Caring for Your Antique Jewelry

Jewelry is always one of our most prized possessions whether it’s newly made, an heirloom passed down through the generations, or a fabulous vintage or antique piece that you discovered while on vacation. We all love our jewelry and want it to last through our lifetime and for generations to come. Antique jewelry, which is defined as any piece 100 years or older, or vintage jewelry which is 40 years or older, will require special care to keep it at its finest. Because these older pieces are more sensitive, how they are cleaned and stored will make a difference in how they hold up over time. We have some pointers to help you keep your antique/vintage and even newly made pieces at their sparkling best.

Jewelry Care Don’ts

As a luxury item, jewelry likes to live a life of luxury, what does that mean? It means that your jewelry likes a life of leisure and there are certain times when you should not wear it.

Do not wear jewelry when you are doing housework. Pieces could be damaged by chemicals in cleaning products, or you may accidentally bang your rings or bracelets against something while cleaning and break or chip a stone, or dent/scratch the metal. This includes necklaces that may get caught on something if you bend down while cleaning, which could cause the chain to break.

Do not wear jewelry when you are working out.  Jewelry is sensitive to sweat and oils from your skin, which believe it or not, can harm your jewelry. Also, if you lift weights, or even heavy boxes for that matter, that activity could cause your jewelry to break or the metal to dent or become very scratched. Also, bracelets or chains on necklaces may break if they get caught on something.

Do not wear jewelry when you are gardening. You may have your hands in dirt, or you may expose your jewelry to gardening chemicals that may be plant friendly, but not jewelry friendly. Also, if you have a loose stone that you don’t know about, you definitely don’t want to have it fall out in the flower bed where you may never find it again.

Do not wear jewelry when you are swimming. Whether it is the ocean or the pool, you should avoid wearing jewelry in those situations, even though we have seen many movie stars doing it, in real life it doesn’t work out so well. Chlorine can corrode metals and mar gemstones and saltwater can also corrode metals and stones. Due to its copper content rose gold is particularly susceptible to damage from saltwater or even saltiness in the air, such as at the beach.

Do not wear jewelry when you are cooking. Heat is bad for some gemstones, plus if the metal in your jewelry heats up you could get burned. And again if a loose gemstone falls out you don’t want to have to dig through your dinner to find it.

Do not wear jewelry when showering or sleeping. You want to avoid getting soap, shampoo, conditioners or other products on your jewelry, plus the prolonged contact with water is detrimental to the piece. If you sleep in your jewelry, you may break or in some way damage the piece while you are moving as you slumber.

Do not clean antique or vintage jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner. The vibrations of the ultrasonic cleaner can be trouble for antique or vintage jewelry, causing stones to loosen or dropout of the setting, it can also dent a piece, or damage soldering that holds the piece together.

Do not submerge antique or vintage jewelry in water. Water can be damaging to jewelry. If you have an antique piece with a foiled closed back setting and it gets wet, it could (read that as will) irreparably ruin the item.

Do not use commercial jewelry cleaners. The jewelry cleaners that you buy over the counter in the drug store may be very harsh and damaging to an antique piece.

Do not use toothpaste or denture cleaner. Neither of those two items is appropriate for cleaning jewelry. Both are too abrasive and could harm stones or metal.

Do not clean jewelry over the sink with the drain open. Make sure you have a plug for your drain so that if you drop your piece it doesn’t get lost in a pipe somewhere. Who can forget the time JLo dropped her pink diamond ring down the drain in LA’s Ivy restaurant the first time she was engaged to Ben Affleck? It can happen to anyone.

Jewelry Care Do’s

It is important to inspect your antique or vintage jewelry on a regular basis. Be a detective and check for wobbly stones, broken prongs or fastenings that may be bent or loose. Some experts suggest using a magnifying glass to check your jewelry for any damage as well as to get a better look at where dirt may be hiding so you can better clean it. Others advocate gently prodding the stone with the tip of a straight pin to see if the stone is loose, you’ll be able to tell because the stone will jiggle in the setting. 

Do have your jewelry inspected and cleaned by an expert. It’s a really good idea to have your jewelry examined by a jeweler who specializes in antique jewelry to make sure that all the clasps are intact and that there are no loose stones, broken or bent prongs. You may also want to have the jeweler professionally clean your piece — just make sure that your jewelry won’t be going into an ultrasonic cleaner.

Do use a soft, lint free cloth to clean your jewelry. It really is okay to gently polish a piece of jewelry with a soft cloth to remove surface dirt, oils and fingerprints. You may also use a soft bristle toothbrush to gently clean pieces. Dip the toothbrush in a solution of mild soapy water, an unscented castile soap, for example. Use about a half teaspoon of soap to two cups of room temperature water. When using the toothbrush to clean your jewelry, be very gentle and do not apply pressure. Remove the soap and water with a soft damp cloth and then dry your piece with a soft cloth. It is important to be sure the soap is fully removed and to dry each piece thoroughly.

Do put on face creams, make-up, hairspray and perfume before you put on your jewelry. Any of those items may contain ingredients that are harmful to your jewelry, in some cases those products may even stain certain gemstones, such as turquoise, coral or pearls. Keep your treasures safe by putting them on after your beauty products.

Do store your jewelry properly. The key to proper jewelry storage is to make sure that the pieces are all protected. If you have the original box, keep it, especially for the antique pieces, it adds value. But more than that it protects your jewelry. You may also consider purchasing a jewelry box with compartments that will allow each piece to be stored individually. You may also store your jewelry in a pouch, or small plastic baggie. Store earrings so that each one has its own baggie or pouch. This way you avoid scratching stones or metal. When you store a pendant on a thin chain, let the chain dangle outside of the pouch or baggie and then close it, this method will keep it from tangling. Keep your jewelry in a cool, dry place. Overly heated or frigid environments are not good for jewelry.

Pearls, Opals and Other Special Cases

Some gemstones are more sensitive than others and require the “very important jewelry” treatment. Pearls, opals, moonstones and emeralds fall into this category. With these stones it is imperative to avoid exposure to chemicals, ultrasonic or steam cleaners to avoid damage.

Pearls are not a stone, they are organic matter,  and they are quite soft and delicate. Clean pearls with a soft barely damp lint free cloth. Then wipe them down with a soft dry, lint free cloth. If you are cleaning a pearl strand do not get it wet as it can ruin the necklace. If the string gets wet, there is the possibility that it could mold and also cause the pearls to mold. When wearing pearls put them on after you have applied your beauty products as they can damage the pearls. When storing pearls make sure that they do not rub against each other as it can ruin their luster.

Opals are very delicate. Opal is made primarily of silica and water, making it very susceptible to changes in temperature. If opals are stored in a place that is too hot, they will dry out and crack. So it is especially important to keep them in a cool, but not cold, place. It is okay to clean opals with room temperature slightly soapy water and dry thoroughly.

Emeralds have many fissures that occur naturally and are part of the beauty of the stone. They are generally treated with an oil to fill in the fissures. The oil can dry out if not stored properly away from heat.

Moonstones like temperatures to be stable. Temperatures that change suddenly or are too hot, may cause a moonstone to break.

One of the best ways to keep your antique, vintage, or contemporary jewelry at its beautiful best: Make it the last thing you put on when you get dressed and the first thing you take off when you get undressed. With proper care, your jewelry will last you a lifetime and the lifetime of generations to come.

Authored by Amber Michelle

How to Wear Antique Jewelry in the Modern World

Turquoise, diamond and gold necklace, diamond and gold earring, Victorian era.

Georgian and Victorian jewelry comes from eras rich in history that give us a glimpse into the lives of those who lived during that time, how they dressed and the meaning behind the jewelry that they wore. Despite being a couple of hundred years or more later, a good deal of jewelry made during those times is available today and it’s more wearable than you might think. To show us how to best wear antique jewelry with today’s fashions and contemporary jewelry, we spoke to New York-based antique jewelry dealer, Dana Kiyomura, who founded Keyamour in 2015, a curated collection of period antique fine jewelry from the Georgian era to contemporary signed jewelry.  

Kiyomura’s first piece of advice when adorning yourself with antique jewelry is to have fun. “Purchase what speaks to you and your aesthetic,” she advises. “Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.”

Some antique jewelry may seem overly elaborate for today’s lifestyle. If you do happen to have an ornate piece, Kiyomura suggests keeping the focus on one piece. “If you have an elaborate necklace wear it with small cluster earrings or diamond solitaire studs,” says Kiyomura, who found herself drawn to how jewelry and fashion intersect while she was earning a degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley. “If you’re one of those cool girls, wear it with jeans.”

Green “paste” stone and gold necklace, gold, pearl, diamond and ruby locket, Victorian era.

Like today, long gold chain necklaces were very fashionable in both the Georgian and Victorian eras. Many of these chains are surprisingly light and easy to wear. Make them modern by layering long necklaces together in varying lengths. Kiyomura recommends adding in pendants and lockets — contemporary or vintage — to further personalize your look.  Want to keep it really simple? Knot the chain and wear it long and dangling.

Cartier enamel pansy brooch is attached to a long gold chain, amethyst choker, Victorian era.

Another great way to wear a long chain according to Kiyomura is to double it and add a brooch by carefully sliding the pin of the clasp through the chain links. Wear the chain with the brooch on the side and you’ll be the chicest person in the room. “It’s more fun to wear the brooch on the side, then it becomes more than just a pendant. If you want to add more than one brooch, cluster them together on the chain,” says Kiyomura, who was a buyer at CIRCA and the director of acquisitions at New York City-based vintage jewelry retailer Fred Leighton, prior to founding her company.

Amethyst necklace and green stone necklace, Victorian era.

Colored gemstone necklaces were popular choices in Georgian and Victorian jewelry and there are many fabulous pieces to collect. You can of course, wear one, but if you’re feeling a bit more daring, add a second necklace in another color. “All the colors were complimentary in that era,” comments Kiyomura. “What’s important is to match the hues and tones of the gems. Also, the length matters, the necklaces need to nest correctly.”

Amethyst choker, Victorian era.

Chokers were also a popular necklace style during parts of the Georgian and Victorian eras. Wear them as is, or layer a choker with a long chain.

Many of us have a contemporary diamond solitaire necklace in our jewelry box and you may be wondering if it’s okay to wear it with antique styles. “Layer it with chains, complement it with a short colored stone necklace, or wear it with great earrings,” says Kiyomura, who spent three years working in the jewelry department at Christie’s auction house in Los Angeles.

Gold, amethyst and diamond long earrings, Victorian era.

Earrings are a lovely way to draw attention to your face in a very stylish way. There are all kinds of antique earrings to choose from, many of which make a big statement. Some are long with lots of movement and are very dramatic. In keeping with her philosophy of having one piece of jewelry as your focal point, Kiyomura suggests wearing those earrings with no necklace, but instead wear a big bracelet and rings to balance the earrings and to avoid looking overdone. “Victorian earrings have everything,” notes Kiyomura. “They have length, color, movement and shape.”

Long earring has detachable top that may be worn for day, add the bottom back for a more glamorous night look, Victorian era.

Another popular earring style in antique jewelry is the day/night earring. As the name suggests these earrings do double duty. The bottom will detach leaving a smaller top that is the perfect adornment for day, re-attach the lower half for instant night time glam.

Gold and ruby buckle bracelet, enamel and gold buckle bracelet, Victorian era.

It’s always fun to have a wrist party and Kiyomura has a couple of pointers for wearing bracelets. “A lot of people wear big watches. I like to wear bracelets on the other wrist to avoid damaging either the watch or the bracelet. You can wear a thin chain next to a watch. If you want to stack bracelets, stick to a theme, such as bracelets that have a buckle motif.”

Diamond cluster ring, Georgian era, enamel and gold mourning rings, Victorian era.

Rings are one of the most worn pieces of jewelry and they were beloved by Georgians and Victorians. Rings can be worn on any finger and Kiyomura notes that a big cluster ring is a great focal point. She also notes that stacking rings from one time period is a good way to wear multiple rings.  Engagement rings have their own way of being worn. Kiyomura explains that many antique rings are large with different shapes and a wedding band doesn’t always sit flush with the engagement ring. To resolve this issue, she advises wearing the wedding band on your left hand ring finger and the engagement ring on the right hand.

“Have fun and experiment with length and color,” concludes Kiyomura. “Have one piece or type of  jewelry as your focal point and don’t over-do it. As Coco Chanel said, ‘before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’”

All images courtesy Keyamour, jewelry is available on the Jewelers Circle.

Authored by Amber Michelle

Jewels of the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Treasures from the Worcester Art Museum

Ball Bead Necklace, ancient Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, about 1980–1760 BCE, blue faience beads, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection, 1925.632-1925.634. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.

Magical and mystical, ancient Egypt has intrigued and inspired jewelry designers throughout history. November 2022 marks one hundred years since Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt. To coincide with this momentous event, the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) presents a new exhibition — “Jewels of the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Treasures from the Worcester Art Museum” on display through January 29, 2023.

The foundation of the exhibition is the extraordinary assemblage of ancient Egyptian jewelry from Kingsmill Marrs and Laura Norcross Marrs. This collection was gifted to WAM (located in Worcester, Massachusetts) in 1925 – 1926 by Mrs. Marrs. The couple was close friends with Howard Carter, who helped them acquire what is one of the foremost collections of Egyptian jewelry in the United States. The Marrs collection has over 300 pieces that will be on display for the first time, although part of the collection was briefly on display at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. The collection is augmented with pieces from WAM’s permanent Egyptian collection, private loans, as well as seven objects on loan from Tiffany & Co.

The Marrs’ lived in a time when people traveled to Egypt and picked up antiquities during their trip. Some people had the pieces mounted in modern settings, others took them to a jeweler who made imitations of ancient Egyptian designs. “The Marrs’ were minimalists in their approach to design. The antiquity was the most important part for them,” says Yvonne Markowitz, the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator Emerita of Jewelry, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who is co-curator of the exhibition along with Peter Lacovara, Director of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage Fund. “They already knew Carter, who was British, before he discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb.” Carter, who moved to Egypt when he was 18, initially made a living as a watercolor artist, documenting Egypt’s glorious past. Before long, he turned his attention to archeology, earning the respect of seasoned excavators.

Building the Marrs’ Egyptian Collection

Gold Ring of Sekhmet, ancient Egyptian, New Kingdom, about 1539–1077 BCE, gold, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection, 1926.97. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.

Carter first met the Marrs’, who were from prominent Massachusetts families, in 1908 during one of their trips to the Middle East. At the time, Carter was painting watercolors of Egyptian tombs and temples. The couple purchased six of his watercolors over the next decade. In addition, he advised the Marrs on collecting Egyptian antiquities. “Howard Carter would take the Marrs’ to see dealers from whom they could buy pieces. In the WAM Archives, there are comments on these pieces as to their findspots along with clues as to how the pieces might have been worn,” notes Markowitz. “It is the extra information provided by Howard Carter and dealers that makes the Worcester Art Museum collection so important.”

Most of the Marrs Egyptian collection consists of necklaces, finger rings, bracelets, anklets, scarabs and amulets. An entire section of the exhibition is dedicated to amulets. In addition to jewelry, the pair also acquired stone and glass vessels, cosmetic equipment and funerary objects . The collection spans almost two thousand years from the Old Kingdom (circa 2543-2118 BCE) through the Roman Period (circa 30 BC – AD 395).

“The building blocks of Egyptian jewelry basically consists of beads and amulets,” says Markowitz. “In many ways, the jewelry worn in ancient Egypt has much in common with contemporary jewelry. For example, around 2000 BC (the Middle Kingdom), it was fashionable to wear ball-bead necklaces of one color—today you could browse the jewelry display at Macy’s and find something very similar.”

Lapis Lazuli Scarab Ring, ancient Egyptian, scarab: New Kingdom, about 1539–1077 BCE; gold mount: 1700s, lapis lazuli and gold, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection, 1926.79. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.

Beads and amulets were the most important jewelry forms worn in ancient Egypt and both categories had symbolic meanings unique to the culture. For example, “the Sacred Eye of Horus was a popular motif in ancient Egyptian jewelry,” comments Markowitz. “Its representation was symbolic of the falcon-god Horus, whose eye was injured in a battle. The eye self-healed and for the ancient owner, wearing the Eye of Horus placed you under the protective power of a mighty deity.  It’s similar to how a person would wear a cross, or St. Christopher medal today.”

Scarabs were another important amuletic form in the Nile Valley and “The Sacred Beetle” section of the exhibition explores their role in Egyptian culture. The ancients believed that scarabs — a species of the dung beetle — had magical powers. Jewelry with scarab motifs were abundant throughout the long course of dynastic history and were thought to bring renewed life and protection to both the living and dead. The power of scarab jewelry was often enhanced by the magical inscriptions, emblems and pictorial images that were added to their flat bases (undersides).

Jewelry Making in Ancient Egypt

String of Poppy and Palmette Pendants, Ancient Egyptian, New Kingdom, about 1539-1077 BCE, carnelian and glass frit, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection. 2001.118. Photo courtesy Worcester Art Museum.

According to Markowitz, a lot of the jewelry making techniques, which are showcased in the sections on “Crafting Ancient Egyptian Jewelry: The Materials and Technologies,” are the same today as they were in the ancient world. “Typically, the ancient artisan hammered a clump of gold until it became flat and thin. The sheet metal would then be cut with a hardstone or metal blade and then hand-formed or pressed in a mold to achieve the desired shape. The various shapes would then be assembled and soldered to complete the ornament.  Many three-dimensional forms, especially funerary items, were hollow or filled with a resin to make the objects more durable. The ancients also used the lost wax casting method for creating solid objects although this technique was considered wasteful of precious metal,” Markowitz explains.

Gemstones were also used in jewelry, but not in the same way that we use them today. Markowitz notes that the ancient Egyptians never missed an opportunity to interpret the natural world in symbolism. This meant that not only was the imagery of a piece important, but so were the materials used in jewelry’s manufacture. Stones and colors were imbued with meaning. “Wearing gold invoked the power of the sun, which symbolized rebirth and resurrection,” comments Markowitz. “The green of amazonite reflected the regenerative power of nature and red was symbolic of the dynamic, life-giving properties of blood. Many amulets were often associated with a specific color. For example, representations of the goddess Isis were often made of reddish carnelian — that was her color.”

Skilled lapidaries were important players in ancient Egyptian jewelry-making. Markowitz notes that they did not facet stones, but used cabochons because the dome-shaped cut makes the hue more intense. The Egyptians didn’t particularly care for transparent stones, preferring more translucent gems. Generally, the Egyptians liked stones of uniform color and favored carnelian, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and amazonite.

Another important material used in ancient Egyptian jewelry was faience, a man-made quartz-based ceramic. In antiquity faience was considered to have other-worldly, magical properties. “Faience may be molded by hand and glazed or self-glazed by the addition of an oxide pigment to the mixture. Surprisingly, an amazing amount has survived in good condition,” comments Markowitz.

Egyptian Revival

Amethyst necklace, Ancient Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, amethyst beads and amulets, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection. 2001.135. Photo courtesy Worcester Art Museum.

The exhibition also features a section on “Re-imagining the Past: Egypt and its Revivals.” This section of the exhibition examines how various events in Egypt attracted the attention of the world. The making of the Suez Canal in 1860 and of course, the 20th century discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb contributed greatly to an interest in all things Egyptian. After the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, interest in everything Egyptian was so intense that the press came up with the term “Egyptomania” to describe the frenzy.

One of the most exciting sections of the exhibition is the Discovery Area at the end. In this area, visitors can virtually try on jewelry from the exhibition as well as smell the luxurious fragrances that the ancient Egyptians used to make their perfumes and cosmetics.

“The ancient Egyptians created ornaments of outstanding quality and timeless appeal,” concludes Markowitz  “With this exhibition, we are providing an opportunity for the modern viewer to enter into the lives of an ancient people through some of their most personal objects, and to witness their enduring impact on our understanding of beauty several millennia later.”

Featured image (top of page): Brooch featuring an Ancient Scarab in a Modern Winged Mount, scarab is ancient Egyptian, (scarab) New Kingdom, about 1539–1077 BCE; (gold mount) early 1900s, glazed steatite and gold (modern), Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection, 1926.86. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.

Authored by Amber Michelle

Cartier Exhibition at Dallas Museum of Art

One of the most important and influential jewelry design houses of the 20th century, Cartier has fascinated and intrigued jewelry aficionados with its innovative designs and the superb quality of its fabrication.

Now the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) presents “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity”, through September 18, 2022. The exhibition explores how Cartier’s designers adapted forms and techniques from Islamic art, architecture, and jewelry, as well as materials from India, Iran, and Arab countries, synthesizing them into a recognizable, modern stylistic language unique to Cartier.

“Cartier and Islamic Art”, is co-organized by the DMA and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre and with the support of Maison Cartier. The exhibition brings together over 400 objects from the holdings of Cartier, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris), the Musée du Louvre, the Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, and other major international collections.

“The design strategies in this exhibition—motif, pattern, color, and form—reveal the inspirations, innovations, and aesthetic wonder present in the creations of the Maison Cartier. Focused through the lens of Islamic art, the designs reveal how the Maison migrates and manifests these styles over time, as well as how they are shaped by individual creativity,” said Sarah Schleuning, The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the DMA. Schleuning is co-curator of the show along with Dr. Heather Ecker, the former Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the DMA; Évelyne Possémé, Chief Curator of Ancient and Modern Jewelry at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; and Judith Hénon, Curator and Deputy Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Paris and Islamic Art

“Cartier and Islamic Art” takes a look back at the cultural context of Paris in the late 1800s and early 1900s and explores the Islamic influence on Cartier design during that period. The exhibition also looks at the role of Louis Cartier, who was a collector of Islamic art and how it inspired him. Louis was a partner in the Cartier Paris branch and eventually became director.

Bazuband upper arm bracelet, Cartier Paris for Cartier London, special order, 1922. Platinum, old-cut diamonds. Cartier Collection. Nils Herrmann, Cartier Collection ©Cartier

During the early 1900s, Paris was a hub for Islamic art. Two major exhibitions of Islamic art were held in Paris, one in 1903 and the other in 1912 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.  Another exhibition of masterpieces of Islamic art was on display at the Munich Museum in 1910. All three exhibitions were major sources of  inspirations for Louis Cartier. During the early 1900s, Cartier was making jewelry in the garland style that was popular during the Edwardian era. However, Cartier wanted to expand the firm’s design vocabulary. The Cartier design team looked to new influences to inspire their designs, including Japanese textiles, Chinese Jade, Indian jewelry and the art and architecture of the Islamic world. Louis Cartier also examined his own personal collection of Persian and Indian paintings, manuscripts and other luxury objects for inspiration. All of these influences resulted in a new style of jewelry, known as ‘styles modern’, which later became known as Art Deco.

Source of Inspiration

Tiara, Cartier Paris, special order, 1914. Platinum, blackened steel, diamonds, rubies. Cartier Collection. Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection ©Cartier

The exhibition not only showcases jewelry and other objets, but also takes a look at the source of inspiration for the pieces, allowing visitors to see the jewels in a whole new way. The jewelry is displayed with historic photographs, design drawings, archival materials and works of Islamic art that include items shown in the Paris and Munich exhibitions and from Louis Cartier’s personal collection.

The exhibition is brought to life through digital technologies that provide insight into the creative process at Cartier. It showcases the original source object to its adaptation as a jewelry design and to its fabrication in precious stones, metal and other organic materials.

Sumptuous Cartier jewels, drawings and archival photographs are compared and contrasted to examples of Islamic art that have similar forms and ornaments. The result highlights the inspiration and adaptation along with the recombination of motifs that came from Islamic sources in Cartier’s jewelry designs. Motifs include geometric and naturalistic forms and Chinese designs that were naturalized in the Islamic lands under the Mongol and Timurid rulers in the Middle East and India since the 13th century.

Travels with Jacques

Cigarette case, Cartier Paris, 1930. Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, diamond. Cartier Collection. Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection ©Cartier

In addition to scholarly influences, real life also inspired Cartier jewelry design. Jacques Cartier, the younger brother of Louis, traveled to India and Bahrain where he discovered new materials to use in Cartier creations including carved emeralds and engraved colored gemstones, which were imported by the Maison. New ideas also came from Jacques’ travels including unusual color combinations and new techniques in jewelry construction, especially the innovative tutti frutti style.

The look back at the creation of Cartier’s visual vocabulary and the influences from Islamic art show how some of the firm’s most iconic styles evolved.

“For over a century, Cartier and its designers have recognized and celebrated the inherent beauty and symbolic values found in Islamic art and architecture, weaving similar elements into their own designs. This bridging of Eastern and Western art forms speaks exactly to the kinds of cross-cultural connections the DMA is committed to highlighting through our programming and scholarship,” concludes Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “Not only does this exhibition present our audiences with the opportunity to explore Cartier’s dazzling designs, but it also spotlights the strength of our powerhouse Islamic Art and Decorative Arts and Design departments, as well as those of our colleagues at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Louvre.”

Featured image (top of page): Bib necklace, Cartier Paris, special order, 1947. Twisted 18-karat and 20-karat gold, platinum, brilliant- and baguette-cut diamonds, one heart-shaped faceted amethyst, twenty-seven emerald-cut amethysts, one oval faceted amethyst, turquoise cabochons. Cartier Collection. Nils Herrmann, Cartier Collection ©Cartier

Authored by Amber Michelle

7 Tips for Taking Great Jewelry Photos With Your Phone

Instagram, Facebook, websites, the list of places to post photos of your jewelry is growing. You want people to see how beautiful your pieces are, so you need great photography but you’re also not a professional photographer. So what do you do? Take it yourself, which is not as terrifying as it sounds. There are two aspects to taking a great photo — the technical aspect and the compositional aspect. Technical is working the equipment (it sounds more daunting than it is) and compositional, which  is how you want the finished photo to look.

Jewelers Circle has compiled a list of tips to help you take the best possible pictures. We’re using the iPhone as an example in this blog, but these tips can be applied to any photos that you may want to take with your phone. While these tips will help you to improve your photography, it is still not a substitute for a professional image taken in a photo studio with optimal lighting conditions, which really capture the sparkle of diamonds and the nuances of colored gemstones.

1. Get to Know Your Phone Camera

Before you even take the first photo, play with the camera on your phone. Check out the different features that you use to change lighting or format. To really learn to use the camera in your iPhone optimally, spend a bit of time experimenting with the different features on your phone camera. The best way to learn about all the features on your phone is to go to a website that will give you detailed instructions such as support.apple.com, or macpaw.com. A quick Google search on how to take photos with your phone will turn up other helpful information as well.

2. Set Aside Some Time

Taking photos with your phone will take time. Set aside an hour or more of uninterrupted time when you can really focus on what you’re doing. Keep in mind that a good part of taking a fabulous photo is in the set up so it’s worth taking the time to make sure all is in place before you start clicking the camera.

3. Clean the Jewelry

When you feel comfortable using the camera on your phone, choose the pieces of jewelry that you want to photograph. Clean the jewelry — metal and stones — before you photograph it. The camera is very sensitive and may pick up dust or fingerprints. Also, be sure to clean the lens on your phone camera before you start clicking away.

4. Styling Your Photos

When you are ready to start photographing your jewelry, find a place where you can set up a “mini photo studio”. It can be anywhere, but preferably next to, or near, a natural source of light.

A white background will give you a minimalist gallery-like background. This is a good choice for images on a website. A black background adds drama to an image.

Decide how you want the jewelry to look. This is a multipart process. Determine if you want to stick with a basic white background, or black background. You can create a gallery feeling on your Instagram or website by using all white backgrounds. The jewelry will pop and you will have a very clean, minimalist feeling to your photos. This is a good option for jewelry with intricate design or lots of detail and color. Using a black background will create a sense of drama and will also have a gallery feeling to it. Make sure that whatever you use for a background is clean and dust free. If you use a black velvet jewelry tray, use a lint roller to pick up the dust, which will for sure show up in your photo if you don’t remove it.

Alternatively, you may want to add some backgrounds for a customized look, or to set a mood for a piece. These types of images tend to be especially nice for use on social media. The background possibilities are endless. You can use a crystal geode and drape a piece across it, make a pile of mulch and moss and rest a brooch on it, or find a nice fabric and photograph on top of that, use leaves, flowers or feathers. It’s best to experiment and test backgrounds and props to make sure that they work well with the piece. The jewel should be the focus, the background should be just that — a background that supports the beauty of your jewelry. Sometimes you may find something that you think will be a fabulous background, but then it doesn’t look right. It can also work the other way, something that seems like a “maybe it will work and maybe it won’t” can end up looking fantastic. The only way to really know is to try it.

Photograph pieces on a person, it shows scale of the piece and lets people see how the piece sits when it is on,  jewelry courtesy Paul Fisher.

It’s also very helpful to see a piece of jewelry being worn. So if you can get some selfies of you wearing the piece, fabulous, or get someone to model the jewelry while you take the images. When you do a model shot, stay focused on the jewelry, you do not need to show faces – an ear with an earring, the neck with a necklace, the wrist with a bracelet and the hand with a ring is all you really need. Brooches placed on a piece of clothing that is being worn in the photo is also a great way to show off a piece.

5. Compose Your Shot

Use props to add visual interest and to create a story with your jewelry, gold dance card, courtesy Paul Fisher.

Compose your shot so that it looks interesting. If you have a long necklace for example, show just a part of the chain and showcase the focal point of a pendant or front of the necklace. If the chain is an important design element to the piece, you can also swirl the chain, or put it in a zig-zag pattern to add visual interest. With earrings consider putting them at slightly different heights rather than lined up next to each other. A ring can stand up on its shank, or lay down, bracelets can be clasped and shown in a circle, or if it has a detailed pattern you may want to unclasp the bracelet and lay it flat and show an up close look at the design. Play around and see what works best.

When using props, make sure they don’t distract from the piece of jewelry. In this photo the cup is too much in the forefront and the metal in the necklace picked up the pink from the cup. Both should be avoided.

A couple of hints: When you take the picture, make sure that there are no stray objects in the photo that you don’t want to be there. Clear the space where you are taking the image so that there is nothing that can get into the shot that shouldn’t be there. For example, you don’t want your feet in the shot, your hair, or that ugly chair you’ve been meaning to throw out. Make sure that the entire piece is in the image. Do not cut off the sides, top or bottom of the piece. Be creative and go close on one section of a piece to show details and use that as a second image for a post.

6. Lighting

If the image is too light, the jewelry looks washed out, if the image is too dark, there won’t be enough contrast in the piece to show it well. The right lighting will showcase the piece optimally.

Get your phone as close as possible to the jewelry without getting so close that you go out of focus and the shot gets blurry. Lock in the piece of jewelry that you are photographing by tapping the screen in the place where you want to focus on the jewelry. When you tap the screen the camera will automatically focus on that area and it will now have a yellow box outline around the area where you want to focus. The iPhone camera will automatically lock in on that area. Now you can adjust the lighting. Next to the yellow box is a sun icon. Move the sun icon up or down and it will lighten (slide up)  or darken (slide down) the image. It’s a good idea to spend some time on getting the lighting right as that is what can make or break a photo.

Also, check your images to make sure they are not blurry. Sometimes the blur comes when you are trying to get a close-up of the piece and you get too close. That will blur the shot, pull back a bit to get refocused for a sharper image.

7. Take Several Shots

You’ve cleaned the jewelry and camera lens, you’ve created your set, preferably near a natural light source and you know how you want to style the jewelry. Now that you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to take the actual photo. Take a bunch of photos of each piece from different angles and with different lighting. Change the height of your phone when you’re taking pictures. Most of the time we shoot from chest height, lower the phone to get a different angle. For a close-up move as close as possible to the piece of jewelry rather than using the zoom feature, which may distort the image. You can take the picture with the on-screen button that you tap, or click the volume up button on your phone, which will help to avoid camera shake that may cause the image to blur.

You’ll need to take a few shots to get what you want. Then decide which one you like best and use that one. Remember, even the pros have to take multiple images to get the desired result.

Now that you have a few basic pointers to get you started with your jewelry photography, experiment with different ideas, backgrounds and lighting. It takes practice to get comfortable taking pictures and it takes even more practice to hone your skills so that you can take a great picture. Play around and try different things, if it doesn’t work, no big deal, just delete the image and move on to the next shot. A final hint: Be creative and have fun.

Featured image (top of page): Use props to add visual interest and to create a story with your jewelry, gold dance card, courtesy Paul Fisher.

Authored by Amber Michelle

Platinum: The Mysterious Metal

Through much of its history platinum has intrigued, baffled, flummoxed and fascinated scientists and alchemists until this noble metal was finally tamed at the turn of the 20th century. Since that time it has become a favored precious metal used in some of the finest jewelry.

The first platinum discoveries were found 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Traces of platinum were found in gold that was used in caskets in Thebes, which archeologists believe was a natural element in the gold that came from Nubia at that time. Meanwhile, half way around the world, the South Americans were creating ceremonial jewelry and objects for ritual use out of platinum (probably mixed with an alloy) that can be dated back to 100 B.C.

Platinum and the Conquistadors

Platinum didn’t really get much play until the 1500’s when the Spanish conquistadors landed in South America searching for gold. Instead they found platinum, but they thought it was silver and tossed it aside. The conquistadors named this new metal “platina del Pinto” — little silver of Pinto river, which is the name of the river in Colombia where the platinum was found.

In 1557, Julius Caesar Scaliger, an Italian-French scientist analyzed a bit of the mystery metal from South America and found that it was not silver and that it wouldn’t melt.  According to some scientists, Scaliger was the first to make any written mention of platinum.  Not too much happened with platinum until the 1700s  because no one really knew what to do with it. The high melting point of 3,214 degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison, gold has a melting point of 1,947 degrees Fahrenheit) made it difficult if not impossible to work with the metal.

A Platinum Expedition

In the 1740s, Antonio de Ulloa, a Spanish scientist went on an expedition to South America. When he returned to Spain, de Ulloa described platinum and the challenges that the metal presents. During the same decade, Charles Wood, a Jamaican metallurgist studied platinum even smuggling some of the metal into England. He continued his experiments with platinum and came to the conclusion that it was a new metal. In 1750, Wood presented his evidence to the Royal Society of England.  

Wood’s findings were supported by a Swedish scientist Henrik Teofilus Scheffer, who in 1751 presented a paper to the Swedish Academy of Sciences, once more describing the difficulty of working with platinum, but more Importantly identifying it as a precious metal.

Platinum was making news and getting all kinds of attention including from France’s King Louis XV, who announced that it was the only metal fit for a king. This of course, sparked more interest in this intriguing metal. Scientists, alchemists and metallurgists were all focused on one thing: How to make platinum melt. Finally, in the latter half of the 1700’s some scientists figured out how to make very small amounts of the metal liquify. While not a definitive answer at the time, it was a step in the right direction.

The Platinum Age of Spain

Meanwhile, King Charles III of Spain, created a lab for French chemist Pierre-Françoise Chabaneau, who is widely credited as being the first person to figure out how to make platinum malleable enough to use. Chabaneau managed to remove trace elements from platinum and by 1786 he had figured out how to make platinum malleable. King Charles III, however, made sure that the information stayed in Spain, by issuing a royal order that the process was to remain secret. This event debuted the Platinum Age of Spain, during which time malleable platinum was produced in some quantity and sold. This went on until the Napoleonic Wars in 1808, which shut down the industry in Spain.

However, some big steps forward had occurred for platinum. King Charles III commissioned a platinum chalice for Pope Pius VI, which was presented to him in 1789. At the same time the jeweler for King Louis XVI, Marc-Ettienne Janety acquired some malleable platinum from Chabaneau and used it to make buttons, watch chains and other small items.

In 1804, two British chemists, Smithson Tennant and William Hyde Wollaston, figured out how to make larger quantities of platinum malleable. This allowed jewelers to create small, simple pieces of jewelry such as cufflinks. By the end of the 1890’s, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier Paris were both creating jewelry using platinum as was Fabergé.

High heat blow torches became available in the early 20th century that gave jewelers the ability to create lacy, lightweight intricate jewelry from this most precious metal. The white metal was the perfect complement to the white on white look of diamonds and pearls that was the height of fashion in the Edwardian era. Platinum retained its popularity throughout the Art Deco era, but its use in jewelry came to a halt when it was declared a strategic metal and reserved for military use during World War II.

Platinum had a resurgence of popularity in the 1950s when formal jewelry was the style. It fell out of favor during the next three decades and then in the 1990s platinum made a comeback, mainly in bridal and continues to be on trend today, especially in high jewelry.

All jewelry featured in this blog can be found on The Jewelers Circle.

Featured image (top of page): Aquamarine, diamond and platinum brooch, circa 1935, courtesy L’Epoque D’Or.

Authored by Amber Michelle

10 Tips for Evaluating Antique Jewelry

Floral motif Victorian era silver topped gold brooch, en tremblant, set with old mine and rose cut diamonds, converts to hair ornament, French assay marks, infitted case by Henri Blanc Paris. Courtesy, Gorky Antiquites.

Purchasing antique jewelry is a bit like going on a treasure hunt. Each piece is a little bit different, you never know what you’re going to find and of course you’ll know it when you see it. Once you find “the one” you want to be sure that the piece is what it is represented to be, that it is in fact a true antique jewel — which for the purposes of this blog is defined as through the late Victorian period — and not a reproduction.

The first thing you want to do is start by working with a reputable jewelry dealer or retailer. Always ask for any gemological reports and other paperwork that may help to authenticate a piece. While it takes an expert to verify the authenticity of an item, every jewel will give you clues to its background. First you have to know what to look for and then it’s a lot like playing  detective. Careful examination of a piece of jewelry from all angles is necessary. If you’re buying a very expensive or exceptionally rare piece of jewelry, then you may want to have it reviewed by a third-party, such as an appraiser, who does not have an interest in the sale of the jewel.

To help you get started in determining if a piece is worthy of a second opinion, Gail Brett Levine, GG, executive director of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) offers ten tips for determining if a piece of jewelry is actually an antique. “If you want to find out more about a piece, go to an appraiser who has a jewelry history background,” she advises.

Illustration of C Clasp, used in antique jewelry, image courtesy NAJA.

• A reproduction will normally have modern safety clasps and will not have handmade pin stem and joint tube hinges unless designed to defraud.  “In an antique brooch the pin stem will be considerably longer than the catch,” explains Levine. “The pin will go one-quarter to three eights of an inch over the outline of the brooch. These early clasps were C clasps with no safety catch. The extra length on the pin was there to catch the fabric so the brooch would be held in place more securely.”

• Look at the prongs on a piece for more clues as to its age. In old pieces prongs will be worn smooth. In a reproduction piece the prongs will be large, a bit chubby, and they will show no wear.

• Hinges on a reproduction bracelet will be “wiggly” and heavy. The snap will generally be a “two piece solder” rather than a one-piece bent over snap.

Illustration of 1880 threaded post, image courtesy NAJA.

• The backings of reproduction earrings will be post and friction nut style rather than post and screw nut style. In newly made pieces the post is smooth and the back, or nut, will slide right on to the post. In an antique piece, the nut or post will sometimes have threads, similar to a screw, and the nut will screw onto the post back.

• Threaded areas should show wear and tear in antique jewelry. “With repeated wear the threading on the nut will wear out. The hole in the nut will become enlarged and it doesn’t hold well anymore,” says Levine.

• There were no cultured pearls before approximately 1910. Additionally, cultured pearls were not widely available until the 1920s. The only way to determine if a pearl is natural or cultured is to  have it examined by a gemological laboratory. Older pieces will have handset pearls, where the post is fashioned to fit the drill hole of the pearl, rather than glued pearls.

• Reproduction chains do not show the wear and tear that old chains will show. “The links, especially larger links like you will see in Georgian era jewelry will show indentations in the metal from wear,” comments Levine. “The links on pieces that were worn a lot will rub against each other and you will be able to see an indentation that looks a like a woman’s hourglass figure.”

• In a modern piece you will often find the metal karatage stamped on or near the clasp. The clasps are generally finely made and they will have a tongue that fits into a groove to open and close the jewel. “On antique pieces the clasp is often bulky and thick,” says Levine. “For the most part if a piece of gold jewelry is stamped 18-karat it is European, if it is stamped 15-karat it was made in Britain, 15-karat gold is no longer made so that is an indicator of age. It was also possible to find 9-karat gold, or silver topped gold that made the gems shine more brightly.”

• Make sure that the gemstones — type and cut — and materials are typical of the period and style represented. Various gemstones were discovered at different points in time and some gems were not discovered until the 20th century — for example, there is no tanzanite in antique jewelry. “A good rule of thumb is that generally a sharp cornered or step cut stone will not be in an antique piece,” says Levine. “The technology for that type of cut did not exist at that time. If the piece has sharp corners it does not belong. You start seeing those angular cuts in jewelry starting in the 1920s.”

• Stamped markings for gold karatage will be too crisp and clean in a reproduction, but may be somewhat worn away in an older piece.   

Every piece of jewelry has a story to tell — including its own history. A careful examination of a jewel will tell you much about it, from whether or not it has been repaired, is a reproduction or even its approximate age.

Authored by Amber Michelle

It’s a Very Peri Year

From Left to Right: Pink sapphire, diamond and platinum ring from David Gross; Antique carved emerald, diamond, black onyx and 18-karat white gold pendant from Rawat Gems LLC; Mediterranean coral, diamond and 18-karat gold flower brooch/pendant, signed Van Cleef & Arpels, from Spectra Fine Jewelry, all on a Very Peri background.

Color surrounds us. It’s everywhere we turn and everywhere we look. Color has the ability to influence our feelings – it excites us or calms us. Color is very personal, everybody sees color slightly differently, but its impact is profound. Color speaks a language of its own and we use it to communicate a variety of messages, often unconsciously.

Each year the Pantone Color Institute™ chooses a Color of the Year. The color experts analyze trends from across all industries that influence culture and society including but not limited to films in production, travelling art collections, travel destinations and socioeconomic conditions. They also consider new technologies, social media platforms and even sports events that are global in nature. It’s a way to gauge the mood of the world and the color that best reflects that vibe.

Brand New Color

This year, for the first time, Pantone created a color specifically for 2022. That color, Very Peri, is defined by Pantone as “a dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivifying violet-red undertone that blends the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red.”

“Encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

According to the Institute, Very Peri is a reflection of the transformative times in which we are living, it combines the digital world with our physical lives. So how does Very Peri translate to jewelry?

For the most part, we won’t find gems in nature the color of Very Peri, probably the closest we’ll get is with iolite or a pale tanzanite. That being said, it’s a color that is in some ways surprisingly neutral allowing it to gracefully harmonize and contrast with a number of other hues.

Think pink — tourmalines, pink sapphires and pink diamonds that is. Those three stones are quite lovely with Very Peri as is amethyst, which pulls out the violet tones of the hue.

Contrasting Colors

Very Peri is described by the Institute as “displaying a carefree confidence and daring curiosity that animates our creative spirit…” For those of us who are adventurous in how we wear color, pair Very Peri with green hues. It’s periwinkle tones complement these verdant shades. Emeralds will look especially good with Very Peri, but if you like neon tones and you want to amp up your look, vibrant peridot will also be a lovely choice with this lively color as is the lush green of tsavorite garnet. For an unexpected twist, wear Very Peri with coral or citrine. It will be a more muted approach to color pairing, but one that is solidly on trend.

A Neutral Palette

Looking to add a little pop to your outfit? Very Peri adds that burst of color that takes black, grays, browns and taupe tones to a whole new level of cool when paired with this new shade. Gold chain link necklaces or bracelets will be a great match for this more neutral color palette. You can also style Very Peri with platinum. The noble metal’s cool tones, are complemented by the blue hues of Very Peri, worn together, the two are a modern and sophisticated combination.

“The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that color can hope to answer.” Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute said in a press release. “Creating a new color for the first time in the history of our Pantone Color of the Year educational color program reflects the global innovation and transformation taking place.”

Authored by Amber Michelle

New Jewelry Books on Bulgari & Cartier

From left to right: Cover for Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold published by © Rizzoli. Cover for Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects by François Chaille, © Flammarion, 2022.

For those of us who love reading about jewelry and looking at the wonderful images showcased in the pages of luxurious coffee table books, it is truly a treat when a new tome on the subject is published. Rizzoli and Flammarion have both recently published beautiful new books on two jewelry houses, one focusing on Bulgari the other on Cartier.

Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold

Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold is an ode to women. The new Magnicifa high-jewelry collection “pays tribute to the pioneering vision of indomitable women who blazed their own paths, broke boundaries or shattered cultural norms.” When stylist Tina Leung was approached to curate this book about the Magnifica collection, she knew it would be about magnificent jewelry, but as she writes in the book’s introduction, it is “A magnificent book about women for women by women.” 

The women who are Bulgari’s muses have also been instrumental in shaping a new perception of women based on their courage, resilience and talent. Although they come from many different backgrounds, the commonality between these women is that they have an innate ability to think outside the box and reimagine the future. 

There are three chapters in the book: The Head, The Heart and The Hands. Inside the pages, Bulgari creative director, Lucia Silvestri takes readers behind the scenes for a look at the inspiration and design surrounding the Magnifica collection. There are also poems throughout the tome written by DJ Mia Moretti for each chapter. Other women have also written essays in the book about being a woman and what that means and how society views women. Ultimately, of course, throughout the 208-page book there are pages and pages of fabulous color renderings of the pieces in the collection along with full color photos of the jewels once they were made.

Edited by Tina Leung, a fashion stylist known for her eclectic sense of style and work with luxury brands, the text is by Amanda Nguyen, Lucia Silvestri, Mia Moretti and Noor Tagouri. Jewelry photography by  © Bulgari and additional images by © Laura Sciacovelli

Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects

In Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects, author François Chaille explores a new collection of high jewelry and precious objects from the design house and how these pieces touch our senses and our hearts. The author suggests that as we view the jewelry it will be appreciated with our five senses and then one step beyond with our “sixth sense”.  The 256-page book, published by Flammarion and packed with 200 color images, showcases a number of historic pieces. It is divided into six chapters: The Beauty of Mystery, Dizzying Senses, Luxuriance, Beyond Compare, Optical Games, Animal Instinct and Alter Egos.

The jewelry is considered for how it speaks to our senses. Textured jewelry appeals to our sense of touch, while perfectly cut gemstones attract our sense of sight, for example. The book takes an in-depth look at Cartier’s best-known collections including Tutti-Frutti and Panthère.

The chapter “Dizzying Senses” discusses Tutti-Frutti jewels, pieces created from rubies, emeralds and sapphires carved as florals and leaves, accented with diamonds,  as the embodiment of texture and color. It details how the cacophony of colors and textures appeals to the senses with some people even “hearing sound” from the artfully jumbled array of colored gemstones. The look was inspired by the Mughal Maharajahs and their brightly hued carved gems. When Tutti-Frutti debuted in Europe it was a modern look for modern women, freed from the rules of earlier decades. There are some wonderful images of vintage Cartier Tutti-Frutti jewels included in this chapter.

The chapter “Animal Instinct” takes a deep dive into the renowned Panthère collection. It investigates the way panthers, and other Cartier jeweled animals appeal to our sixth sense, the knowing of the unknown. The cats were created to be anatomically correct in the way their muscles move, their facial expressions and even the way they pose. The cat theme was also referenced by gemstones used to replicate fur. Panthers are perhaps one of the best-known motifs from Cartier and this book showcases a satisfying menagerie of jewels — beyond panthers — and the inspiration behind them.

Author François Chaille has written 15 books about the history of art, fashion, horology and jewelry including Cartier: Creative Writing and Coloratura: High Jewelry and Precious Objects by Cartier.

Authored by Amber Michelle

Are Signed Jewelry Pieces More Valuable?

Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond and Platinum Snowflake Bracelet, Photo Courtesy: J. & S.S. DeYoung

When it comes to rare and exquisite vintage jewelry, signed pieces can be among the most sought after and hard to come by jewels. Those highly coveted pieces of signed jewelry are very desirable to collectors as well as to people who want an assurance that they are getting top quality gems, impeccable fabrication and stellar design. The right signature on the right jewel can also add a premium to the price of the piece.

“Signatures can add tremendous value,” comments Miami-based Steven Neckman of the eponymous firm. “If it’s a recognized signature it shows the quality of a piece. When a jewel is signed Tiffany & Co., Cartier, or Van Cleef & Arpels, you know it is well made and that they use quality stones. Generally, with signed jewelry it’s a given that the quality is excellent with strong design.”

New York-based dealer, Richard Buonomo, principle of the firm bearing his name, agrees that a signed piece of jewelry carries a guarantee of quality, prestige and value, but he notes that there are some caveats to a signature’s worth. “A piece is more rare if it is signed, it is scarcity that drives prices up,” says Buonomo. “Still a signature does not always mean much. Some pieces are so generic or have so little design that it doesn’t change the price much.”

The Status of a Signature

Beyond the precious metals, fabulous gemstones and intrinsic design value, people also want signatures to elevate their own status. “People have a desire to be associated with something that lifts them up in society and enhances their status. It’s a basic human instinct,” observes Janet Levy of J. & S.S. DeYoung, in New York City. “A piece of jewelry with a signature denotes both quality and status.”

But what if two pieces are comparable, essentially the same in terms of quality and styling, yet one is unsigned. How do you decide which piece to purchase? According to Neckman, a signed piece of jewelry is more marketable, but that can also vary depending upon how hot a name is in the current market, something which changes over time.

Certain signatures are always top of the list for those seeking signed pieces – Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston. But Levy has noticed that over the past ten or 15-years name recognition has increased for many other design firms and that has opened up the market significantly. “There is a much wider appreciation of special designers — Sterlé, Mellerio, Boivin. There were a lot of very refined French design houses and a circle of designers who were more art houses. That world has opened up a lot because people have found out about them online. Now people know names that they didn’t know 20-years ago.”

Vintage Versus Modern

According to Levy, the market for signed jewelry can be divided into two areas — modern and vintage. “If there is a quality signed vintage piece it will be more valuable because these pieces are no longer made and they are very collectable. There are more collectors now, so those pieces are harder to find and more valuable,” explains Levy. “With modern pieces the signature is tied to market demand or quality. The pieces are not as rare because they are in production. The value is influenced by how available and how much demand there is for a particular name.”

Neckman considers signed jewelry to be collectable art and notes that some artists are more valuable than others and cites Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulagri and Cartier as three current top sellers.  

“It’s not just a signature that adds value,” concludes Buonomo. “Some pieces of  jewelry are imbued with a certain character of design that is associated with that name. The jewelry will have all the characteristics of design, quality of materials and manufacturing. That’s when you have a perfect storm for everything to add value to the piece and that’s when you can charge more for the jewel.”

Authored by Amber Michelle