A magnificent cicada, some hairpins and a bionic eyeball
Also, the Williamson Pink Star Diamond
Hello, you lovely people! Please accept my apologies, as things are running a bit late this month. My day job has had me burning the midnight oil — a time which, as you know, is normally reserved for the enthusiastic gibbering of this newsletter. My “process” (HAHAHAHAHA) is that I generally start a post in the Substack CMS for the month and add pieces to it as I see them, so all month I’ve been busily adding and then deleting things as their sales dates approach and then recede into the past. Nothing gold can stay, amirite??? Lol. Anyway, there’s still some incredible stuff coming up, so all is not lost. There’s even a diamond I like! Who knew.
This ruby and diamond ring was in one of the auctions that has already retreated into memory, but it’s too fun to skip. By the exclusive and reclusive jewelry designer JAR — a.k.a. Joel Arthur Rosenthal, who I told you all about last year — the ring features a 2.60 carat pear-shaped diamond surrounded by a bed of round and cushion-cut rubies.
The stones are set in 18k blackened gold and platinum, and there’s a border of jubilee-cut diamonds running around the edges of the piece. But the real showstopping moment happens when you turn the piece sideways:
It literally looks like it’s chomping up your finger! And it’s also a size 4, which I assume was a deliberate size choice — the small size means it would probably have to be worn on a pinky finger, which would allow for an unobscured side view.
The piece was included in The International Connoisseur: Jewels and Watches sale at Sotheby’s New York last Thursday, and it sold above its $200k – $300k estimate for $352,800.
This set of six Edwardian hair pins immediately caught my eye because 1. I love sets and 2. I love hair ornaments. Each gold and platinum pin is topped with rose-cut diamonds and a single pearl accent, and there’s a third reason I covet them:
They still have their original box. Eeeee! They’re being offered in Skinner’s Fine Jewelry Collections auction ending tomorrow, estimate: $600–$800.
Circa 1925, this Lalique “Coq” bracelet consists of 13 cobalt blue glass plaques, each with a central strutting cockerel motif. Two of the plaques are signed “R. Lalique,” and while this piece is not a super high-end product of the Lalique glassworks, I love its simplicity and intense color.
I’ve seen other variations of this bracelet in the cobalt blue color as well as in clear. This "Mésanges" bracelet — with a different bird motif that’s got a Partridge Family vibe — sold at Rago in 2017 for $1,500, and this clear glass “Poussins” bracelet sold a while back on Ruby Lane (not sure for how much).
This particular bracelet has 13 glass beads, but other versions seem to have as many as 15 and as few as 11, so it’s unclear if this was the original count or if it was made to order, altered or even broken at some point. The piece is included in the September 21 London Jewels sale at Bonhams London, estimate £2,000 – £3,000 ($2,280 – $3,424).
If you’re a Bond fan, Christie’s has a ton of fun stuff in their upcoming Sixty Years of James Bond: Part I auction. It’s taking place live at their London branch next Wednesday, September 28 — which is coincidentally my birthday, should anyone wish to get me this Aston Martin DB5 stunt car — and it contains one of the two Fauxbergé Imperial Easter Egg props used in 1983’s Octopussy.
The gold-plated egg was made by high-end London jewelers Asprey, and is covered in green enamel with a latticework of Swarovski crystals. The “surprise” inside consists of a tiny miniature carriage adorned with white crystals that is set on a spring-loaded disc above a hidden compartment. The design was based on the original Easter 1897 Russian Coronation Egg made by Fabergé workmaster Mikhail Perkhin for the Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. It’s estimated at £6,000 – £10,000 ($6,848 – $11,414).
Also in this auction is the bionic eyeball used by SPECTRE mercenary Primo in 2021’s No Time to Die, complete with its own little cradle and velvet cushion. Estimate: £4,000 – £GBP 6,000 ($4,565 – $6,848).
(Part II of the Bond auction is online, and ends on October 5th.)
On October 5, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer the 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star Diamond in a live, single lot auction.
This stone is the second largest internally flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond to ever appear at auction, and it carries an estimate of $21 million. It’s surpassed only by the 59.60-carat CTF Pink Star Diamond, which sold for $71.2 million to Hong Kong jeweler Chow Tai Fook in April 2017 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. (It also “sold” previously at Sotheby’s in 2013, when New York-based diamond cutter Isaac Wolf bid $83.02 million for the stone and then defaulted on payment, forcing Sotheby’s to acquire the stone for around $72 million.)
The stone came from the Williamson mine in Tanzania, which was established in 1940 by Canadian geologist Dr. John Williamson. This mine is known for producing pink diamonds, and one of its most famous finds is the Williamson Pink Diamond, which John Williamson found in 1947 and sent to England as a wedding gift for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Originally 54.5 carats, the stone was cut down to 23.6 carats and used as a centerpiece in a diamond flower brooch by Cartier.
Anyway, back to the Williamson Pink Star. This stone is particularly notable because of its color, as pink diamonds are incredibly rare. Sotheby’s notes that fewer than 3% of all the diamonds sent to the Gemological Institute of America for certification are classified as colored diamonds, and fewer than 5% of those are considered pink. And even FEWER of those diamonds display enough color to be described as “Fancy Vivid Pink,” and most of those are under one carat. So, yeah, this one’s kind of a big deal.
Also, Sotheby’s points out that we still haven’t figured out where pink diamonds get their color.
There is no evidence that the colouration is due to a specific trace element, such as nitrogen in yellow diamonds or boron in blue diamonds. Early works suggested that manganese might be responsible for the pink hue, but after further investigation, that was ruled out. The best explanation available today is that the colour is a result of distress in the atomic level.
ATOMIC LEVEL DISTRESS. Huh. Apparently I’m a pink diamond.
Wallace Chan (b. 1956) is a phenomenally talented Chinese jeweler and sculptor whose innovations in technique and materials have moved the craftsmanship of jewelry forward on multiple fronts. A few examples:
His “Wallace Cut,” which he developed in 1987 after being inspired by the concept of multiple exposures in photography, takes the art of intaglio (the process of carving a design into a gemstone to create a recessed image) and pairs it with strategic faceting that results in a single carved figure appearing as many
His development of a mortise and tenon style of gemstone setting — essentially, fitting the stones into each other — allows him to cut down on the amount of metal interfering with the presentation of the stones
Most recently, he has created a form of porcelain that is five times stronger than steel
Chan is deeply inspired by nature, and the cicada is a theme he has returned to multiple times. Cicadas are a symbol of “harvest, purity, nobility and rebirth” in China, and a jadeite version figures prominently in his “Stilled Life” brooch and sculpture from 2012.
His titanium and 18k gold cicada above features a head and body of carved amethyst set over opal and lapis lazuli. This layering allows the vibrant blues of the bottom stones to filter up through the lighter shades of the amethyst.
The cicada’s wings are made of carved rock crystal with mother-of-pearl backing and titanium veins, and the piece is further embellished with cabochon ruby eyes and tiny accents of brilliant-cut diamonds, sapphires and pink sapphires. It is holding a 2.95-carat cushion-shaped diamond.
The piece is included in the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels I live auction on October 7, and carries an estimate of 800,000 – 1,200,000 HKD, or $102,000 – $153,000.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this installment! Please stay tuned for next month and the return of the Dearest Halloween edition — always one of my most favorite posts of the year.
Please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line if you’d like to chat. Take care, and enjoy your week!
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