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17 March 2018

Pat Saling and a passion for the Jewels of Suzanne Belperron

One of the star jewels shown to journalists at the press lunch in Hong Kong in March was a spectacular cuff bangle by the French designer, Suzanne Belperron, whose name has become a buzz word in the world of “vintage” jewellery. The bangle, made around 1936, in platinum, diamonds and calibre-cut sapphires, centred on a large single stone diamond, was lent by GemGenève exhibitor Pat Saling, a New York-based dealer in antique and 20th century jewellery. The bangle is a superb example of Belperron’s inimitable style – she used to say “My style is my signature”. Designed as a loop or twisting spiral, a Belperron signature, it shows the designer’s effortless blend of powerful graphic lines and curvaceous sensuality that so captured the bold, strong femininity of the 1930s and 40s. It shows the new volumes that Belperron introduced to Art Deco design, and exudes an understated glamour that strikes a chord today. Perhaps most of all it is an exceptional showpiece of Belperron’s sense of timeless, enduring modernity: the bangle looks as dynamically contemporary and relevant today as it surely did when it was first created.


Pat Saling spent 20 years working alongside the late and legendary Fred Leighton in New York. Today, she acknowledges how much she learnt from him, about antique and period jewellery ranging from 19th century to the 1950s. She says, “I had the huge privilege of working with him, and now I have the luxury of his vast repertoire of jewels running through my head. Murray (his real name) had a vision for antique jewellery, and he put Art Deco jewellery on the map.”


Pat’s “personal love” she says is the jewellery of Suzanne Belperron. She first discovered Belperron’s work in 1981, long before the current surge of popularity, at a time when Belperron was virtually forgotten and almost unknown. She began selling Belperron pieces to a handful of collectors and over some 35 years she has watched as this avant-garde, audacious French designer has become a cult figure in 20th century jewellery history, her jewels madly sought after by connoisseurs. “Belperron was not a typical jeweller, not a trend-follower. She was more of a jewellery sculptor. She designed jewels to fit and suit women, perfectly attuned to a woman’s body”. She adds that the jewels are always meticulously made and supremely comfortable to wear. She loves Belperron’s adventurous use of lapidary work, the carved agate and quartz bangles, the chalcedony beads and brooches designed as carved stylised leaves, the sheen she was able to bring to these jewels. Belperron’s jewels were worn by the great mid-century women of style, Daisy Fellowes, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, the Duchess of Windsor. Pat Saling says, “These were not jewels for shrinking violets, they were, and are still today, bold, sensual masterpieces of contemporary design.”

16 March 2018

GemGenève tells its story in Hong Kong

In early March, the GemGenève team travelled to Hong Kong to host a lunch for international journalists, bloggers and influencers, to give them the full background to GemGenève and introduce its founders, Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah. The hosts were also delighted to welcome the Consul General of Switzerland, Reto Renggli to the lunch.

Some 20 members of the media, from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, the USA and even Australia, gathered around a long table in a private dining room in the Grissini restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The theme of the lunch was “Seek and Find”, an invitation to explore and discover at GemGenève. The table was decorated with beautiful flower arrangements in white boxes, printed in black with “Seek” and “Find”. In the same spirit of quest and discovery, the guests were each given a magnifying glass.

Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah related the story of GemGenève, why and how they developed the concept. They explained how they both felt there was a need for a new-style jewellery and gem show in Europe, a show that was more intimate, focused on quality and integrity, an event, for both trade and public that would truly reflect and reveal the international world of gem and jewellery trading.

Also at the lunch, Jasmine Vidal, responsible for communications at GemGenève introduced jewellery historian, journalist and author, Vivienne Becker. Vivienne gave a short talk in which she showed how GemGenève will be a microcosm of today’s fast-changing jewellery world. She offered insights into social and cultural megatrends, and analysed the latest design directions, touching on the significance of discoveries of new gem deposits, mainly in Africa, that have given designers an unprecedented palette of gem colours. To illustrate this, Nomad, New York-based gem merchants and GemGenève exhibitor, lent a spectacular set of three mint green Merelani tsavorite garnets to show the press.

Vivienne also gave the journalists went through styles and periods of antique and 20th century that would be on offer at GemGenève. The guests were fascinated by the jewels that were lent by exhibitors to illustrate the different eras and styles. The jewels were passed round the table giving the guests the opportunity to handle the jewels and listen to detailed explanations by Ida Faerber, who shared her impressive knowledge of jewellery history. The pieces on display included 18th and 19th century diamond jewels, an Art Nouveau ring by American maker, Marcus & Co and jewels by Suzanne Belperron, lent by GemGenève exhibitor Pat Saling, as well as Kashmir sapphires and a coloured diamond ring.

Finally there were two contemporary designer jewels by Belmacz London, which linked to the announcement at the lunch of the Designer Showcase at GemGenève – more to come in our next news!
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27 February 2018

The Art of Gem Carving

Cherchez . . . If you happen to be looking for a beautiful bowl carved from a precious gemstone . . .

Trouvez . . . find one of the world’s largest, rarest and most precious ruby bowls, at Henn, fourth generation gem merchants and jewellers, world-renowned for their masterful stone-carving, precious sculptures and objets d’art. This ravishing ruby bowl has been hand-carved in a fluid, freeform contemporary shape. As always, Henn’s master sculptor has followed the natural form of the raw material, in this case a, exceptional rough ruby of 7,357.50 carats, discovered in Longido, Tanzania. The Henn philosophy is always to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the stone or mineral, often some of the finest specimens in the world today. The soft, sensual curves of this bowl, its asymmetry, the play of light and shade show the colour, light and personality of the ruby to perfection. In its shape too, you find a hint of the baroque, a characteristic of Henn sculptures that harks back to the sublime, carved stone precious objects that took pride of place in princely Renaissance WunderKammer.



Henn is a long-established family business, a global gem trading house, run today by Hans-Jurgen Henn, goldsmith, mountaineer and intrepid gem-hunter, and his sons Axel, a trained stone-cutter, who evaluates rough material, and Ingo, goldsmith and designer-jeweller. Hans-Jurgen and Axel are based in Germany, in Idar-Oberstein, the celebrated stone-cutting and carving centre, while Ingo Henn operates Henn London, opened in Hatton Garden in the mid-1990s. Here Ingo Henn designs and makes his own, individualist jewels, set with imaginatively cut or carved coloured stones, and embellished with goldwork, engraving and enamels by the British enameller, Phil Barnes. The henn family is known not only for the superb quality and rarity of its gemstones, but also for its expertise in cutting, carving and sculpting gems and museum-quality minerals. Ingo Henn explains how he works closely with the skilled stone cutters and sculptors in Idar Oberstein, and then weaves his designs around the stone. “First, we have to look for a suitable rough stone. We need a certain size and colour. But once we find it, the stone always tells us what it wants to be.” Recently, he has created jewel around a Santa Maria aquamarine, carved by Aflred Zimmermn into a lion’s head, a 55carat Brazilian tourmaline, cut into a spiral form, and, as we spoke, he was working with a Brazilian morganite carved to depict two flamingos, their necks entwined, embracing.



Henn taps into a long legacy of the art of stone carving, an art form that is being rediscovered by today’s informed collectors and connoisseurs. Stone carving, or the so-called glyptic arts are rooted in antiquity, in the earliest engraved seals and intaglios, and in the later Greek and Roman vessels carved from agates. Stone carving enjoyed a golden age in the Renaissance, with its revival of all things classical, and it was in the late 16th century that sumptuous objects and vessels, carafes and bowls, were elaborately crafted from carved rock crystal, set in gold, lavishly embellished, engraved and bejewelled. These were the objects treasured in the Kunstkammers of Europe. Then again, the art of stone carving was revived in pre-Revolutionary Russia, taken to new, fantastical levels of wit and artistry by the genius of Peter Carl Faberge, who was in turn influenced by the treasures of the greatest Kunstkammer, the Grunes Gewolbe in Dresden.


Today, stone carving is once again appreciated for its combination of virtuoso hand-craftsmanship, wondrous age-old skills with artistry, imagination and the storytelling that is such a vital element of jewellery today. Ingo Henn says, “it is a theme, an art form that hasn’t been explored fully or shown for many years.

21 February 2018

Gemstones and antique jewellery: A precious connection

The combination of antique or period jewellery and gemstones forms the heart and soul of GemGenève. The two fields of expertise have always gone hand in hand through the centuries, from the early Silk Road merchants of Arabia, Persia and India to the 20th century jewellers and dealers in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and London. Antique jewellery is very often set with the finest gemstones from the great heritage mines of the world, Golconda, Kashmir, Mogok, Colombia, or with natural Oriental pearls from the Persian Gulf, so that traditionally antique dealers became gem experts, and gem dealers acquired fine stones from antique dealers. Both developed instincts, great expertise and a profound knowledge that still underpins today’s jewellery world. GemGenève highlights this long tradition, whilst nurturing new connections and fresh forward-looking creativity, fusing tradition and modernity.


Cherchez . . . if you’re looking for . . .


A poetic jewel with an Imperial Russian provenance . . .


Trouvez . . . find. . .


The Peacock Feather necklace, made by Boucheron, Paris, 1883, at Sandra Cronan, London. This masterpiece of French design and craftsmanship is one of the few “question-mark” necklaces that have become a celebrated Boucheron signature. The simple, streamlined diamond collar, open-fronted, with one end that curves into a sensual, asymmetric composition – creating the question-mark shape – looks as modern, and daringly dramatic today as it surely did in the 1880s. The wispy diamond peacock feather, detachable to form a brooch, has an “eye” of sapphire, rimmed with diamonds and emeralds. Exquisitely refined, light, flexible and naturalistic, the peacock feather emphasising the sensuality and movement of this evocative, emotive motif, creates both a contrast and perfect balance with the minimal, linear diamond collar. The necklace is thought to have been made for and purchased for 14,000 francs by Grand Duke Alexis of Russia for his wife, Alexandra Zhukovskaya, the illegitimate daughter of a Turkish slave.

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Vivienne Becker
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Vivienne Becker is a jewellery historian, journalist and author of some 20 books on the history of jewellery design and contemporary jewellery, including Art Nouveau Jewelry, the standard work on the subject and The Impossible Collection of Jewellery, the 100 most important jewels of the 20th century.

She is a Contributing Editor to How To Spend It, the Financial Times’ luxury magazine, has a regular column in Sotheby’s magazine, and contributes to newspapers and specialist magazines around the world. Vivienne also works as a trend-forecaster and creative consultant to the jewellery industry and lectures extensively and passionately on her subject in Europe, Asia and the United States.