Rapaport Magazine

High Rollers Win Big

Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show

By Lori Ettlinger Gross
RAPAPORT... Those willing to pay the high prices at this year’s Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show at the Rio Hotel walked away with the most coveted items at the exhibition.

Business was brisk and the mood upbeat at the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show. However, dealers reported not being able to buy enough fine goods — there simply were not enough to go around. The fact that top-grade vintage jewelry was in short supply is not news, but the way some retailers deal with this issue has become significant. The new strategies and trends in buying under these circumstances have opened up the market considerably, which is a huge bonus for consumers looking for variety in periods, styles and price points.

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Eric Bitz, vice-president of David & Company in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, recalls the requests for fine period pieces included jewelry as well as loose stones. “Larger white stones are in demand — either old or new. We did well with them.” The firm sold two diamonds at the show, each a nearly 10-carat D-flawless, type IIa, old-cut stone. Bitz would reveal only the ballpark figures paid for them: $60,000 to $100,000 per carat. An Edwardian bracelet of more than 30 carats left the firm’s hands for almost $40,000 and another bracelet from the same period with larger stones weighing about 2 carats each, 20 carats in total, sold in the area of $90,000.

Bob Saling, president of rms stone co. in New York, did a brisk business in both buying and selling at the show. One of his purchases was a Burma ruby ring with a 5-carat center stone set in a simple platinum mounting dating to the 1950s. He paid over $40,000 for it. He also bought a 2.30-carat, old-marquise-cut, G-flawless diamond. Among the several items he sold was a gold and diamond 1930s Tiffany & Co. necklace that was purchased in the $20,000 range. Jewelry from the 1930s is still a strong market and Saling sold a sapphire, diamond and platinum bracelet for almost $27,000. When it came to buying at the show, Saling says it was difficult. “Things that were signed and pretty were ridiculously expensive.”


Saling also suggested that the venue of the show should be reviewed. The JCK Las Vegas show, which is held almost concurrently with the show at the Rio, is an impractical distance for those who want to attend both exhibitions. “I’d love to see a different venue,” he offers. “If they were closer to one another in proximity, that would help the flow of both shows.”

Marianne Fisher, owner and president of Paul Fisher Inc., New York, agreed. “I bought pretty well — but not as well as the year before. There was less traffic than last year. We had fewer retail clients because there were too many shows going on at the same time. It’s just too exhausting to walk through all of them.” In terms of finding all the types of jewelry she was searching for, Fisher is pragmatic. “This is estate jewelry; you never know what you are going to find.”

Fisher purchased an important pair of Georgian emerald earrings and paid in the area of $50,000 for them. In addition, Fisher picked up a natural conch pearl necklace, circa 1910, for $90,000 and a diamond Art Deco bracelet for about $50,000. One of Fisher’s biggest sales was a pair of Van Cleef & Arpels 1930s diamond and platinum clips, which went for $75,000.

“We buy pieces with a strong period look,” says Malcolm Logan of Nelson Rarities of Portland, Maine, “It was a strong show. Anything signed and of high quality sold. There was a huge demand from the European dealers for French jewelry from the 1950s.” Logan observed fierce competition at the show and said pointedly, “We couldn’t spend all of our money.” What he did buy was a diamond, calibre-set sapphire and platinum wide filigree bracelet for about $30,000 and an Asscher-cut diamond, sapphire and platinum Art Deco bracelet for $25,000. “Natural pearls were very hot this year. We sold a pair of circa 1920 natural pearl, diamond and platinum earrings for $45,000 and certified old gemstones, especially sapphires. The sapphire market was the strongest this year, whether it was loose or mounted stones.”


There was an enormous demand for signed jewelry at the show, something that Marcie Imberman, owner of Kentshire Galleries in New York City, found to be a troubling sign of the times. “There wasn’t a great deal of extraordinary merchandise. There’s a visible hunger for signed jewelry — which is not surprising. Not all signed jewelry is created equal so I don’t find this inspiring news. It’s the mark of a less-educated buying public that is filtering down to dealers.” Due in large part to this kind of feeding frenzy, some retailers, like Judy Rosenbloom of The Treasure Chest in Highland Park, Illinois, decided to go in another direction. “I found a good supply of what I was looking for because it wasn’t what everyone else wanted. I wanted bracelets. I noticed the fashion magazines are featuring chunky gold bracelets so I sought those out,” she explains.

Rosenbloom bought Victorian gold and silver bangles as well as 1940s and 1950s examples. These are the types of pieces that she has been selling well recently. She also purchased antique earrings, in varying styles and materials. She paid about $6,000 for a pair of platinum, onyx, diamond and pearl earrings, circa 1915. When asked about the cost, she replied, “They are so hard to come by, you just pay for them so that you can have them in stock.” However, she did have some limits. “I bought one ring, a bold 1940s dress ring. I did not find too many of them though. There were just too few of them and they were too expensive.” In general, Rosenbloom noted finally that the price for antique pieces has come down in the last year.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2007. To subscribe click here.

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