SLICE of HISTORY

Hong Kong Tatler - - Trends -

“You have to re­mem­ber, in the 19th cen­tury, Queen Vic­to­ria was in mourn­ing and lots of peo­ple found them­selves walk­ing around in all black, be­ing de­pressed. Then the art deco pe­riod used some of that in a much bet­ter way—as a way of mak­ing these clashes of dif­fer­ent colours, like black and white.”

Pe­riod jew­ellery holds unique brand value—another qual­ity that makes it a hot com­mod­ity at auc­tion. Many of the world’s finest jew­ellery houses, such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Ar­pels and Bul­gari, were still fam­ily-owned busi­nesses in the 20th cen­tury. “Iconic de­signs that are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a brand or a pe­riod are highly sought af­ter at auc­tion,” says Quek Chin Yeow, the deputy chair­man of Sotheby’s Asia and its chair­man of in­ter­na­tional jew­ellery for Asia.

The renowned Hut­ton-mdi­vani neck­lace, re­cently shown at Cartier’s flag­ship store in Cen­tral, is “a great ex­am­ple that checks all the boxes for pe­riod jew­ellery,” says Quek. The jadeite bead, ruby and diamond Cartier neck­lace, dated circa 1933, be­longed to Amer­i­can so­cialite Bar­bara Hut­ton, who was a col­lec­tor of fine jew­ellery. Auc­tioned at Sotheby’s, the piece was bought back by Cartier for the brand’s ar­chives for an awein­spir­ing HK$214 mil­lion—and surely Louis, Pierre and Jac­ques would be im­pressed at how the house has grown. When you buy pe­riod, you buy an in­her­ently dif­fer­ent type of jewel. That ex­tra age­ing on a gem gives it dis­tinct qual­i­ties—and many would say ad­van­tages—com­pared with more mod­ern pieces. Cer­tain gem­stones, for ex­am­ple, can only be found in a pe­riod item. “Gol­conda di­a­monds from In­dia are the most sought-af­ter di­a­monds in the world; how­ever, the mine stopped pro­duc­tion more than 250 years ago,” War­ren says. “If you’re in­ter­ested in such a stone, you would have to re­fer to pe­riod jewels.”

The process of de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing a jewel be­fore the mod­ern era was en­tirely dif­fer­ent as well. Most pieces were com­pletely hand­made, with met­al­work in­di­vid­u­ally

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