Insights

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

The Mod, Mod World of 1960s Jewelry

From left to right: Gold and turquoise bracelet, 1960s. Photo Courtesy: Charlotte Fine Jewellery. Pear and marquise shaped diamond earrings, 1960s. Photo Courtesy: J. & S.S. DeYoung. Coral, diamond and gold ring, 1960s. Photo Courtesy: Hancocks of London.

Organic Shapes, Abstract Forms, Yellow Gold, Turquoise, Coral, Texture, Mod, Pop Art, Hippies, The Great Society, Space Age, The Beatles and tremendous social change all defined the 1960s.

WHEN: 1960 to 1969. At the start of the 1960s John F. Kennedy had just been elected President, the look of the time was put together and ladylike with gloves, pillbox hats and a prim strand of pearls accessorizing a simple sheath dress or suit. By the end of the 1960s, hippies were taking to the streets to protest the Vietnam war. Bright colors, bold color blocking, miniskirts and go-go boots were of the moment and the bohemian look began to take hold as styles became more casual and free from the strict rules of earlier decades.

FAMOUS MAKERS: Cartier, John Donald, Andrew Grima, Jean Schulmberger for Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, Harry Winston

MOTIFS: Textured Gold, Space Age Influences, Flaming Stars, Animals, Birds, Flowers, Angular Shapes, Architectural, Asymmetrical 

THE LOOK: Textured yellow gold with bold color combinations, abstract, large-scale, chic and playful. Starbursts, sunbursts and other “space” themes. Cluster rings were popular with a large stone resting on top of a cluster of stones – often diamonds. Ballerina settings were also a favorite with a large center stone surrounded by diamonds — frequently baguettes — that appear to float like a dancer’s tutu, around the central gem.

MATERIALS: Yellow Gold, Silver, Turquoise, Coral, Sapphires, Rubies, Emeralds, Pear and Marquise Diamond Shapes, Cabochon Cut Gems, Baroque Pearls, Lapis and Other Hardstones, Sometimes Carved.

The 1960s were a time of unprecedented change. The U.S. and Russia were competing to see who could land on the moon first, civil rights were in the spotlight and the British Invasion saw rock ‘n roll rise to the top of the charts as the Beatles took over the world. And jewelry design reflected the times. The more formal matchy-matchy ladylike sets of the previous decade were being replaced with bigger, bolder more colorful jewelry that reflected a changing world that was more casual and incorporated influences from foreign lands. Unlike previous eras where there was jewelry that was for day and jewelry that was for night, the 1960s had more of an anything goes attitude and it became acceptable to wear any type of jewelry at any time.

Hollywood also put jewelry in the spotlight. In 1961, the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released. The iconic Fifth Avenue jeweler played its own part in the film and its star Audrey Hepburn wore the Tiffany Diamond on her press tour for the movie. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made headlines with their shopping sprees at Bulgari and other jewelry purchases. Harry Winston made its own press by loaning jewelry to movie stars for various events. These celebrity connections put jewelry front and center in the minds of consumers.

The diamond-centric look of the previous decade began to see color take centerstage. Like the changing times, 1960s jewelry saw a shift away from traditional faceted gemstones set in platinum or white gold and a movement to textured yellow gold set with colored gemstones. Cabochon cut colored gemstones became a popular choice in the 1960s, they had a “new, modern” feeling to them and they changed the look of a design. The smoothness of the cabochons provided a distinct contrast to the textured metals that embraced the stone. The combination of textured yellow gold and cabochon gemstones was a chic evolution in jewelry style. It fit the more casual dress code that was coming into play during that decade. It also put hardstones such as lapis lazuli and malachite — which are perfectly complemented by yellow gold — front and center. Oversized rings, bracelets and necklaces began to emerge.

Brooches were still in demand during the early 1960s but they were generally smaller than in previous eras. Birds, animals, flora and fauna as well as abstract shapes were all interpreted in a more playful manner. David Webb created many of his bejeweled creatures — frequently in the form of brooches — during the 1960s, which were wildly popular and are highly collectible.

By the end of the 1960s the Vietnam war was raging, psychedelia was everywhere and it was the “dawning of the age of Aquarius”.

Authored by Amber Michelle

The Wonder of Natural Pearls

Natural pearl and diamonds set in silver topped gold bangle, circa 1880, Photo Courtesy: Faerber-Collection.

In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra bet Roman general Marc Antony that she could host the most expensive dinner party ever. According to the story by Pliny the Elder, a Roman author and naturalist, when the two sat down to dinner, a cup of wine (or possibly vinegar) was placed on the table with one of two large natural pearl earrings that Cleopatra always wore. Cleopatra crushed the pearl, dropped it in the liquid and once it had dissolved, drank it. Needless to say, she won the bet. Pliny the Elder, considered to be one of the world’s first gemologists, noted that the pearls were highly valuable – worth what would be millions in modern dollars.

Reserved for Royalty

While pearls are found in abundance in today’s world, that was not always the case. Pearls were so rare at one time that they were reserved for royalty, no one else could really afford them. At the time, all pearls were natural so it took an accident of nature to create a pearl, there was no human intervention involved in the development of natural pearls.

These precious gems were formed when a speck of sand, or some sort of organic material found its way into a mollusk. The intruding matter irritated the mollusk and in order to soothe the irritation, the mollusk produced nacre to cover the offending material. As layers of nacre collect, a pearl is formed. Nacre is a combination of the mineral argonite, which is calcium carbonate, and conchiolion, a protein secreted by mollusks.

Most pearls on the market now are cultured. Cultured pearls come from pearl farms and they form when a technician places an irritant into the mollusk so that it will begin creating the nacre that forms the pearl. The mollusks are tended by the farmers who keep them safe from predators and make sure that the water has the proper nutrients. Cultured pearls are the reason that we have readily available access to these gifts from the water at an accessible price point.

While it’s easy enough to find cultured pearls now, finding those natural wonders before cultured pearls were developed was another matter. Pearl divers went deep into the waters — as far down as 100 feet — to find these treasures, sometimes not making it back to the surface. When a pearl was discovered it was cause for celebration, demand was high and pearls were scarce.  Natural pearls have always been rare and what you find on the market today is generally vintage making those pearls even more rare and expensive.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Natural Pearl

Among the best-known natural pearls is La Peregrina. The 50.56-carat pearl has a storied background. Said to have been found in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama, it was owned by the Spanish royal family for several generations and Britain’s Queen Mary I before finding its way into the jewelry collections of Joseph Bonaparte of France and later Prince Louis Napoleon of France as well as the British Duke of Abercorn. Eventually La Peregrina surfaced at an auction in New York City in 1969 where it was purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor. Ms. Taylor was a true jewelry connoisseur, whose vast collection was filled with outstanding pieces. She also liked a lot of bling, so in 1972, Ms. Taylor and Cartier designer Al Durante created a necklace with diamonds, rubies and cultured pearls to showcase La Peregrina. The necklace was sold at Christie’s New York in 2011 for $11.8 million.

The Baroda Pearls, another famous jewelry example of natural pearls, were among the most expensive jewelry items in the world at the time. The seven-strand natural pearl necklace was part of the collection of the Maharajah of Baroda, an important jewelry collector of the 1800s. The legendary pearls were widely chronicled at the time and were among the most expensive pieces of jewelry of the era. In 2007, the two remaining strands of the Baroda Pearls were auctioned off at Christie’s New York selling for $7 million.

How do you know if a pearl is natural? To verify that a pearl is natural it should be examined with the proper gemological equipment. If you’re considering purchasing a natural pearl, ask for a lab report from a reputable gemological laboratory for assurance that the pearls are what they are represented to be.

Authored by Amber Michelle

The Legendary Argyle Mine

Argyle Diamond Mine Processing Plant, Photo Courtesy: Rio Tinto. Argyle Pink Diamond, Photo Courtesy: LJ West Diamonds.

Deep in the wilderness, in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Aboriginal people pass down their history through oral storytelling. One of the stories, Barramundi Dreaming, is a mystical tale of how pink diamonds from the Argyle Diamond Mine got their color. According to folklore, three women were casting nets in the water to catch fish. In an effort to escape the nets, a barramundi fish jumped in the air and flew over the nets. In the process the fish dropped its scales in the water and on the rocks, which the legend says, turned into pink diamonds.

The Argyle diamond mine sits on land that belongs to the Miriuwong, Gidja, Malgnin and Wularr people who are the traditional custodians of this remote area. Diamonds were discovered in the region in 1979 and mining company Rio Tinto began operations at the Argyle Mine in 1983, leasing the land from its owners. The Argyle Pink Diamond Facility is located in Perth, Australia.

Surprise Discovery

During its 37-year lifespan, the mine produced some 865 million carats of rough diamonds. Most of the gems were lower quality brown or industrial diamonds. Then something unexpected and magical happened: Pink diamonds were discovered during production and through its lifespan the mine produced a steady supply of these gems in an extremely limited quantity. About one tenth of one percent of all of the diamonds found in the mine, were pink. Rarer still were red diamonds and even more rare – violet diamonds.

To put that in perspective, each year only about 50 to 60 pink diamonds were found in sizes above a half carat. Pink diamonds from the Argyle mine tend to range in size from 1 to 2-carats, with the very occasional gem reaching 3-carats. According to the miner, the gems are so rare that an entire year’s production of pink diamonds 1-carat and over would fit in the palm of your hand and it would take 15 years to collect enough pink diamonds to fill a champagne flute. Despite these strikingly small numbers, the Argyle mine produced 90 to 95 percent of the world’s pink diamonds. The remainder are found sporadically in Africa, Brazil and India.

Powerful Color

One of the attributes that sets Argyle pink diamonds apart from other pinks is their vibrant color. While they may be small, they have a powerful pop of color that ranges from soft powder puff pinks to vibrant fuchsias and magentas. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), pink diamonds get their color from a distortion in the crystal structure of the gem as it is forming possibly due to the intense heat and pressure of being forced to the earth’s surface. The shift in the crystal structure causes the diamond to reflect light differently resulting in the pink colors that we see.

The rough stones were cut in the Argyle Perth facility by highly-skilled master cutters who carefully cajoled the best color and most sparkle out of each gem. The internal structure of pink diamonds makes them more challenging to cut and the artisans who worked on those stones had to be patient. Due to their internal structure it takes about four times longer to cut one of these precious pinks than it does a white diamond. From the time the diamond is found until the polishing is finished takes over a year.

Pink Diamond Tender

Once the diamonds were ready to sell, the stones were collected into a tender that travelled to major cities in the world to be viewed by about 150 dealers, retailers and collectors at invitation only events. The stones were sold by sealed bid and Rio Tinto never revealed the prices paid. What we do know is that pink diamonds can easily sell for $1 million to $2 million per carat and we could see prices take a leap in the next few years. In November 2020, the Argyle mine ceased production and with its closure the world has lost its one source that provided a steady supply of pink diamonds.

Rio Tinto has helped its Argyle employees make career transitions and it is working with the Traditional Owners and local stakeholders to dismantle the mine and rehabilitate the land, a process that is expected to take about five years. Once it is complete the land will be returned to the Traditional Owners as the custodians of Country to use for cattle grazing, tourism, cultural use and possibly small-scale agriculture.

Authored by Amber Michelle

Creating a New Story

Raymond Yard Golfer Rabbit Brooch featuring a collection of Scott West Argyle Blue Diamonds set in platinum with diamonds and a ruby. Photo Courtesy: LJ West.

Colored diamonds are among the rarest and most sought after of all precious gemstones and their rarity desires to be showcased in special jewelry. Recognizing those facts, Scott West, executive vice president of colored diamond company LJ West, began to create jewelry using its vast inventory of extraordinary colored diamonds. But not just any design will do for these special sparklers. “Coming from a firm that specializes in colored diamonds, we wanted to make jewelry,” comments West. “We started looking at auctions and fell in love with different designers and eras. It’s not just about the look – it’s about how the piece is made and why it’s special.” 

The Raymond Yard Connection

West began searching for the right jewelers and partners to create jewelry inspired by the past, but made for the present. Enter the iconic Raymond Yard Rabbit pins. The rabbits were first introduced by Raymond Yard in 1928 and were composed of all white diamonds with colorful enamel details. As the series of rabbits evolved, Yard began adding in colored gemstones. Today those rabbits are being reimagined with colored diamonds in a collaboration between Raymond Yard and Scott West.

“We started working with Raymond Yard on the rabbits about three years ago,” recounts West, who is the third generation in the family business. “We used pink or blue diamonds from the Argyle Mine for the jackets on the rabbits. It’s an iconic piece with iconic stones.”

The colored diamond rabbits have gained even more importance since the Argyle Mine closed this past year and with its closure comes the end of a small, but steady supply of pink, blue and violet diamonds. “With Argyle closing, it’s impossible to find those stones,” says West, noting that LJ West is an authorized Argyle partner.

Design Fusion

West does create some pieces that are “inspired” by Art Nouveau or Art Deco designs. He does not try to make replicas of vintage pieces, but instead creates pieces in a modern way for today’s consumer.

Creating Art Nouveau inspired pieces in today’s world comes with its challenges. “You have to find the right jeweler with the right skills to make these pieces,” explains West, who has a background in engineering and also completed a diamond cutting program in Florida and earned his GD from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). “We have pieces made in New York City, Hong Kong and London. We searched the world for people with the right skill set to make these pieces.”

Art Nouveau jewelry tends to use quite a bit of enamel and West notes that getting the right colors of enamel was not always easy because some colors just aren’t made anymore and whatever is available is left over from many years ago. “Jewelry has always danced between an artisan showing beautiful sculpture or trying to showcase a stone,” says West, who notes that it took two years to create one pair of Art Nouveau earrings. “We build around the color of a stone, it’s a balance. We made a pair of Art Nouveau style earrings with a pink diamond. We wanted the pink diamond to stand out in the Art Nouveau earrings so we created an enameled pink sun.”

When it comes to Art Deco inspired pieces, West calls those designs a fusion. “We can be inspired to make an Art Deco piece the way it was made before, but we changed it some. Art Deco has angles, we softened the angles,” concludes West. “You can see the Art Deco inspiration, you can see how the elements of Art Deco, fashion and other components from today fuse.”

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

Tiffany & Co: An Iconic American Jeweler

Morganite brooch wrapped in diamonds and platinum, signed Tiffany & Co. France. Photo Courtesy: Spectra

Beyoncé croons Moon River to a rapt Jay-Z in the recently released “About Love” video from Tiffany & Co. that features the chanteuse wearing the famed Tiffany Diamond. The video showcases an iconic singer, wearing an iconic diamond from an iconic jeweler. So, how did Tiffany & Co. gain its status as one of the foremost American Jewelry Houses?

The story began in 1837 when Charles Lewis Tiffany and his business partner, John P. Young, opened a stationery store in lower Manhattan specializing in luxury goods including some jewelry. Originally named Tiffany & Young, the store was renamed Tiffany & Co. in 1853 when Charles Lewis Tiffany took over the business.

The retailer introduced American consumers to luxury when the firm sent out its first direct mail catalog in 1845 featuring a selection of upscale products. That catalog was the predecessor of the firm’s Blue Book, which to this day showcases extravagant gift ideas each holiday season.

However, what really put Tiffany & Co. on the map was diamonds, but not just any diamonds. In 1848, Tiffany & Young traveled to Europe. While on the Continent, they purchased a very large quantity of diamonds from the aristocracy and brought them back to New York. So many of the sparkling gems were purchased that the store had enough diamonds to supply the industrial barons and other wealthy Americans with a steady source of stones. It was the first time that Americans could easily purchase diamonds in the U.S. and the store became known as a diamond buying destination.

The Tiffany Diamond

Another big diamond milestone for the jeweler came when Tiffany & Co. bought a 287.42-carat rough yellow diamond that came from the famed Kimberley Mine in South Africa. Discovered in 1877, Tiffany purchased the rock in Paris the following year. The company’s chief gemologist George Frederick Kunz was in charge of cutting the diamond. The gem was transformed into a 128.54-carat cushion-cut diamond with 82 facets and is known for its spectacular sparkle and depth of color.

The Tiffany Diamond is currently on permanent display at the New York City Flagship store. For most of its life, the Tiffany Diamond has been in a showcase to be seen, but not worn. In fact, it has only been worn by four people: The socialite Mary Whitehouse who wore the jewel to a Tiffany Ball in 1957. It was next worn in 1961 by Audrey Hepburn as part of the press tour for her role in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. The gem went back into a showcase, until Lady Gaga donned the bauble 58 years later for the 2019 Academy Awards. Now in 2021, Beyoncé is adorned with the sparkler in the “About Love” video.

Tiffany Setting

As the diamond experts of the era, the company wanted to showcase the sparkling stones to maximum advantage and the Tiffany Setting was born. Introduced by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1886, the Tiffany Setting is one of the most renowned designs from the firm. At the time that it was introduced the Tiffany setting was very innovative. The diamond is set high and is held in place by six prongs allowing maximum light to flow through the stone to amplify its sparkle. To this day, the Tiffany Setting remains one of the most popular settings for a diamond engagement ring.

Soon after the introduction of the Tiffany Setting, the firm once again made headlines when Charles Lewis Tiffany bought the French Crown Jewels and made them into Tiffany pieces.

The headlines didn’t stop there, Tiffany & Co. won the grand prize for jewelry at the Paris Exposition in 1900, the first American company to be given that honor.

In 1902, Charles Lewis Tiffany passed away. His son, Louis Comfort Tiffany took over the firm. An artist in his heart and soul, Louis Comfort Tiffany became the company’s first design director, where he remained until his death in 1933. Inspired by nature with a particular passion for dragonflies, he was an influential designer and leader in the Art Nouveau movement. His jewelry, lamps and glass windows are showcased in museums and can occasionally be found for purchase.

In 1979, John Loring was hired as design director and he shaped the design direction of the firm for the next 40 years. During those years several jewelry designers brought their talents to the company including Jean Schlumberger, Donald Claflin, Angela Cummings, Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and architect, Frank Gearhy.

Introducing Colored Gemstones

In addition to its diamond expertise, Tiffany & Co. has been responsible for the introduction of a few colored gemstones. In 1903, the lovely pink stone kunzite was brought to market by Tiffany & Co. It was named after George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany & Co.’s staff gemologist. Several years later, the company introduced morganite, a peachy colored stone that is part of the beryl family. Kunz named the gem after the financier J.P. Morgan for his contributions to art and science and his donations to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Museum of Natural History in Paris.

In 1968, Tiffany & Co. launched Tanzanite, a blue-violet gemstone from Tanzania, found in the foothills of Mt. Kilamanjaro. Soon after, the retailer debuted tsavorite, a type of green garnet. The gem was named in honor of the Tsavo National Park on the border of Kenya and Tanzania where the stone was found. Thanks to Tiffany & Co. these gems can be found in a wide array of jewelry from various firms.

The Next Chapter

Throughout its history, Tiffany & Co. has been a leader in design and innovation. And with its storied history and global name recognition, Tiffany & Co. remains one of the most successful and prestigious American jewelry houses today. On January 7, 2021, luxury product group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, completed its acquisition of Tiffany & Co. marking the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the venerable retailer.

Authored by Amber Michelle

The Elegance of Edwardian Jewelry

Diamond and Platinum Edwardian Era Bow Brooch, Photo Courtesy: Paul Fisher, Inc.

Opulent, Refined, Luxurious, Lifestyles of the Rich and Royal, White, Platinum, Pearls, Diamonds all defined the Edwardian era.

WHEN: 1901-1915, the Edwardian era officially began during the reign of King Edward VII in 1901 (although he was coronated in 1902) and ended with the start of World War I in 1914/1915, historians vary as to the exact dates. Edward, the son of Queen Victoria, began to take on many official duties after Prince Albert, the Queen’s husband and Edward’s father, died. The Edwardian style began to develop in the late 1800s and blossomed during his reign. Even though this same time period was known as the Belle Epoque in other parts of Europe and as the Gilded Age in the United States, the jewelry had the same design aesthetic.

FAMOUS MAKERS: Boucheron, Cartier, Chaumet, Fabergé, Garrads, LaCloche, Marcus & Co., Tiffany & Co.

MOTIFS: Bows, Ribbons, Garlands, Laurel Wreaths, Florals, Feathers and Tassels, Stars, Millegrain

THE LOOK: White-on-white platinum with pearls and/or diamonds, light and lacy, intricate, formal and regal

MATERIALS: Platinum, Pearls, Diamonds, Pink Topaz, Peridot, Demantoid Garnet, Amethyst, Turquoise, Blue Sapphire, Ruby , Emerald, Aquamarine, Kunzite, Opal, Moonstone and Alexandrite

King Edward was known for his love of luxury and revelry. There were many parties and celebrations during his reign and dressing up was required. Not just dressing up to look good, but dressing up to show your rank in society and your respect for the rank of those around you.

Status-conscious Edwardians were not shy about piling on jewelry. If you want to see layering at its best, look at women of the Edwardian era. They started with a choker or dog collar and then added more necklaces of varying lengths that dropped to the waist, or longer. The dog collar was particularly popular as Edward’s wife Queen Alexandra favored the style to hide a scar on her neck and others followed suit.

Brooches and pins were also popular, with fashionable Edwardians wearing numerous pins during the day on their bodice, as epaulets and in their hair. It was also customary to wear a few bracelets stacked together on each arm along with several rings.

For an evening event, along with all the other jewelry, tiara’s, jeweled combs or other hair ornaments were worn. Tiara’s were especially important if royalty (king, queen, prince or princess), or upper echelon nobility was present. And for evening, bigger brooches were worn, often a few at a time, with star motifs being favored.

There were a number of technological events in the Edwardian era and two that made a big impact on jewelry and fashion. In 1903, the high heat oxyacetylene torch was invented. The torch was able to easily heat platinum to its melting point, allowing jewelers to stretch the metal until it became very thin. Platinum, which is a very strong metal was then formed into delicate, but very elaborate settings. It was also pierced to create openwork adding to the lightness of the pieces both aesthetically and in terms of weight. Jewelry created in the Edwardian era is surprisingly light weight given its larger sizes.

A second major technical advancement was availability of electricity. It made a big change in fashion. Heavy fabrics, brocades and velvets in dark colors that were beautiful by candlelight looked dreary and drab under electric lights. They were replaced by pastel colors and lighter fabrics such as silk or taffeta. These new styles were the perfect backdrop for the intricate, openwork jewelry of the era.

Diamonds and pearls were two of the most used gems in Edwardian jewelry. Set in platinum they reinforced the era’s formal white-on-white design aesthetic. The diamond mines in South Africa were producing an abundant supply of diamonds making them readily available and cost effective to use in jewelry design.

Pearls on the other hand were much more rare as cultured pearls had not yet been perfected and brought to market. Pearls were natural and much harder to come by making them scarce and far more valuable than other gems.

When World War I erupted, the gracious and luxurious lifestyle of the Edwardian era came to an abrupt end.

Authored by Amber Michelle

The History of Jewelry: Joseph Saidian & Sons

David Webb, objet d’art

Looking at beautiful jewels is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures and in the book, The History of Jewelry: Joseph Saidian & Sons, there is plenty to enjoy. Published by Tourbillon International in association with Rizzoli and authored by jewelry expert, Caroline Childers, The History of Jewelry takes you on a tour of jewelry as seen through the lens of Joseph Saidian & Sons and their 150-year family legacy in the business.

Packed with images depicting the detail in each piece of jewelry, the full-color photography showcases a selection of jewels from historical eras and the present day that highlight a range of materials and styles. Each chapter has a different theme from the jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier to Indian jewelry and modern jewelry. 

We visited Ariel Saidian, owner Joseph Saidian & Sons, in his New York City store to find out more about the inspiration behind the book.

What inspired you to write a book?

ARIEL SAIDIAN: We’re a multigenerational business and we have plenty of stories from over 150 years in the family business. We had so many amazing pieces of jewelry and so many stories; we wanted to tell those stories. The book was written as an introduction to people who come to see us for the first time. It’s a way to show them what we do and to introduce ourselves. Our history helps to build trust with customers.

How did you choose the pieces of jewelry that are in The History of Jewelry and what, if any, commonality is there between the pieces?

AS: The jewelry that made it into the book was a snapshot of what was in our inventory and what we were doing that day. There were pieces that should have been in the book but they aren’t because they were out with a client, or for example there was a piece that was with Van Cleef & Arpels in France for six months being authenticated. It was what the showcases looked like three years ago when we wrote the book. We have sections on Indian jewelry, objets d’art, Van Cleef & Arpels, the book was saying this is what we were into at this point in time. Not all of the pieces in the book are for sale.

What makes good jewelry design?

AS: If someone falls in love with a piece then it is good design. Stones, metals, period, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is that someone falls in love with a piece of jewelry. It’s a very personal art form.

How important is a story to a piece of jewelry and why is it important?

AS: Sometimes we have an amazing piece of jewelry and it has no story, no provenance, but we fall in love with it. The beauty of the piece speaks for itself. A lot of customers ask for provenance, my tongue in cheek answer: The provenance is that it’s beautiful.

The book includes jewelry never before seen by the public. Why were they never seen before and why include them in the book?

AS: Showing those jewelry pieces helps tell our story. The book is not limited to objects that people use to adorn themselves, it includes snuff boxes, gold clocks, desk objects and gem set swords. Many times when a man comes in to buy a present for his wife, he will end up buying something for himself as well. It shows the range of what we do.

How do you decide which pieces to keep in your private collection?

AS: The jewelry and objects that we keep in our personal collection are there not only because of rarity or value. A pieces is there because it is so beautiful that we fall in love with it and it can’t be replaced.

What should people look for when buying estate jewelry?

AS: First, you must fall in love with the jewel. Then ask, does it come from someone you trust? Can you wear it comfortably? You don’t want to get something home and find out it’s hard to wear — earrings that are too heavy or a ring that falls to the side. Check to see if the piece is in its original condition, does it have repairs? Find out if the piece is signed and authenticated.

When people read The History of Jewelry, what do you want them to take away?

AS: We want people to smile and enjoy the jewelry in the same way that we are lucky enough to enjoy it every day.

Authored by Amber Michelle

The Allure of Vintage Diamonds

Bracelet Features Three Old European Cut Diamonds, Photo Courtesy: Global Gems

A mix of art and math, diamond cutting is a specialized skill that takes a rough rock from the ground and turns it into a dazzling object of desire. Through hundreds of years diamond cutting has evolved and changed as hand tools gave way to new technological innovations. The first diamonds were cut using hand tools and the cutter had to rely on his artistic ability and skill to cut the gems. This resulted in each diamond being slightly different with its own unique charm and personality.

Not to be confused with shape, cut is the arrangement of facets on a stone, while shape is its geometric form. Cut is very important to the appearance of a diamond. How facets are placed on a diamond impacts how much it will sparkle.

Early Diamond Cuts

Some of the first diamonds discovered in jewelry date back to the Roman era. These diamonds were in their natural rough state. Many years later the Table Cut was created and is widely considered to be the first diamond cut ever developed. The Table Cut took a rough diamond and cut off the tip of the stone, leaving a large, flat table-like area.

During the Renaissance period in the 1500s and 1600s some important diamond deposits were found in Brazil and India. Many of these diamonds made their way to Europe where skilled artisans began experimenting with ways to bring out the best attributes of these coveted gems.

These artistic experiments eventually led to the creation of the Rose Cut diamond. Developed in the 1500s, the cut got its name because it looks like a blossoming rose bud.  A Rose Cut diamond is dome shaped with a flat bottom. The dome is covered with triangular facets. Rose Cut diamonds have a lovely shimmering sparkle and a romantic, dreamy feeling.

Old Mine Cut Diamonds

While there were some intermediary steps that created new diamond cuts – such as the Mazarin that had 33 facets, the next cut to make a big impact in the diamond world was the Old Mine Cut, which first came on the scene in the 1700s. These diamond cuts follow the octahedral shape of the rough stone. Because each rough diamond is slightly different in form, Old Mine Cut diamonds can be found in round, square, cushion or rectangular shapes. They have 58 facets and are distinguished by a high crown – the top half of the diamond; small table, which is the large facet on top of the diamond and an open culet.  

When we look at a modern diamond, we are used to seeing the culet come to a point at the bottom of the stone. In an Old Mine Cut, there is no point at the bottom, instead there is a flat, open area. Since they were cut by hand, Old Mine diamond facet sizes and shapes will vary not only between stones, but also on the same stone itself.

Many Old Mine Cut diamonds were created before the advent of electricity. These diamonds were cut to be seen in candlelight and they are at their sparkling best when they are seen in that type of light, which is why they are sometimes called “candlelight diamonds”.  During the Georgian and Victorian eras, Old Mine Cut diamonds were at the height of their popularity.

Old European Cut

During the late 1800’s there was a new development in diamond faceting that led to the Old European Cut. Despite the name Old European, the cut was actually created in the United States by  business partners Henry Morse and Charles Field who established the first diamond cutting factory in the country. The diamonds were called Old European, because they were cut by people who had come to the United States from Europe.

The duo took cut parameters in a new direction focusing on smaller culets, better symmetry and smaller tables. This diamond cut became known as the Old European Cut and was much rounder in shape than its predecessor the Old Mine Cut. It also has a much smaller culet. Widely considered to be the precursor to the modern-day brilliant cut, the Old European Cut was popular in the first half of the 1900s.

Marcel Tolkowsky and the Ideal Cut

Enter mathematician and gemologist Marcel Tolkowsky. In 1919, Tolkowksy, who was working on his PhD at the University of London, did much of his research on “grinding” diamonds. His book, Diamond Design, grew out of his research and explained the best way to cut a diamond for maximum light return that creates the best sparkle, fire and brilliance. What he discovered is what we now know as the Ideal Cut. His research revealed that to coax out the best sparkle in the stone, a rough diamond needs to be cut into 58 perfectly proportioned facets. He also discovered that a diamond that was cut too deep or too shallow would lose light making it less sparkly. To this day, Tolkowsky’s Ideal Cut diamond is one of the most important modern diamond cuts.

As technology advanced and diamond cutting became more precise, diamonds began to have crisper facets and more defined lines and shapes. Yet despite these perfectly cut stones, vintage cut diamonds continue to capture the hearts and imagination of jewelry connoisseurs everywhere who love the handmade artisan feeling of these special treasures.

Authored by Amber Michelle