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Speakers: Fondation Fabergé – Dr. Bernard Ivaldi, Alexandra Blin Kourbatoff


The art of enamel in Russia is intricately tied to the ancient cultural traditions of the Byzantine Empire, which spread to the territory of Egypt, France, and Italy, becoming the foundation of the technical traditions of enamel art in these countries.


Already in the 4th century BC, the Tauric Peninsula was known for golden jewelry produced by artful Greek masters, using filigree and cloisonné techniques. The techniques of the Greeks were inherited and applied at the end of the 19th century by the master artisans of Fabergé, earning golden medals for their brand at the 1882 All-Russia Exhibition in Moscow and the Nuremberg Exposition of 1885.


In contemporary times, many things have been written on enamelling. People today understand the techniques, where to find supplies, and there’s been a huge progress in the chemistry and physics. A great source for information on the techniques of enamelling is Frants Birbaum’s diary. Frants Birbaum was the chief master of the Fabergé factory after the death of Carl’s brother Agathon in 1895. And Frants started giving conferences on how to produce and make enamels. Most of his diary was recovered and is actually published in a book called “Fabergé”, a comprehensive reference book, which the Fondation Fabergé published several years ago.


Enamel is nothing but a mass of transparent matter, glass. Various metal oxides, added to this mass, give it different colours and, where necessary, land it opacity. Enamels can be transparent or opaque (non- transparent).


For the processes of their use on metal, enamels can be divided into the following five categories: the cloisonné, the champlevé (on a hollowed-out surface), the plique-à-jour (perforated stained glass), the bas-relief and the painted on iron and other metals.


A difference between cloisonné and champlevé enamel lies in the fact that in the first case use is made of partitions of short rows of soft metal (gold or silver) fixed to the smooth surface or the sides of the article by means of soldering.


In the second case, the surfaces to be filled with enamel are hollowed into the plaquette itself or into the object by means of instruments.Perforated enamel (plique-à-jour) differs from the first two types in that there is no metal base, and the enamel plays the part of stained glass. When it is in bas-relief metal ornaments or very low relief figures appear under the enamel. The difference lies in the layers of enamel, which make some parts of the bas-relief deeper than others, making them stand out.



One example is a 1902 clover egg, which was presented by Tzar Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra Feodorovna. And on the invoice which was retrieved from the archives of the Soviet Union, it says rubies and rose-cut diamonds with a large four-leaf Clover, twenty-three diamonds, rose-cut diamonds and four miniatures. This Clover Egg is now in the Kremlin Armoury Museum, in Moscow. This egg was invoiced for less than 6000 rubles at the time. And was recently estimated at about $50 million!


In ancient times, Egyptians, Persians and Etruscans already knew enamel. Unlike the technique applied later, the Egyptians used enamel in the same way as mosaic – they cut out small pieces of a given shape, dimensioned and fixed them in already prepared partitions, in a cloisonné style. Enamel just played a part similar to that of precious stones.


From the 6th century A.D., enamel may be found in Byzantine gold objects, using the cloisonné method exclusively. The best-preserved examples of this enamel appear in Russia in the Zvenigorod and Botkin collections, and consist of representations of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Evangelists, and various Saints. The technique used in these works is so advanced that it astonishes the best of contemporary enamellers.


From Byzantium, cloisonné enamel spread westward to France, Germany and Italy, where it was used from the 9th to the 12th century A.D.. Owing to its high cost, it was used only in small gold objects. During that period, a number of churches increased greatly in the West and the demand for liturgical objects necessitated seeking cheaper materials.


The cloisonné process, suitable for gold and silver, became very difficult to use on copper, owing to the hardness of that metal: the partitions were difficult to solder and to fashion into curves. For this reason, champlevé enamel came to replace cloisonné and transparent enamel to lose its preponderance over the opaque. The largest producers of champlevé enamels worked in the town of Limoges, in France.


The champlevé enamelling process yields a wide variety of results, according to the way in which the design is enamelled. The advantage of this process over cloisonné lies in having a contour which can be enlarged or reduced according to the design, thus making the method more expensive.


France provided the largest contingent of talented enamellers: the names of Grandhomme, Thesmar, Tourette, Hirtz, Lalique, Feuillâtre and Houillon are world-wide famous. In England, Fischer is known for his painted enamels, and in Switzerland Itten is renowned for his decorative work. At the time there were many exchanges between the workshops of Fabergé, for example, and those of Lalique and Cartier. For example, some of the masters were sent to France to work with Lalique. On the other hand, Cartier would order pieces to Fabergé which would be sent to France and branded Cartier.


Enamelled jewellery has a long and illustrious history. The richness and precision of the multicoloured enamels, the delicacy of the gem enhancement with the realistic beauty of the portrait make this an outstanding enamelled jewel. Enamels and micro mosaics were often the chosen mediums for Egyptian Revival Style jewels in the 19th century.


Several events fostered the fascination of the French people for the Egyptian Revival Style in the 19th century. The French had been interested in Egypt since Napoleon’s conquest. Archaeological discoveries by Auguste Marriotte in the 1860s with crates of artifacts shipped back to the Louvre further piqued interest. The Suez Canal was finally completed with much fanfare in 1867. Jewels in the Egyptian Revival Style featuring lotus flower and pharaonic motifs in red, green and blue opaque enamels aroused enthusiastic interest in the theatrically spectacular displays in the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867.


Franz Peter Birbaum (his Swiss German name at birth) started working for the House of Fabergé as a draughtsman and designer in 1893. He was rapidly promoted chief draughtsman, designer and miniature painter on enamel after the death of Carl Fabergé’s brother Agathon in 1895. He was responsible for more than half of the 54 Imperial Easter eggs.


He came back to Switzerland right after the Bolshevik revolution, with the help of the Swiss Red Cross. Once back home, he started writing on his diary of how to proceed in order to mix colours, to do the painting on enamels and obtain the desired colours.


His diary is extremely precise and that is the title of this talk, “Enamelling – Fabergé best kept secret”. In other words, generations of enamellers later, and with painters starting using Birbaum’s memoirs that have been published, these secrets are known today. However, at the time, the process was well guarded.


So, this Birbaum’s diary is really a wealth of knowledge which was transferred from the year 1920 until he died. Unfortunately, he never went back to Russia, and he could never start the new manufacture that he was dreaming of. But his legacy remains to this days in the masterpieces he designed and produced for the House of Fabergé.





Speaker: Amanda Triossi


This talk will introduce the readers to the stylistic development of the necklace – from its origins to recent times.

Through this overview the readers will not only appreciate the extraordinary stylistic development of the necklace, which is linked largely to the changes of fashion, but also will appreciate all aspects that determine the value of a particular jewelled ornament.



Necklaces are like rings, items that have always been worn. The very early necklaces date back to 70.000 B.C., and women have always worn them.


In ancient Egypt there were spectacular pieces with broad colours rendered with polychrome beads. In Greek times (circa 330 B.C.), there were fringe necklaces. We have creations in the Roman world, in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance down to the 17th and the 18th century. It is a jewel which popularity never fades in time despite the changes in styles, shapes and materials.


The 18th century

In the 18th century, necklaces tend to be worn close around the neck as chokers, not to interfere with the elaborate decoration on the bodice. They tend to be entirely paved with gemstones. The more lavish examples are set with diamonds, which is a great novelty at that time, following the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil. Unfortunately, very few of them survive, and the examples that have come to our days are in the same shape and form, but are set with less precious gems – such as garnets. Same as diamonds, garnets paved the entire surface of the jewel, very tightly set – a typical feature of the 18th century.


Another characteristic of necklaces in the 18th century is that they have no clasp. Instead, necklaces are secured to the back of the neck by a big ribbon bow. Late 18th century necklaces look more geometric. Clear stones are set in close setting (i.e., in a gold foil so that no part of the stone below the girdle is exposed to light, n.d.r.), and they are usually backed in silver, while coloured stones are backed in gold. Gold and silver are the typical metals of and way of mounting a necklace in the 18th century.


The beginning of the 19th century

In the 19th century, in the period post the French Revolution, around 1800, women’s fashion requires to look as classical as possible. Women are wearing white muslin clothes to try and emulate ancient statues as closely as possible. With such a classical look, necklaces are worn on the base of the neck. A typical design presents rigorous oval elements that are very flat, linear and connected by chains, quite often evoking classical themes.


One example is shell cameo necklaces, the cameos decorated with classical themes taken from ancient mythology, to complement this “neo-classical” look. Another decorative art applied to necklaces in this period is the micro mosaic, typical of the souvenir jewels. These necklaces present micro mosaic ovals depicting, for example, views of Rome – quite common at the time. However, in the highest echelons of society, at court, and in particular in the circle of the Napoleonic Court, there is a great abundance of precious gemstones, arranged in the same way as the humbler cameos necklaces – same design, same oval elements and same chains connecting these ovals. The same style is applied to different levels of preciousness.


The Restoration

During the Restoration period, everything classical, related to the Napoleonic era, is scrapped, going back to more nostalgic pre-Napoleonic look. It is fashionable, in the 1820s into 1830s, to wear dresses with very exaggerated sleeves, counterbalanced by long earrings and important necklaces. It is no longer the plain, simple, classical look, but quite an elaborate one.


What is typical of these pieces of the 1820s and 30s is the gold work, which in jewellery is known as “cannetille”. “Cannetille” is a term which defines a type of embroidery – a kind of filigree that looks like embroidery. The jewels of this period are light, lacy and delicate, although showy and very ornate. Definitely that simplicity of the early 19th century is completely “passée”.


The 1840s – 1850s

In the 1840s and 50s the big word is naturalism. And with naturalism, you have one of the most typical examples of necklaces, in the shape of serpents biting their tails.


Precursor of the Bulgari ones by far, one of the most typical examples is the serpent necklace paved with turquoise. In the 19th century, turquoise stands for “forget me not”, and the colour of the Forget Me Not flower is, precisely, turquoise. Therefore, the stone itself means “don’t forget me”. With the snake biting its tail being the symbol of eternity, this necklace is actually a love jewel. The message of these serpents is not at all about evil, but it is a love message: “Don’t forget me. Love me forever”. As the symbolism of forms and stones is deeper, wearers in the 19th century are much more aware of this particular message.


The 1860s and the 1870s

The necklace remains at the base of the neck, but what changes are the motifs and the materials. In the 1860s and 70s there comes to be a craze for archaeological revival jewellery and women go to wear ancient-looking jewellery. Archaeological revival necklaces were copies of genuine ancient pieces. Jewellers like Castellani try to reproduce not only the design but also the materials, and the techniques. Sometimes, these necklaces are close replicas. Some other times they are pastiches: they look like antique in style but are an invention of the late 19th century jewellers, as no such necklace would ever have been created in ancient times.

Materials become unusual: from little shells to tiger claws, for example: this was a consequence of improved travel, of tourism, and people going travelling and acquiring souvenir jewellery in exotic locations and bringing them back to Europe.


The 1880s

Jewellery reverts to more traditional materials, and mainly to diamonds, as a direct consequence of new mine discoveries in South Africa, in 1867-68. Necklaces are worn in great profusion, and there is the comeback of the choker. However, this time the choker is never worn alone, but always together with another necklace underneath.


Quite often the necklaces are convertible, and can be worn either at the base of the neck, under the choker, or as tiara through their frames. The story goes that this trend started with Alexandra, The Princess of Wales, who set this fashion to conceal a scar that she had on her neck.


Between the 19th and the early 20th century

Chokers, mainly set with diamonds, continue to be worn also in the early 20th century, together with an abundance of other necklaces. The difference of a 19th century choker compared to a 20th century one is that, in the 1880s, they would have been with diamonds mounted in silver and gold. Instead, in the 20th century, diamonds are mounted in platinum, which makes them light and lacy.


Furthermore, chokers present one of the typical motifs that make them so recognisable: the Garland motif, which defines the period known in jewellery history books today as the Garland Style – one of the elements inspiring the Garland style being the decorations in ormolu that can be found in furniture typical of the Louis XVI style and which presents garland-style ormolu decorations – thus leading the way to the international spread of this style in jewellery.


The 1920s

In the 1920s chokers are replaced by long necklaces, which become the must-have jewel because they enhance the vertical line of the 1920s dress, which calls for long necklaces.  Sometimes some rare examples also have exotic motifs. This is the period of the Egyptian revival jewels and Egyptian motifs feature very prominently, specially following the sensational discovery, in November 1922 of the tomb of Tutankhamun. These Egyptian-styled sautoirs would feature for example faux hieroglyphs, and the Egyptian inspiration is very visible, making them another IT-jewel.


The 1930s

Into the 1930s the necklace becomes short again and is worn at the base of the neck. The necklaces of this period are characterised by geometric motifs and are very precious, with great abundance of diamonds. A typical feature of necklaces of the 1930s is that they are convertible, with detachable parts that can be worn as clips, as ear clips and even as a tiara.


The 1940s

In 1940s, the changes in the manufacture of the necklaces are linked to the material used: yellow gold. The 1940s is the decade of the Second World War, and materials are scarce. Platinum is requisitioned for the armament industry, and the supply of gemstones is interrupted. These “war jewels” are still fantastic pieces, but compared to the ones of the 1930s, they are intrinsically less valuable.


The 1950s

With the 1950s, after the Second World War, there is the comeback of opulence and of important diamond necklaces of high intrinsic value. The necklaces of the 1950s are fluid in design, they are characterized by asymmetrical motifs and, often, by diamond baguettes mounted in channel settings which would end with a cascade of fancy-cut diamonds.


For less formal looks, in the 1950s gold is still a fashionable option. In the 1950s jewellers start competing with the haute couture world, trying to create jewels that seem to be made of precious fabric. Wearing these gold jewels is like having lace, or a scarf in gold mesh, around the neck. An iconic jewel of this period is the Zip Necklace, by Van Cleeef & Arpels, created for the Duchess of Windsor – with a functioning zip, the jewel transforms into a bracelet, and it is recognised as one of the maison’s signature pieces since then.


The 1960s

The 1960s is the period of the miniskirts. It is a period of transgression, where everyone in every field was trying to break the rules of the past and being innovative. In fine jewellery, we still have traditional materials, but the design is unconventional.


The gold texture becomes rough, gemstones are set uncut. This gives the jewels a very organic look. Even those designers that are choosing more traditional materials are conveying this abstract design in their creations, a roughness that is typical of the 1960s, and in break with jewellery tradition.


The 1970s

In the 1970s a change in fashion brings in a maxi and deconstructed look, with strong references to ethnicity. All this is reflected in the jewellery of the period, with the necklaces that turn, once again, to the sautoir, presenting ethnic elements like the tassel, which refers to the Indian culture, or the Buddha, which goes back to Asia, together with vividly coloured gemstones. The sautoir necklace is then a common reference in both the 1920s and the 1970s, with the difference that, in the 1970s, diamonds and/or coloured stones would be mounted in yellow gold instead of in white gold or platinum.


The 1980s

This decade is characterised by another tremendous change in fashion: from the maxi, ethnic deconstructed look of the 1970s, to more rigid and very tailored dresses.

These call for equally tight necklaces, very structured and colourful collars – Bulgari and Marina B leading the way.


The whole idea, in this period, is to be bold, and one perfect example in this sense is by Marina B, who set one of her collars with the famous Jonker diamond – at the time the 4th largest diamond found, a D Flawless of over 13 carats. Bold but casual, too, as it is not uncommon to accessorize casual looks with very important jewels.


From the 1990s into the Future

Each and every period in history is a reaction to what comes before. The 1990s react to the boldness of the 1980s with a defined sense of understatement and minimalism. Minimalism becomes the keyword of the period. Jewels become almost invisible, hardly to be seen – one example being necklaces with one single little diamond on a nylon string.


Looking forward to the future: it is fascinating to see how the necklace has changed in terms of shape, largely a result of change in fashion. What the future has in stall has yet to be established, but clearly the development for necklaces, and jewels in general, will be as exciting and as interesting as it has been for the last 72,000 years.






Speakers: Richa Goyal Sikri, Dharmendra Tank, David Nassi, David Bennett, Tony Brooke

Long read


When it comes to diamonds, unless you are tracking a diamond from mine to market, it’s impossible to tell where it’s from. Thanks to geological events that occurred millions of years ago, the characteristics of the stones make them unique. Which is why we, in addition to colour, clarity and all the other aspects that add to the value of precious stones, also look at origin.


And as the flow of gemstones from historic sources like Burma, Kashmir, Ceylon and Colombia has been reducing over the past decades, a new source has become quite prominent as far as mined gemstones are concerned, and that is the African continent. One of the challenges is that, even though the vast majority of mined gemstones come from Africa, when we look at auctions or at public pricing that is available to consumers, we still see African gemstones with the price tag lower than those from historic origins.


The discussion is then about the various sides related to the origin-based values and origin-based value perceptions, to historic discoveries and the impact that they have had on the marketplace.



Today it is estimated that in terms of quantity, approximately 40 to 50% of mined emeralds are coming from Zambia and that all the Zambian emeralds formed 500 million years ago. They were discovered in the late 70s, and the first official auction by the Zambian government happened in 1982.


At that time emerald grading was not as it is today. Lower grades were not that much in demand and were not getting that much of value. Today, we are seeing that groups like Gemfields and Grizzly, with their new technology, are able to create their goods in a better way. Therefore, thanks to time and technology, they have been processing, chipping, washing the goods and grading in a much better way, and we are getting a better selection and a bigger variety across the board.


Rubies & Provenance

Africa today is the primary source for mined rubies. It is estimated that 80% of mined rubies come from Mozambique, primarily from the Gemfields mine. More actors are joining in, such as Fura Gems, who have started auctioning goods in the last year, together with a third contender, Gem Rock, who is going to enter the ruby auction market soon.


Africa, as a source, has been traditionally looked down on by the industry, particularly for rubies, as these have to be Burmese. Now that this supply is down, African rubies – Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzanian rubies – are in the ascendancy. Therefore, it could be advisable to try to cut back on this desire for pure provenance. The focus should be the value of the stone itself, how beautiful that particular stone is, and that should be the basis of the pricing structure.


Gems & origin-based premiums

Auction houses play a vital role in shaping value perceptions because it’s probably the only place where a consumer can see pricing and sales data published. Price levels are also confirmed by the gemmological certificates, which specify the gem’s origin.


However, with coloured stones it is not so easy. The first issue is that origin is still sometimes subject to conjecture: a gem can sometimes offer to clients two certificates stating two different origins, and this generates mistrust.


Historically, in the early ‘70s, gemmological certificates were unknown in the auction world.

Precious gems prices would be set by looking at previous sales, which would create a precedent. It was not until mid to late ’90s that gemmological certificates at auction came in.


Rubies & Spinels

Spinel in industry circles was once known as “the dealer stone” because it was primarily appreciated by people who were in the industry, and this was despite the fact that spinel has a history as rich as that of a ruby. Some may even say that spinels have been responsible for the lore and the brand that ruby has today, because many historic stones that were mistaken for rubies were actually spinels (the most famous, the “Black Prince Ruby”, is a 170-carat spinel set in the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, n.d.r.).


Since the discovery of spinels in 2007, there has been a consistent supply of top quality, very bright, vivid spinels. Now that consumers can see that there is value in this stone, that there is history, and there is supply, they can start to acquire it and the collection becomes more important. And with the dwindling supply and quality to that supply, prices have gone remarkably up – from $5,000 a carat to $50,000 a carat today. At the same time, size is decreasing, so while it was easy to find a 100-carat stone back in 2007/8, today to find a very clean 20-carat stone is quite difficult.


Emeralds & pricing

The largest emerald mine in the world is in Zambia today. Being a publicly listed company, Gemfields publish all their auction sales revenue data in detail on their website. By looking at data that has been published since they started the auction, in 13 years, the price for the high-quality rough emeralds coming from their mine has increased in 13 years, going from $5 per carat to $150 per carat.


For the African material, we have seen a potential growth over a period of time and a ratio of increase of 300% for the rough. On the cut goods, the ratio is even higher, especially when it comes to finer stones. This happens partly because some stones are coming to auction and now clients are more aware of them, they have started appreciating them. Potentially, there is no limit to the price level cut emeralds can reach.

Gems certificates: yay or nay?

Clients are gravitating towards origin labels when it comes to coloured stones. The reason might be that there is some customer confusion and those who may not necessarily have the in-depth knowledge related to cut, clarity, character, treatments, would hang on to something that they recognise. Words like Burma, Ceylon, Kashmir evoke something in their imagination. But by doing this, clients could risk buying certificates, more than stones.


This is particularly true with coloured stones, for which the colour becomes a much more subtle matter. The differences between two vivid blue diamonds, or orangy pinks, or vivid pinks, are subtleties that can generate massive differences in price.


Market demand

From a dealer’s perspective, considering the auction houses as a price indicator could be unfair because, historically, they were only offering Kashmir, Sri Lankan, Burmese stones. These stones were attractive, while African stones are not perceived at the same level as those from Kashmir, Sri Lanka or Burma, and they do not have price precedents.


One element that is probably going to reverse this will be the jewellery maisons using African gems for their jewels – such as Cartier, who is starting using Mozambique rubies.


The demand for rubies on the market is huge, and unfortunately the Burmese stones are becoming unavailable. So mining companies like Gembridge are now actively promoting Mozambique’s rubies on their platforms, and over the coming years, Mozambique rubies will finally be seen being used by the major jewellery houses and in 10, 15, 20 years from now, the secondary market will start to appreciate a 5-carat, loop-clean, Mozambique ruby whereas at the moment it does not.


The cross-pollination of gems

Gems cross-pollination happens when gems go from a lesser known, or new, deposit, to a better-established market. This phenomenon has been going on for centuries. In the 1700s diamonds were discovered in Brazil. And at that time, the primary source of diamonds was India. So the main market being Europe, all the European diamond merchants were sitting on stocks of Golconda diamonds and when this deposit was found in Brazil, they were nervous that this new discovery was going to bring down the value of the Indian Golconda diamonds that they were sitting on. So they started a campaign, saying that all these diamonds from Brazil were of an inferior quality, that they were not as good as the ones coming from India.


On the other hand, the Portuguese, who were colonial masters in Brazil, and also in Goa, which was the main trading hub for diamonds at that time, exported the diamonds from Brazil to Goa, and sold those Brazilian diamonds to those same European merchants as Golconda diamonds. This is something that we have seen happening with many discoveries from the African continent, for example with Nigerian and Mozambique tourmalines taken to Brazil and sold as Paraiba tourmalines, or Mozambique rubies cut in the Burmese style and sold in Burma as Burmese or (the most famous one in the industry) beautiful velvety blue sapphires from Madagascar sold with certificates as Ceylon and some maybe even as Kashmir sapphires.


The question of what type of gemstones tend to carry this region-based price premiums in the market is quite relevant because, first of all, it does not qualify for every type of category and value to carry that premium, and secondly because there are only certain types of labs that even have the equipment to certify origin. There are some spectacular stones that don’t sell, or that haven’t sold because they have a Gübelin certificate and an SSEF certificate both saying it is a no-heat sapphire, but one certificate says it is Kashmir and the other one that it is Madagascar and the stone remains unsold, which can appear quite absurd. This shows that it all comes down to the opinion of the gemmologist – which is not science, but it is the interpretation of an individual.


Buying gemstones: practical advice

The main advice then, when buying a gem, is to choose quality above anything else – and to choose a gem we love.


Most people, when they buy a gem, do it by using their eyes. Therefore, one ends up buying a stone he/she is perfectly happy with, because it looks exactly what he/she wanted it to look like. Even considering potential treatments. This aspect goes back to consumer/client education. There should be no problem for anybody to buy a lovely three-carat heat-treated Sri Lankan sapphire, or a treated three-carat Madagascan sapphire as long as they know what it is.


And if the seller explained to the clients that a three-carat Madagascan sapphire can be purchased for $2000 a carat and that it can be compared to a three-carat, non-heat treated stone, also from Madagascar, that is going to cost three times as much – if all this could be explained clearly, correctly, coherently across the market, then understanding would be there. Trade and consumer education on gem origin, colour treatments and the associated value will be of great benefit for the whole industry.




Lecture by Vivienne Becker, jewellery historian and author – Long Read


Modernism is a hundred years old, but it is still very much alive and is driving jewellery into a whole new mood of avant-garde conceptual, abstract sophistication. There are distinct parallels between the 1920s and the 2020s, between the original modernist movement and our 2020s vision of modernity.


Vivienne Becker’s lecture explores these parallels through the major artistic and cultural influences that shaped a whole century that illustrate how Modernism evolved through time.


Modernism – the beginning


Modernism officially started in the 1920s. The emphasis on jewellery design was on abstract forms, on geometry, on simple compositions of shape, form, colour and texture – in stark contrast to the Belle Epoque garland style and to the naturalistic shapes and forms of Art Nouveau jewellery.


The beginning of the XXth century was characterised by huge technological innovations and increased trade relations that opened the doors to a wealth of cultural exchanges across countries and continents. Therefore, one of the most important influences on jewels of the 1920s is Orientalism.


Fashion was changing dramatically after 1910. The couturiers of the time changed the female silhouette. They freed women from their corsets, and they were obsessed, like everyone involved in design and fashion at the time, with Orientalism.  Part of Orientalism was the interest in exotic, foreign cultures, and this ushered in the concept of the famous Panther by Cartier. The panther motif is an abstract interpretation of the Panther’s skin, and the way it was designed also paved the way to the craze for black and white jewels deriving from the suppression of colour and the use of white diamonds and black onyx.  Another relevant influence came from the Islamic art. Many of the building blocks of Art Deco came from Islamic art and design, so that the geometry of Islamic decorative design of architecture could be represented, for example, into a vanity case.


Colours were particularly important, too. The first performance of the Ballet Russe in Paris was in 1910, with the Scheherazade, and that performance evoked the idea of colour that was introduced into jewellery.


The early phase of Art Deco.

Art Deco can be divided into two main styles. The first one was Art Deco and its interpretations of the classical motifs that came from the Belle Epoque: the neoclassical motives, the motives from French 18th century revivalist style, like the vase or the urn. During the Art Deco, these motives became stylised, flattened, and the naturalism of Art Nouveau tended to geometry.  Another important influence came from African art. This came from the colonies, from travelling, from the fascination and understanding of foreign lands and distant cultures. Artists and designers including Picasso were particularly fascinated by African masks, by tribal art and jewellery. The mask played an important part in ceremonial ritual and the attraction for this object is at the origin of mask jewels, which were so popular at the time. From Africa to Asia, as the Asian one is another strong influence on jewellery design.


Jean Fouquet designed a Chinese mask jewel, a famous jewel of the period with turquoise beads. And what is interesting about this jewel is the change of shape and form: the focus of the shape changes from the horizontal to the vertical in line with the fashion of the time[1].


Another strong influence on Art Deco came from the Egyptian art, which was so popular in these years, particularly because Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922 (exactly a hundred years ago). Jewellers like Cartier used antiquities in their Egyptian revival jewels which became highly sought after by collectors (as they are today, partly because they used authentic Egyptian antiquities around which the jewels were designed). Furthermore, Cubism and Futurism played an enormous role in the development of Modernism, thanks to their focus on geometry. Futurist art encapsulated the high energy and speed of modern life and modern world of science, technology, and industry, of travel, particularly of cars, planes and trains, and an urban idea of living. So, Futurist Art stood for the new urban living.


Thinking of which, one could find parallels to today. Artists and designers were turning their backs on the past, on nostalgia. And women, too, were enjoying a whole new way of living. There is a whole new world order at that time after World War One. The social order had changed: women had taken on men’s jobs during the Great War; they were driving, they were dancing, they played sports, they drank cocktails, they smoked, and clothes had to suit their new lives and lifestyles. Here came the flapper dresses, with long, lean silhouettes with bear arms, which cried out for bracelets. Women wore their hair short requesting long earrings. The result was the elongation of the silhouette, echoed in jewellery.


And jewels had to evolve because they had to reflect the new ideals of femininity. The geometry of modernism was also captured in the new diamond cuts. Progress had been made in diamond cutting and the favourite cut of the day was the baguette, a little geometric bar of light, together with the emerald cut, which was used to construct those angular, geometric outlines that were part of Modernism by using the kind of rigorous geometry that Mrs Becker calls “gem architecture”.


From Art Deco to Modernist Jewels

In the 1920s, a group of talented artists introduced what Vivienne Becker defines as the “true modernism” to jewellery. These jewels are opposed to, or from, Art Deco jewellery. It is a quite different aesthetic; the jewels were made in a different spirit. The jewellers, many of whom came from long established families of jewellers, took a very radical approach to the art of the jewel. And these include artists like Jean Fouquet, the son of George Fouquet, Raymond Templier, Gerard Sandoz… And Raymond Templier was perhaps the most radical of them all, as he created startlingly modernist jewels for Hollywood – as pictures of the diva Brigitte Helm, famous for her role in Metropolis, show – the beginning of the relationship between jewellery and Hollywood, which was to have a really important influence on jewellery design.



After 1925, after that burst of exuberant bright colour and arresting colour combinations (such as the “Tutti Frutti” jewels by Cartier), colour was suppressed. After 1925, jewels became monochrome, in black and white, or all white. Jewellers loved the use of reflective metallic surfaces. They played with light and light became a primary part of the jewel, along with gemstones. The design was a pure composition of light in form and shape. Nothing figurative, everything was abstracted. However, the most important influence, particularly for this group of artists-jewellers, came from the machine and, as Templier said “as I walk in the streets, I see ideas for jewellery everywhere, the wheels, the cars, the machinery of today”. This gave him and his colleagues a whole new visual language and an aesthetic where strong, powerful forms replaced any intricacy or representational motifs and compositions. And in fact, in 1925 the modernist artists (not only jewellers, but decorative designers and artists alike), set up their own “Union des Artistes Modernes” – with the jewellers joining in, this union became a real driving force.


In all this, technology was central. It was technology that created the modern world as it is today. The advance of technology today is fast and is radically affecting our lives. Therefore, we could say that there is a new modernist movement today. And back in the 1925 the machine represented liberation and this new world represented travel, work was easier as it was mechanised. The assembly line industry was thriving. Artist-jewellers saw the real beauty in the machine as they did in other mechanical shapes like metal tubing, crankshafts, all sorts of elements of machinery. This reinforced the monochrome trend, and it is interesting to observe how Cartier was able to anticipate it back in 1914 with its Panther skin motif – quite avant-garde at that time.


Geometric jewels flourished, with artists like Gerard Sandoz mixing different metals with unusual or less precious materials in the same creation. Lacquer was also frequently used. This was probably because these artists wanted to launch a message about perceived preciousness. They wanted to elevate the jewel to a true work of art, so they downplayed the intrinsic value as they wanted to change the emphasis in the jewel – from a status symbol to work of art. These were artists playing with the preciousness of materials, introducing non-traditional, humble materials like lacquer, using metal tubing as a decorative feature with very sharp, very graphic motifs. Of course, the mainstream jewellers also took onboard modern life and the new modernism infiltrated the big Maisons, with Cartier leading the way.



From 1925 to the end of 1930s

There was a marked change towards the end of the 1930s. And one can pin this change down to the year 1937, when there was another Paris exhibition, the “Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne”, which shows how the expression “modern life” was a key expression of the period.


Women became increasingly active, taking on men’s jobs, and they started influencing jewellery design. One of the greatest examples in this sense was Suzanne Belperron. She designed very modernist, very mechanistic jewels. However, midway through the 1930s the jewels, while still being abstract, and still very modernist, started to become more rounded, a little bit more feminine.


The Retro Style

The year 1937 marked a milestone: it was the start of the so-called “cocktail era”, also known as “retro modern”, or the 1940s style. Jewels designed in the late 1930s are still mechanistic, strong, abstract, still based on geometry, but they are more plumped up, more voluptuous, showing a sort of “frozen movement”, as Vivienne Becker said.


From a social point of view, one has to consider that in this period the economy was not at its highest, and with the Second World War the most noble and precious metals and gems were no longer available. Therefore, these circumstances led to bold, curvy jewels that used volumes to appear precious. That was a “big look for less money”. And again in 1939, the world’s fair in New York captured the “tomorrow” as well – the theme was “tomorrow’s world”. Some of the jewels exhibited in those jewellery pavilions illustrated the cocktail style of the late 30s going into the 1940s, which again is another interpretation of modernism.


The 1960s and 1970s

This was another great time of social, cultural and artistic change, of social revolution. It was a time that looked to the future, which was obsessed with perhaps not so much modernism, but with futurism – a time of space and scientific exploration. And that, combined with the social revolution, with the New World order, generated a new mood of modernism in jewellery design which was to prove enormously influential once again.


History repeats itself, and the inspirations came once again from the machine, from technology, and jewellers like Jean Dinh Van, a French Vietnamese designer who had studied in Paris, wanted to bring a new expression to the art of the jewel, drawing on everyday industrial objects. Dihn Van’s favourite motifs were locks and razor blades and handcuffs. His creations show the enduring influence of the 1920s machine age and the original modernists, and the connexion of jewellery to the radical art of the 60s and 70s.


One of the most representative designers of this time was Aldo Cipullo. He was famous for saying “I designed for today thinking of tomorrow. I believe in tomorrow” and his whole focus was on modernity, bringing jewellery into modern day life, making it relevant.  He had a love for the hardware store, he moved to New York from Rome and, in 1969, he offered Cartier his design for the love bangle, for which he had been inspired by the hardware store as well as – as the story goes – by a broken love affair. His hardware components, the nuts and bolts and screws, they all seemed tough and industrial. But to Cipullo they owned a particular warmth: the warmth of brass in the hardware shop. They also represented connectivity, the strength of bonds, that interconnectedness of relationships that he craved. But, he said, people forget each other. So one can look at the bracelet and think of the person who gave it to you, obviously because it came with a little screwdriver, and the screw heads were screwed into place so you couldn’t take it off without the screwdriver, which was intended to be held by your loved one or by your partner.


Therefore, Cipullo, while wanting something strong and geometric, was also looking for an expression that was warmer, embracing and he focused on the circle, which is the purest of geometric forms. According to Cipullo, this was not in response to a need or desire that he felt, he picked up on instinctively for more gentleness in life. He wasn’t influenced by fashion, but by picking up so beautifully on the mood of the moment, his jewels definitely became part of fashion.


Fashion, in the 1960s, subtly changed from modernism to futurism. It was all about space age. Jewels had to reflect modern life. The woman in the 1960s was even more liberated (think of the mini skirt). And, if Suzanne Belperron was the buzz word between the 1930s and the 1940s, Elsa Peretti became the epitome of the modern woman in the 1960s and 1970s. Although her jewels were not strictly modernist, as we think of modernism today, they were incredibly modern at that time, and they changed the course of jewellery history.


In the 1960s and 70s designers did not feel they had to come from a traditional background. They did not have to be traditionally trained. And this of course brought new, dynamic, and creative energy into the industry. Once again, the modern movement came from a small group of artist-jewellers which began and found its home in London, led by Andrew Grima. He was not traditionally trained at the bench, but he had the opportunity and the talent and the vision and imagination to bring a whole fresh look to high jewellery. His style was very much in response to new wealth, to a new generation of young, wealthy potential jewellery lovers who had a different lifestyle, and wanted their jewels to reflect that. Such a lifestyle was freer, less formal, had to be more casually opulent and not ruled by outdated traditions. Grima is famous today for his textured gold work. He cast a lot from nature as well, but he used those ridged lines of gold soldered together to bring a new, organic feeling to jewellery. Grima was also famous for introducing coloured stones, those semi-precious stones that had been looked down on, and he also was not afraid to use uncut stones, geodes, crystals. In Grima’s jewels one can feel the movement, the energy, dynamism of this new generation of jewellers.


Contemporary Modernist Jewellers

Looking at some of today’s jewellers who work in the Modernist style Hemmerle, in Munich, comes to mind. This is a story of a family jeweller with a new generation taking over and wanting to change things, to move in time, in the spirit of the moment. When he took over the traditional family business, Stephan Hemmerle introduced a whole new look that really harked back to the geometry and stylization of the 1920s and was particularly connected to contemporary art, focussing on compositions of shape and colour. Everything was reduced in line and form, through new explorations of unusual materials, such as iron and bronze, together with many different coloured stones.


Everyone is moving in tune with today’s modernism. Even the grandest Maisons are applying innovative technologies to create volumes and stylised, geometric forms to reinterpret designs from their past – once again, Cartier’s Panther is the perfect example.


An example are the jewels by Fabio Salini, jeweller in Rome, who had experimented for some 20 years to find a whole new expression for the art of the jewel that he felt was relevant to today. He works in pure geometric forms, striking compositions of colour and shape, and he uses reflective surfaces as the artist-jewellers did in the 1920s to create an illusion. Fabio Salini’s jewels show the juxtaposition of classic precious materials with more unconventional ones, such as the carbon fibre. His designs show tribal contaminations, and combine sophistication with the ethnic element of art.


Today is not only characterised by the influence of new techniques, but also by new materials, particularly titanium, which is the space age material, very strong and light. Huge progress has been made in the last decade in working in titanium, which can now be shaped, moulded, and sculpted. More experimentation involves materials such as concrete, siberium; designs are influenced by contemporary art designers and by the use of layered perspectives to reach a three-dimensional appeareance.


Jewellery design is cyclical. It is time for a change and, according to Vivienne Becker, we are moving into a new, more graphic, more geometric look. This could be a new interpretation of the organic look, perhaps of that representational view of nature that we have become so used to over the past few decades, that is possible today by new technology, by new materials and of course by highly skilled craftsmanship.

[1] In the Belle Epoque, women had a S-shape silhouette with their busts pushed forward, their hips put back but pushed back. They were tightly corseted, so it is a very curvaceous style, and the emphasis was on the corsage and jewels were vertical and huge in shape.



A panel led by Vivienne Becker, in which Amanda Triossi, Vanessa Cron, and Juliet de la Rochefoucauld discuss jewellery and its value through time.


Writing about jewellery and doing it by looking back in time is quite a recent activity. Antique jewellery did not use to be part of the fashion world, and it was something only discerned collectors could appreciate. In the present day, a new trend for antique and vintage jewels began when Miuccia Prada started wearing antique brooches on her clothes in the 1990s. Another robust input to jewellery, which brought back a solid reference to the history and techniques of jewellery design, is JAR (Joel Arthur Rosenthal): he proved that a way to look to the future of jewellery is often through its past.


Little by little, the most prominent jewellery Maisons, together with the auction houses, started writing monographic works on their heritage. The production of jewellery books brought back and enhanced an appreciation for the historic value of their creation, combining the brands’ continuity in the present and their allure.


So, what is the value of legacy or heritage to a brand? Amanda Triossi stated that one of the critical aspects to consider is that a brand with a strong heritage has gravity; it proves its longevity and financial success. Cartier was the first Maison to build on this, and it started a process which shows how rich and inspiring the Maisons are.


Brand heritage indeed confirms a brand’s status not only for what it created in the past but also and foremost for what it will create in the future. As a result, a brand’s heritage is an endless source of inspiration for jewellery designers, and it allows the brand to be consistent with its core DNA. This is also why big names such as Cartier, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels all have a Heritage Department, hosting their heritage collections – collections that are constantly enriched not only by antique and vintage but also by contemporary pieces.


Therefore, it is a pity that there is not a higher focus on the history of jewellery in the courses of History of Art – knowing this would allow a full appreciation of stylistic influences and designs because the link between the past and jewellery is not so obvious. Vanessa Cron highlighted how there are still a limited number of schools where one can learn about the history of jewellery and that the history of a brand in jewellery is critical. Because if a brand wants to be part of history, it should tell its history. First, the brand needs to know it – and many houses did not have such a historical awareness. They knew they had a past, but they did not learn about their history, which is quite different.


So, once a brand starts looking into its past, it starts looking into its history and can share it with the world. Consequently, the brand’s history becomes part of the newest creations as these will be inspired by the brand’s history and legacy. Therefore, according to Vanessa Cron, the history of a jewellery brand is so vital for its future development.



One additional point for consideration is now about contemporary jewellery brands – how can they build their heritage and legacy, considering that they need to establish their name first? Because when you are making your jewellery brand, sourcing the gems, designing the pieces, finding workshops willing to produce for you and managing all the costs, you might forget simply to take pictures of your creations. Amanda Triossi said this is a pity because it prevents future generations from appreciating a new brand’s talent and innovative design approach. Jewellery creations show the brand’s vision. It would be imperative to document that for the future – not only because it is about jewellery, but also about art.


If a jewel is a piece of art, it is also true that one of the most critical parts of a jewellery brand’s legacy lies in storytelling. Storytelling enhances the value of the brand’s legacy and its authenticity. History is so rich in events, so meaningful, and it has been around for such a short time that the public keeps coming back to it, willing to know more and more. Brand storytelling is not only about an object (however beautiful it might be), but it is also about the people behind it – from the brand’s owners to the designers and the gem experts and the workshops that realised these masterpieces. Storytelling reveals all this to a public who was unaware and creates the jewel’s magic, fascination, and human side.


Through storytelling, a jewel becomes the history of someone; it is passing through the hands of people, which is extraordinary because jewellery is also the only form of wearable art. So that means that one could wear a jewel worn by someone else 300 years before.


A jewel communicates and transmits history and provenance. So storytelling is a fundamental way to define a context around and a better understanding of these jewels, which will mean a higher value – the more you understand the creation, the more value you will recognise in it.





Image caption: White gold earrings by VAK Fine Jewels featuring vivid green Colombian emeralds certified insignificant oil, with rose-cut diamonds.

Since time immemorial, emeralds have captured our imagination like no other gemstone. Whether their historical association to the exotic Cleopatra, the belief of native Colombians in their divinity or the Mughals who carved emeralds with prayers hoping for heavenly protection, each generation has discovered a facet of this verdant gem that transcends the tangible.

It is this heady combination of history, mysticism and beauty that has and continues to draw us towards emeralds, making them, one of the most popular of all coloured gems. Whether Colombian, Zambian, Panjshir or Brazilian, we can’t get enough of this hypnotic mineral. However, in our quest for acquisition, lets pause and reflect on four essential factors that determine the trajectory of value appreciation for this elixir of life!

BEAUTY: The first to drive demand will always be beauty. For emeralds, it is their colour, crystal quality, clarity and cut. The closer your emerald is to the primary green hue, the higher the value. While a pale green gem may beautifully compliment a light peach attire, from an investment point of view, perfectly saturated emeralds displaying a well-balanced, rich green hue will better appreciate. Alongside colour, the crystal quality or lustre of the gem is equally important. In India, the trade refers to emeralds with excellent crystal quality/lustre as “Paanidar” or reflecting light in a manner where the gem appears laden with water. Additionally, the style of cutting is also an indication of perceived value. Top quality is typically facetted or cut into a square, rectangle (emerald cut), or round shape. Cabochons, either as classic domes or unique shapes like a lozenge, sugarloaf, usually come from the second tier of material, while the lowest quality is crafted as beads or carved. However, the intimate nature of gem acquisition can change our perception of value. I love cabochon and sugarloaf emeralds as I feel they have more character, which also allows me to acquire top-grade within this segment, without burning too big a hole in my pocket. Finally, while the market places a higher value on cleaner emeralds, for me one of the most beautiful features of these minerals is their eye-visible inclusions. Representing a frozen moment of creativity, the compositions inside these precious gems impeccably denote their distinctive personality.

RARITY: While beauty may spur demand, it’s the rarity factor that determines the price and drives value appreciation. The scarcity in emeralds comes from natural beauty devoid of artificial enhancement. Emeralds typically undergo two manners of treatments, “oiling” and “resin filling”, with the former further sub-categorised as insignificant, minor, moderate etc. The most valuable emeralds are devoid of any treatment, as the degree of enhancement increases, value proportionately adjusts. In Colombian emeralds, only 0.0195% are “no oil”, with the figure approximately 5% in Zambian material. While its perfectly acceptable to buy emeralds with insignificant, minor or moderate oil, its essential to understand how treatments impact the trajectory of value appreciation. The rarity factor also stems from the unique set of circumstances surrounding emerald creation. For example, Zambian emeralds form only when the 1.7 billion-year-old TMS rock (Talc magnetite schist), interacts with a 500 million-year-old pegmatite rock. Where these two rocks intersect, if a miner is lucky, he/she may find a ‘reaction zone’, inside which they may find emeralds of varying quality. To put things in perspective, at the world’s largest emerald mine in Zambia (KAGEM by Gemfields), they move 1 million tonnes of rock every month to reach emerald bearing ‘reaction zones’. Important to note, 70% of their revenue comes from only 7% of their top-quality production.

CERTIFICATION: The third element in value appreciation is provenance. Ten years from now, you are ready to sell your beautiful top-grade emerald, where do you go? You could return to your jeweller, he may buy-back at the same price or may offer to sell it further, which depending on the market forces at play, may result in profit. The second option is to trade internationally with a jeweller or a vintage jewellery merchant. In both scenarios, beyond the gem’s physical qualities, having a certificate from an internationally recognised gem lab like the European SSEF, Gubelin or the American AGL, will further enhance value. Some other reputable labs used by the trade for emeralds and other coloured gems are the GJEPC in Jaipur, GGTL in Switzerland, CDTEC in Bogota, AIGS, ICA, GIA and Bellerophon in Bangkok.

RESPONSIBLY SOURCED: One of the most important topics discussed at industry forums, is responsible sourcing of gemstones and precious metals. Discerning customers prefer buying gems and jewellery that can be certified as acquired from a trustworthy source. For some, it may stem from superstition or a cultural preference to avoid negative energies; others understand the financial value in obtaining ‘clean goods.’ Given this, industry stakeholders are collaborating to create transparent mine-to-market traceability of gemstones. One example is Swiss laboratory Gubelin’s ‘emerald paternity test’, which employs DNA-based nanoparticles to track the journey of emeralds from their source to the customer. Emeralds containing this technology are certified with “Provenance Proof” branding, providing a tangible testament of their origin. Should a customer, want to verify the claim, the nanoparticles can be retrieved and decoded at any stage along the supply chain. Similarly, SSEF has recently concluded a pilot to provide customers with detailed certificates documenting the production process for Rubies from mine to market.

To quote Plato, “Human behaviour comes from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.” Just like everything in your wardrobe is not couture, every single emerald you own doesn’t need to be top-grade. However, as you navigate this confusing marketplace and build your collection, a clear understanding of what truly drives long-term value appreciation, will hold you in good stead for the foreseeable future and generations to come.




Image: Shirley Temple Blue Bird diamond, Windsor Jewelers

Provenance can enhance the value of extraordinary jewels enabling the owner to possess a unique piece of history or to prize an exceptionally rare origin.

At the coming edition of GemGenève (May 9-12, 2019) some pieces of jewellery and gemstones have an unusual story of ownership or origin which will make them even more desirable.

“Historical provenance (an emerald brooch belonging to Liz Taylor, for example) and geological origin (a Burmese ruby from the legendary mines of Mogok) can rocket standard quality criteria through the roof and create world record results for already gorgeous gems,” said Helen Molesworth, managing director of Gübelin Academy.

At GemGeneve, a superb blue diamond that will be showcased by Windsor Jewelers, will be the Shirley Temple Blue Bird, a more-than-9-carat fancy deep blue, internally flawless diamond.

It has superb provenance as it once belonged to the Hollywood child star, increasing its appeal.

Exhibitor Pat Saling will present some exceptional pieces with a unique history.

She is showcasing a necklace designed by Juliette Moutard of the house of Rene Boivin for Madame Louise de Vilmorin.

Louise de Vilmorin was a famous French novelist, poet and journalist. She was born in the family chateau outside of Paris. She wrote several novels and received the Renee Vivien prize for women’s poets in 1949.

She was also known as a woman of great taste and sophistication. In the Boivin book, Jeanne Boivin described her as one of their favourite clients who wore jewellery with great elegance.  

She had two husbands, the first an American real estate heir, the second a Count described as a Hungarian playboy, and was the mistress of a British Ambassador to France and the companion of the French Cultural Affairs Minister.

The necklace itself was designed from an older platinum and pearl sautoir that Moutard then updated with coloured stones set in gold and accented with diamonds to be a more exciting piece of jewellery and be more in keeping with the style of the times.

“Most of the time we do not have the provenance of a piece of jewellery for a variety of reasons,” Pat said.

“But when we can trace a piece of jewellery back to an owner it is always an important piece of information and does add to the allure of a piece of jewellery.

“As with this necklace, the fact that we know it belonged to a woman who was considered a woman of great taste, who had a large jewellery collection and was recognized by her generation and subsequent generations, is icing on the cake.

“People like to own a little piece of history and when you know that a piece of jewellery was part of an important collection it adds to the value of that piece.”

Pat Saling is also presenting an important cabochon sapphire and diamond ring in platinum created by celebrated designer Suzanne Belperrron and dating to about 1940.

Belperron had an amazing and recognizable style which was sought after by the wealthy and elegant women of her generation.

Her clients included the Duchess of Windsor, Chanel, Diana Vreeland, Daisy Fellowes, and Elsa Schiaparelli to name a few.

Her jewels were often featured in French and American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and used by the great fashion houses of the day to accessorize their collections.

“The important provenance of this ring is that it was in the personal collection of Suzanne Belperron and that adds to its mystique and its value,” Pat said.

“Here is a designer who can have anything she wants since she is designing the jewellery and this ring is one of the pieces that she chooses to be her personal ring. That kind of validation is rare because usually the creator of a piece of art or jewellery is making it for someone else.

“But this ring is a piece that she chose to own herself. It was exciting for me to know this when I bought it.  It will always make this particular ring be more desirable to have been part of a great designer’s personal collection.”

In terms of gemstones, Richard Haruni of Haruni Fine Gems says provenance is a major factor for him when buying and selling gems.

“Origin above all else will be the factor that will set two seemingly identical stones apart,” he says.
“You see this in pretty much every variety of gemstone whether it’s ruby for Burma and Mozambique, sapphires for Kashmir/Burma/Sri Lanka/Madagascar (in that order), emeralds with Colombia and Zambia and now Ethiopia, or specialist stones like Paraiba tourmalines from Brazil, pink or red spinels from Burma or Australian Opals.

“Let’s not forget the premium fetched by Argyle pink diamonds and type II Golconda.  Origin sets them apart.”

Anne Wild of Paul Wild speaks of the importance of Brazilian origin in setting the highest premiums for Paraiba tourmalines.

“The provenance of a gemstone is getting more and more important. This means for high quality/value of rare gemstones like ruby, sapphire, emerald — and not to forget Paraiba tourmaline.

“Paraiba tourmaline has been our bestselling stone for years and here the origin of Brazil has become more crucial.”

Bruno Scarselli of Scarselli Diamonds said that as a diamond manufacturer he would interpret “provenance” as “origin.”

“In the diamond industry awareness of ‘origin’ would permit someone like me to recognize certain manufacturing aspects which would allow for better colour outcome when cutting a rough stone,” he says.

Ingo Henn of Henn of London says it is vital to authenticate the provenance of a piece to add value.

“It is important to be able to verify the item — otherwise people can claim any provenance,” he says.

“It will certainly add to the desirability and value. Even more so if there’s connection with a very famous person.

“Gemstones can have their own history and personality, both of which can be enhanced with their provenance. “

The top lot in the Sotheby’s “magnificent jewellery” sale last November, a pearl and diamond pendant that belonged to Marie Antoinette, achieved a world record price for a pearl of $36 million — some 20 times its pre-sale estimate.

The extraordinary provenance of this pearl – its ties to the ill-fated last Queen of France before the French Revolution, an Austrian Archduchess who married the future King Louis XVI and was executed by guillotine – was a key driver of the sale price.

An anonymous private buyer bought the jewel for a startling world record price of $36 million for a pearl, a huge premium over its pre-sale estimate of $1-2 million.

The extraordinary price garnered for the pendant was very much due to its exceptional royal provenance – the fact that the Queen of France had held this piece in her own collection shortly before her execution centuries ago.

“Because of its size, rarity and quality, the commercial value of such a pearl can be estimated to be between three to five million Swiss francs,” said Thomas Faerber, a co-founder of GemGeneve.

“The rest is historical value. In my opinion, the final price is also a world record for historical jewellery at auction.”

People who handled the pendant in the days before the Sotheby’s sale felt a little bit as though they possessed a moment of that history – a strange feeling, like being pushed back hundreds of years. A sense of grandeur – with a feeling of unique emotions.

“It is extremely difficult to calculate how much the provenance will add to the value of a piece of jewellery, and in this case much of the price achieved for the pearl pendant was due to its story relating to Marie Antoinette,” said Daniela Mascetti, Chairman Jewellery Europe of Sotheby’s.



“Cameos are my first love,” says Ida Faerber, who works alongside her father Thomas, at the Faerber Collection, Geneva. “They were my first discovery in the world of jewellery. I remember thinking how extraordinary it was to be able to tell a story out of stone, how amazing to create magnificent art from stone or shell, what imagination, what skill.”

The art of gem-engraving is one of the earliest of all art forms, reaching back to Mesopotamia, to the great civilisations of antiquity, when engraved cylinder seals were essential instruments for signing documents and sealing contracts. Cameos were a later development, traceable to the engraved scarabs of ancient Egypt, and blossoming in the Hellenistic age. Both cameos and intaglios (incised engravings) were highly prized, in ancient Greece and Rome and then again in the Renaissance with its revival of classical art and learning. A deep appreciation of gem-carving, as the noblest of art forms, as a highly elevated form of human artistic expression, was nurtured by great patrons of the arts and collectors, including Lorenzo dei Medici, who counted the 2nd century B.C carved hardstone cup, later known as the Farnese Tazza, as his most valuable treasure.

The art of gem-engraving was revived again with the wave of neo-classicism, 1760-1820, stimulated by archaeological discoveries and encouraged in particular by Napoleon, who modelled himself on the great Roman emperors. Napoleon had a passion bordering on obsession for engraved stones, especially ancient gems, and established a school of gem-engraving in Paris. He presented Empress Josephine and later Marie Louise with grandiose parures set throughout with cameos. Leading neo-classical cameo-carvers, including Pichler, Pistrucci, Morelli, Girometti, took to signing their work, to prevent them being passed off as ancient gems by unscrupulous dealers.

Another revival in the mid-to later19th century was fuelled by a fresh archaeological revival, focused on a mania for ancient gold jewels. Cameos by artists such as Luigi Saulini were set into gold, Etruscan-revival mounts by leading goldsmiths including Castellani of Rome.

The most prized cameos are those carved from hardstones, agates, onxy, sardonyx, in which the layers of the stone are used, with consummate skill and imagination, to bring subject to life, to tell a story, to introduce shading, perspective, to highlight minute details, for example to capture the diaphanous folds of a goddess’s robes or unruly, wispy curls of hair.

Later in the 19th century, as cameos became less cerebral and more widely popular, they were carved on a huge variety of materials, coral, ivory, tortoiseshell, lava but mostly on shell. Poised between archaeological-revival and romanticism, these later Victorian shell cameos were madly fashionable, often huge and elaborate, carved with mythological figures and scenes, including the Three Graces, cherubs, angels, Hercules, the head of Medusa, a chariot ascending to the heavens, or with profile portraits of contemporary figures, male and female, including Queen Victoria. Some were set with precious stones to create a cameo habillé. Other cameos still were carved in more precious materials, including emerald or opal. Ida Faerber recalls a 19th century cameo carved from black opal depicting a native American wearing an elaborate feathered headdress skilfully worked to make full use of the dramatic flashing colours of the stone.

Ida Faerber says she is endlessly fascinated by cameos, which are, she says, miniature sculptures of awe-inspiring artistry and craftsmanship that generate a powerful visceral and emotional response in her. “That emotional response is important; you have truly feel the emotion when you look at a cameo.” Yet cameos were also revered as amulets, or invocations, imbued with spiritual power, powers that were drawn from the stone by the skill of the carver in depicting particular subjects, a god or hero for example, whose own attributes, virtues or strength were believed to be transferred to the owner. She cites Renaissance bloodstone cameos, of religious subjects, in which the red depicted drops of blood and the green signified hope.

While early examples, ancient or Renaissance, continues Ida, are exceedingly rare today, good 19th century cameos of the quality on offer at GemGenève are still, she feels, “completely undervalued.” And, she adds, “Although they were more commercial, more mass-produced, later 19th century shell cameos can be very beautiful.”

At GemGenève, search out the cameos on offer at various antique jewellery dealers, The Faerber Collection, for example, and particularly New York-based dealers’ dealer, Shalom Bronstein, who has a special interest and love for cameos and engraved gems. He takes his cameos seriously: most of the select group he will bring to the show, he says, are early 19th century or mid-19th century, and all are stone cameos, which in his opinion are generally “several steps up” from Victorian shell cameos, although he adds it is possible to find some exceptionally fine shell examples. Overall, he says, “cameos are ridiculously inexpensive, in terms of man hours involved in engraving and carving, and in the artistic skills required. They represent incredible value.”

Ida Faerber finishes by saying that one other aspect of cameos she loves is the depth and complexity of the subject; there is always so much more to learn. “I’m enchanted by the magic of the cameo, the minute details, the dedication, the storytelling in stone. These skills are lost; it is an art from that cannot be repeated.”



When I first started collecting coloured gemstones, I came across an extraordinary book by Richard W. Wise called ‘Secrets of the Gem Trade’. While there were many nuggets of knowledge embedded in the book, there were three, in particular, I continue to employ as my guiding principles. The first, ‘light equals colour’, referring to the variable hues of sunlight and how it impacts coloured gemstones. Mindful of this, I try to view coloured gems between 11.30 am to 2.00 pm when the light is ideally colour balanced.

The second, ‘value beauty, over pedigree’, meaning, before origin, the beauty of the stone will always drive value appreciation. Qualities like hue, tone, saturation, lustre, cut, crystal quality, will remain the fundamental building blocks against which value is assigned and evaluated, with origin only afterwards becoming a factor.

The third principle, ‘while beauty drives demand, it’s the rarity factor that drives the price.’ How does one define rarity? For some, rarity is intrinsically linked to beauty because with each season, finding untreated, beautiful gems of top quality, irrespective of origin is becoming quite the task. For others, rarity is defined by origin, as production from ancient sources is down to a trickle.

While the marketplace is seeing an influx of multi-hued gems, when it comes to long-term value appreciation, none come close to the holy trinity of rubies, emeralds and sapphires. However, even among them, there is one, which holds a unique position, due to its achievement of moving from discovery to world domination in only six short years, the Blue sapphires from Kashmir, India.

First discovered around 1879-1882, due to their remote location, high in the Himalayan mountain range (elevation of approximately 4,500 m.), mining was mainly conducted from July to September, with some years delivering only thirty days of mining. There were two mining sites, the ‘old mine’ with the higher quality sapphires located high on the northeast wall of Kundi valley. The second location was on the valley floor 250 m below the old deposit. Termed the ‘new mine’ it produced mostly milky sapphires with only the skin and tips of crystals being blue. Its truly incredible to comprehend that mining of large, excellent quality sapphires from Kashmir happened from just 1881 to 1887. Since their discovery 138 years ago, their magnificence has captivated the world, and till today, they remain the comparison standard for all other origins.

So, what makes Blue Sapphires from Kashmir so special? Besides the apparent beauty, rarity, history, we need to delve deeper and reflect on our societal structures. Since time immemorial, irrespective of geographical location, society at large has been formed around groups of people, based on their financial, intellectual and artistic abilities. Even in ancient India, the first position in society was awarded to the Brahmins or the learned, followed by the Kshatriyas or the warriors/rulers, then the Vaishyas or the merchants, followed finally by the Shudras or the working class. Fast forward to modern history, and we see the industrial revolution, break-down of colonial shackles, economic development, leading to the democratisation of wealth distribution. The past twenty to thirty years, in particular, have witnessed the emergence of a new segment of wealthy consumers, who in their aspirational search for investment value, an elevated position in society, are graduating from volume to qualitative consumption of luxury goods.

Blue Sapphires from Kashmir, India, represent the pinnacle of acquisition, not only due to their microscopic supply but because of their intrinsic beauty. Further, keeping in mind the first principle of ‘light equals colour’, it’s important to understand, unlike sapphires from other origins, the ones from Kashmir are nocturnal beauties, holding their blue colour despite the setting of the sun.

So, what is the ideal Kashmir blue to acquire? That depends on two factors, the first of heritage tastes, preferring sapphires, which visibly appeared Kashmir, due to their velvety hue, displaying a muted crystal quality, sometimes called ‘cornflower blue’. However, the trend today is favouring Kashmir sapphires with a higher crystal quality, which while not as effervescent as Sri Lankan sapphires or deeper hued like Burmese, still comes close to contemporary deposits vs the archaic choice of aristocrats.

What about sapphires from Madagascar that have recently managed to attain ‘Kashmir’ origin on certificates? Will they impact the appreciation trajectory of Kashmir stones? To answer this, we must remember that similar confusion happened between 1990-92 when certain new, non-basaltic deposits in Madagascar were yielding sapphires that were obtaining ‘Kashmir’ certification. From the perspective of investment, it’s vital to note that temporary misrepresentation of origin, affecting pricing, never has and will never sustain in the long run. Technology and science always manage to catch up and correct the lens.

While absorbing the technical and historical nuances of sapphire evaluation, it’s essential to consider how you feel when you experience the gem. If your personality connects more with a sparkling Sri Lanka sapphire or even a deeper hued Burmese, that’s what you should acquire. However, if your heart desires a sliver of history, from the romantic vales of The Himalayas, representing the perfect combination of rarity, beauty and refinement, the choice can only be a Kashmir Blue.

Reference credit:
Ruby & Sapphire by Richard W. Hughes
Secrets of the gem trade by Richard W.
Wise Conversation with Ronny Totah of Horovitz & Totah, co-founder and exhibitor at GemGenève



March 2019 – Rare and exquisite natural blue diamonds are among the most sought-after gems, seen in recent auctions vying with pinks and achieving world record prices, with premiums built in for exceptional provenance and freshness to the market.
The Cullinan mine near Pretoria is the world’s only notable blue diamond producing mine. Blue diamonds are extremely rare and, like pinks, are among the most prized by connoisseur collectors.
The rarest colour is the red, which seldom comes to the public auctions market.
Some of the rarer colours are so unusual and hard to find that they go directly from the mines to auction houses or museums.
A superb blue diamond that will be showcased by exhibitor Windsor Jewelers at the coming edition of GemGenève (May 9-12, 2019), will be the Shirley Temple Blue Bird, a more-than-9-carat fancy deep blue, internally flawless diamond.
It has great provenance as it once belonged to the Hollywood child star.
Other GemGenève exhibitors showing blue diamonds, include Kunming Diamonds who will present loose stones in a variety of hues of blue, including fancy light blues and fancy vivid blues, weighing up to 3 carats, said director Harsh Maheshwari.
Standouts will include a pair of one-carat, pear-shaped diamonds, one of them vivid blue and the other an Argyle pink.
“Smaller blues may not always have provenance, but they are rare,” Harsh said.
He added that for him, some of the most beautiful blues are tinged with green.
L.J. West Diamonds will also be showing blue diamonds at GemGenève, including a 3.10-carat fancy vivid blue, and a 3.88-carat fancy vivid blue, set in jewellery, said Gino di Geso, director of marketing and strategy.
He said that blue diamonds were currently outperforming in the wholesale market.
Scarselli Diamonds also expect to present blue diamonds, sometimes combined with pinks, at GemGenève.
“Pinks and blues play off each other very well,” said director Bruno Scarselli. “Pinks give more brightness to the blues.”
Scarselli Diamonds expect to present a 2-carat vivid blue, emerald cut diamond at GemGenève, among other blue stones.
Ely & Co Fancy Diamonds Inc. will display over 18 blue diamonds at GemGenève, including a 17.89-carat fancy light blue, and a set of vivid blues made into jewellery.
The House of Dehres will present at GemGeneve an outstanding 3.07-carat fancy intense blue diamond ring (VVS2), flanked by two fancy intense pink heart-shaped diamonds, as well as another ring holding a 2.75-carat fancy deep grayish blue (VVS2) diamond.
In terms of recent world records for blue diamonds, two stones garnered remarkable sales results at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in New York in April 2018.
An incredibly rare 3.47-carat fancy intense blue diamond ring, which sold at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York for $6.7 million, achieved a new world auction record price-per-carat for any fancy intense blue diamond ($1,920,259 per-carat). The stone nearly tripled its pre-sale estimate of $2.5 million.
Gary Schuler, Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Division, Americas, said: “Our results affirm that the auction market continues to flex its strength in top-quality diamonds, important gemstones and jewels with distinguished provenance.”
“We are proud to continue the long line of exceptional blue diamonds at Sotheby’s, with the sale of the fancy intense blue diamond, that soared to $6.7 million after competition from three bidders,” he added.
Earlier that week, a 3.09-carat blue diamond comfortably surpassed its pre-sale estimate at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York.

The rectangular-cut, fancy intense blue diamond ring, surrounded by tapered baguette-cut diamonds, sold for $5.4 million. Its pre-sale estimate was $2-3 million. It set – for a brief time – a world auction price-per-carat record.
Royal provenance, and a freshness to the market, have helped to drive up prices of rare and beautiful blue diamonds. Top-tier collectors prefer to buy stones the first time they appear on the market.
In May 2018, the top lot at the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewellery sale in Geneva was the 6.16-carat Farnese Blue, which had remained in the hands of the same family for 300 years.
It netted $6.7 million to an anonymous buyer, well above estimate.
Given to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, as a wedding present in 1715 and subsequently passed down through four of the most important royal families in Europe, the mesmerizing pear-shaped blue diamond was appearing on the market for the first time.
In terms of absolute world records, a pink stone currently prevails, but the blues are never far behind.
Some collectors believe that the world record price of $71 million achieved by the 59.60-carat Pink Star diamond at Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in April 2017, was a bargain for the buyer, Chinese jeweller Chow Tai Fook.
The oval Pink Star smashed the record price for any diamond sold at auction following a brief bidding battle.
The justification for such a price is rarity and beauty.
The previous world record-holder for a diamond sold at auction was a blue diamond — the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue, which fetched $57.5 million at a Christie’s auction in Geneva in May 2016.
Asian buyers have figured prominently in purchases of magnificent rare diamonds in the past few years, such as Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau who bought the Blue Moon – another fabulous blue diamond — for a then world record price of $48 million in 2015.
Collectors can sometimes turn the rivalry between pinks and blues into an advantage by snapping up superb combinations of the two colours.
In May 2017 in Geneva, a magnificent pair of blue and pink diamond earrings – the Apollo Blue and Artemis Pink – achieved a world record price for a pair of earrings sold at auction of $57.4 million at the Sotheby’s sale.
The two stones were sold as separate lots, but both went for extraordinary prices — to the same anonymous buyer, underlining the fascination for blue and pink diamonds while keeping the two stones together as a pair of earrings.
“If paying $57.4 million for a pair of earrings isn’t a sign of confidence in rare coloured diamonds as a viable investment asset, I don’t know what is,” said Tobias Kormind, 77Diamonds.com managing director.



Of all the captivating diamonds fashioned by the legendary New York diamantaire, William Goldberg, the Ashoka is the stone that became his enduring legacy. With a deep affinity to diamonds and his love of diamond legends, Bill Goldberg was particularly inspired by the tale of the ancient Ashoka diamond: a 41.37 carat Golconda stone, a treasured talisman, named for Ashoka Maurya, the 3rd century Buddhist warrior-emperor. The Ashoka was passed down through the centuries, like so many historic Indian diamonds, and in 1947 fell into the hands of Harry Winston. Later it was bought by the fiery, jewel-adoring Mexican actress, Maria Felix. She sold it to the art dealer Roberto Polo, who presented it as a gift to his wife, Rosa.

Fast forward, and in 1988, the Ashoka was the highlight of Sotheby’s glamorous jewellery auction, in St Moritz. William Goldberg’s son, Saul and his wife Dale were there, hoping to bring home the treasured stone, but it sold to an anonymous buyer for a record price of $3,850,000. And disappeared from sight.

William Goldberg couldn’t forget the beauty and allure of this stone, and he created an entirely new cut, the Ashoka, in homage to the historic Indian diamond of the same name.  Staying true to his own maxim, “You shouldn’t cheat a diamond of its right to be beautiful.” Today, the modern Ashoka, a contemporary classic, is weaving its own legend.



One of the highlights on show during the Hong Kong press event, on February 28th was the mesmerizing Pink Paradise pendant and necklace, loaned for the evening by Dehres, a new exhibitor at this year’s GemGenève.  The centerpiece drop-shaped pendant set with an exceptionally rare 15 carat fancy pink pear-shaped diamond, framed in white diamonds was suspended from a necklace composed of 40 pear-shaped diamonds, all D-F colour, totaling over 50 carats.  Dehres’ CEO, Ephraim Zion, explained that the design of the necklace was carefully and strategically planned to draw the eye, through light and line, directly to the beauty of the extraordinary pink diamond at the heart of the pendant. The Pink Paradise was paired with a ring set with 7 carat pear-shaped fancy intense pink diamond, in a pavé diamond setting.

Ephraim Zion, internationally acclaimed as a leading diamond expert, heads the third generation of the Hong Kong based company, Dehres, specialising in superlative diamonds and rare coloured stones, and backed by a long and rich family legacy of trading and cutting the finest gemstones.



It has been a busy year for Kazumi Arikawa, Chairman of the Albion Art Company, Tokyo, one of the most important collectors of historic jewellery in the world and an enthusiastic visitor to last year’s inaugural GemGenève. Since his visit, the Albion Art Company has sponsored the blockbuster Jewellery exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, while L’Ecole, the Paris-based, Van Cleef & Arpels-supported school of Jewelry Arts organised an exhibition, in Tokyo, in late February and early March, of Art Nouveau jewels from Mr Arikawa’s collection. The Art Nouveau Jewellery exhibition, showcasing masterpieces by Lalique, Fouquet, Vever and Boucheron, curated by jewellery historian and GemGenève team-member, Vivienne Becker, was one of a series called Through The Eyes of a Connoisseur, opening up private collections around the world. Meanwhile, the huge success of the jewellery show at the Metropolitan Museum, Jewelry – The Body Transformed, which closed last month, is good news for us all, opening up the whole subject of Jewellery to new audiences, bringing more depth, showing the full richness and complexity of the art of the jewel. Just as we do at GemGenève.



The GemGenève team got their show on the road once again, and organised a lively, interactive press conference and cocktail party in the Grand Hyatt hotel, Hong Kong during the Hong Kong Jewellery show in late February. In a room themed with this year’s campaign, “Find and Feel”, referring to the sense of discovery at GemGenève and the importance of learning, feeling and discovering gemstones and jewels, the founders, Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah, held a press conference, explaining their mission in establishing GemGenève and their expectations for this year’s show, which has grown in size to some 200 exhibitors. Vivienne Becker talked briefly about this year’s Designer Vivarium, the showcase of work by contemporary designers, one of whom, new this year, Hong Kong born and based Nicholas Lieou, was on hand to talk about his design philosophy. On show during the evening was a selection of superb antique, vintage and contemporary Jewellery, as well as rare coloured stones and diamonds, loaned by exhibitors to give members of the press a taste of the range and quality of gems and jewels on offer at GemGenève.


In true GemGenève spirit, several of the exhibitors in the audience took the microphone to speak for a few minutes each; amongst them, Marianne Fisher, daughter of exhibitor Paul Fisher, Ephraim Zion CEO of Dehres, a newcomer to this year’s show and Russian designer-jeweller, Alexander Laut, also a new exhibitor.


After the press conference, the evening continued with a cocktail, for press, exhibitors and invited guests, who were invited to connect to an engagement platform via a QR code and take a quiz about the show. The prize was an amethyst crystal, February birthstone and bringer of good fortune. Everyone was a winner!





Ming Lampson is one of the new names in this year’s  Designer Vivarium, presenting the work of individual, independent designer-jewellers from around the world. Based in London, Ming was born in Hong Kong – hence her name – and drawn to gemstones from an early age, as so many of the designers were, she went on to study gemmology and learn about stones in Jaipur. She set up her own business, in 1998, as a bespoke jeweller, only working on commission, but in the last few years she has created two collections, both inspired by the East, by Asia and her roots. 


The first collection, Oriental Garden, was conjured from Ming’s personal fantasy of an Asian garden, stylized, manicured, filled with fragrant, exotic plants and alive with winged creatures. The designs, as always with Ming’s work were highly stylized, abstracted, evoking emotions rather than depicting realistic images, a pool of lapis in which floats a single green tourmaline, representing a lotus leaf, a caterpillar translated into a ripple of emeralds encased in rose gold, an opal dragonfly ring with openwork wings wrapping the finger. Her second collection, Reverence for Nature, revolves around the Japanese preoccupation with the seasons. Ming explains, “I wanted to capture something fleeting in materials that last forever”. Again the designs are stylized, and gemstones are the focal point of each jewel; blossoms, for spring, a rendition of the traditional ‘Mons’ style flowers, in lace-like diamonds on ring; wintry aquamarine ice flowers, cold, sleek and sharp shards of ice; ripe, succulent berries for autumn, vibrant turquoise flowers for summer. She says she has explored the stones, their colours and associations, and pushed herself to technical challenges, in the construction of the jewels, bringing fluidity, and a strong sculptural quality, particularly for her earrings in which she experiments with line and form, “dressing the ear”, blending the classicism of the subject with a very modern edge. Each jewel is one of a kind, and all are hand-made in Ming’s atelier in London.