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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.”

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.



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!

Fine Jewels

In a couple of days Sotheby’s will be having its sale of Fine Jewels, a vast spectrum of jewelry with styles ranging from the 1700’s to modern designs. You can find 283 lots with a combination of bold, geometric pieces reflecting the fads of the early 20th century as well as the ornate, floral style common to the 1870’s.

Check out some of those options — or something else entirely, like the gold and enamel necklace and bracelet from the early 19th century.  Designed with a chain of tiny oval-shaped, gold-encased portraits, the pieces depict most of the 26 Swiss Cantons in regional garb.  In addition to pearl-and-diamond necklaces and an emerald ring set in a thin gold band, Sotheby’s will be auctioning off creative pieces like color changing sapphire pendants, a colorful butterfly brooch made of bright enamel and diamond, and even a sapphire box, a sleek gold box with calibre-cut and cabochon sapphires that line the clasp edge.

This wide range will guarantee a find for any buyer, so it’s an auction you’ll definitely want to take a look at!  Find out more about the Fine Jewels auction on March 18th by visiting


The Big Apple

In a few weeks Sotheby’s will be hosting an auction in the heart of New York City; items for sale were chosen specifically to reflect NYC’s Big Apple atmosphere, which means every artifact was inspired by or otherwise celebrates the energy of the city that never sleeps.  Of course, that still leaves a lot up to the artist’s interpretation, and the options are as diverse as the New Yorkers that inspired them.

There is the fierce Chrysler Redux bangle bracelet.  Designed by Marilyn Cooperman, this silver and gold latticework, interwoven with baguette diamonds, was inspired by the city’s architecture. David Webb’s Twin Frog bracelet could not be further from Cooperman’s style. These leap-frogging amphibians — made of green enamel and gold spots, eyes of oval-shaped cabochon rubies, and a row of diamonds for a mouth — represent the more playful side that New York can offer.

To check out more lots go to

And be sure to find yourself in New York this April Fool’s Day at 8:00 pm!

An Auction of Royal Proportions

In two weeks’ time, Sotheby’s will auction off a diverse assortment of precious objects with one common thread tying them together.  Every piece up for auction on February 24 bears a link to royal or aristocratic European collections. This sale is not exclusively for jewelry, but jewels are certainly well represented. Among the silverware, paintings, and candelabras, there are lots with brooches, earrings, and charms.  The most notable pieces share a history: descending from the Russian Grand Duchess Marie to her niece, the German Crown Princess Cecile, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and on further to Cecile’s daughter-in-law, Princess Dorothea of Prussia.

These pieces include a stylish brooch, shaped into two interlocking ovals; the ovals are studded with circular-cut rose diamonds. Another sample from this selection is a set of earrings, each with a large aquamarine gem that dangles from a gray knob. The gem is framed by a pear-shaped outline of small diamonds, inlaid in gold. Whether you plan to bid or not, it’s worthwhile to take a look at these incredible artifacts, saturated in history.

Be sure to browse through this wonderful selection:

Christie’s Auction

Christie’s, one of the world’s largest fine arts auction houses, managed in the first half of 2012 gross sales of $3.5 billion, which remains the record year in the art market. Over the course of a year, Christie’s holds 26 jewelry-only sales (which, of course, doesn’t exclude jewelry from going up for auction in any of their other 450+ general sales).  Although based in London, their auctions take place all over the world, including Paris, Hong Kong, New York, and Dubai. For those who can’t make it on site, they even offer an option for online bidding, which is great news for anyone who can’t make it to South Kensington in the next couple of weeks.

Being held on January 21, their next auction begins at 10:30AM. In the four days leading up to the sale, there are viewing times between 9AM and 7:30PM. Just as with bidding, anyone who can’t make it for the viewings can also take a look at the online catalogue — which is already available — or can purchase the full catalogue for more information about each lot.

From even a cursory glance at the catalogue, it is evident that there is no lack of color in the upcoming auction. You don’t have to look much further than the first few lots: colors ranging from vibrant amber to soft chartreuse. One such piece is the multi-colored sapphire dress ring of Lot 1, a simple band of square-shaped gems fitted between two raised rims of gold. Take a look for yourself; the jewelry selected to sell this month is undeniably exquisite.

For a listing of jewelry in the upcoming auction, check out Christie’s website: