Princess Matilda, none other than Napoleon’s niece. The first time it came up for auction was 1904, in Paris, where it was sold and subsequently mounted.  Later, it was re-cut from 9 karats to its current size for aesthetic purposes.

Another piece up for auction is the Burmese Sunshine Ruby.  With its nearly perfect “pigeon blood” hue, it may well be the rarest gem on the auction table. If so, it’s certainly a close fight between pink diamond and red ruby.  Either way, the expected sale price for both pieces is between $12 and $18 million, which means there aren’t really any losers in this “competition”.

The auction is set to take place on May 12, so if you’re thinking of placing a bid you’d better start saving up!

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