Rapaport Magazine

Yesterday, Today Tomorrow

Popular jewelry designs from 50 years ago are easy to identify — their quality of workmanship and design aesthetics have stood the test of time. But which of more recent pieces will be desirable 50 years from now is a question estate dealers have to answer every day.

By Phyllis Schiller
Fashion can be fickle. What’s a hot trend on the runways and red carpet today can be passé in six months. But quality designs will find a lasting place in the spotlight. And just as the classic good looks of jewelry from the early decades of the twentieth century have devoted collectors vying to buy pieces as soon as they appear on the market, the work of designers of the 1970s, 1980s and forward are making their way onto the wish lists of today’s jewelry aficionados.
   Finding the pieces that have that illusive mix of desirable qualities takes a discerning eye. Russell Fogarty, Kazanjian & Fogarty, Beverly Hills, California, sums up his criteria for choosing pieces as “classic style, workmanship, clean lines and beauty.”
   Gus Davis, partner, Camilla Dietz Bergeron, Ltd., New York City, looks for a strong design sense, “so when you look at a piece of jewelry, you know that they created it.” But more than just buying a name, he cautions clients to choose a piece that speaks to them. And a big part of that conversation for young collectors is finding jewelry that not only meets their taste standards, but is wearable as well. “People look for things that make a statement and that they need only one of. They don’t want to fuss with their jewelry. They want a go-to piece.”
   According to Jeff Russak, owner, Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers, Litchfield, Connecticut, the estate market is more about people looking for jewelry to wear than to collect. Now, he says, rather than a particular period, along with good design, condition and quality of materials, he also looks for wearability. “There’s no question that people want to wear their jewelry all the time and with a variety of ensembles.”
   “The younger band of collectors may look at jewelry in a different way than the collectors of the 1980s,” notes Simon Teakle, Simon Teakle Fine Jewelry & Objects, Greenwich, Connecticut, “since today’s lifestyle is more low key and casual. People who are interested in buying jewelry today want it to fit into their lifestyle.”
   “There is a definite move toward minimalism in the way that people live — smaller spaces, less clutter, more wash and wear,” points out Peter Shemonsky, private jeweler and jewelry historian in San Francisco, California. “So the jewelry that is being collected reflects that idea by being more streamlined and aesthetically simpler.”
   And who are the designers that are popular today? “The French — especially Van Cleef & Arpels — continue to rock the jewelry world,” says Russak. “People still chase the Alhambra; it’s very classic, it’s easy.” Fogarty concurs. “Alhambra is one of the few items that is immediately resalable above half of retail. As long as it is genuine and in good condition, it sells.”
   Davis cites contemporary Munich-based jeweler Hemmerle for its innovative, playful designs. JAR is another name Davis puts on the list for “serious” contemporary collectors as well as Fulco di Verdura, Oscar Heyman and Buccellati.

Seventies Style
   “The decade was a lot about design, a lot about whimsy,” says Davis, citing reasons why 1970s jewelry is popular today. “It was about color, boldness and simplicity. In the 1970s, you saw the use of baroque pearls, coral, amethyst, peridot, pink tourmaline, citrine — all those colors. You could have a big stone with a lot of enamel that made it affordable.”
   It’s not just the stones, continues Davis, it’s the designs that make this era relevant to younger clients. “Whether it’s a Bulgari enamel snake “Serpenti” watch or a long sautoir, it was about the design. When you think about what Jean Schlumberger was doing and David Webb was doing, it was not ten different colors. It was black and white and had pearls and diamonds or amethyst and black enamel or coral and emeralds. It was different. Pieces had texture, dimension.” Other notables he cites include Elizabeth Gage — “very strong and powerful” — Elsa Peretti’s organic-feeling designs — “very simple and wonderful” — 1970s and 1980s Bulgari and designs by Aldo Cipullo and Donald Claflin. “Those are names that are important. The style of the work itself, the look is so today.”
   When Fogarty thinks about the next collectible must-have, something manufactured today that will still be appreciated going forward, the easiest choice he says, as a category, is bangle bracelets. The qualities that make them so attractive, he notes, are wearability, durability and, with the signed editions, limited quantity. “Bulgari continues to make snake bracelets that wrap two or three times. Aldo Cipullo designed the iconic Love, Juste un Clou and Circles bracelets, which are still going strong at Cartier today. David Webb makes wonderful, whimsical animal and other bangle bracelets. Marina B. made phenomenal, dramatic pieces and Jean Mahie’s artistic high-karat gold bangles also stand the test of time. Cartier designed really special bangles in the 1980s and 1990s — as a parade of panthers or elephants walking around the wrist, sometimes as a double row, sometimes just the outline of the animals. We recently sold a Cartier ‘parade of panthers’ bangle crafted solely in diamonds.” Wide cuffs are also dramatic, he says. “Van Cleef created a version they called the ‘Jackie O’ cuff, which always sells immediately.”
In fact, Fogarty has such a strong belief in the bracelet category, he teamed with Carlo Weingrill, whose company does beautiful goldwork for big-name jewelry companies, to create a limited-edition bangle for Fogarty’s retail website, Beladora. Named the Veneto, the tubogas gold bracelet has high-grade diamonds on the tips. Fogarty says he expects it will be a desirable piece going forward.
   Russak points to the Tiffany & Co. intarsia bracelets by Angela Cummings, inlaid with pieces of colored gemstones. “People are going insane for them and they’re very hard to get. The ordinary ones have tripled in price and the exceptional ones could be ten times what they were 15 years ago.” Other bracelets on Russak’s radar include interesting heavy yellow gold bracelets with a lot of big diamonds set in a row. “Really big diamonds never go out of style and it almost doesn’t matter what the style is.”
   Smaller tennis bracelets, says Russak, have found a new role being worn as watch bracelets, which he sees as a strong trend. “You can have one, two, three or more delicate, lightweight bracelets that drape over the watch and dangle around it. I’m looking now for interesting Victorian watch chains that I can convert into watch bracelets.”
   Rings, says Russak, are selling well and, in fact, he notes, gold rings are hard to find. Yellow gold in general, he says, is very popular. “People like things that are polished, monochromatic; all-gold looks are very popular. Daytime diamonds are hot as long as they are not too prissy.”

On the Horizon
   Russak has been selling modernist makers from France, Switzerland and Germany for a while now, designers like Majo Fruitof, Paul Bender and Gunter Wyss. “But now, the market has strongly caught up with modern, from the 1960s through the 1980s, modernist or post-modern.”
   Along with Teakle’s “usual suspects” like Hemmerle, Bhagat Jewellers,Taffin and JAR, he suggests “curious and interesting people” like Wallace Chan, from Hong Kong, whom he likens to a contemporary Lalique, and London jeweler Hannah Martin, whose pieces “have an edgy rock-and-roll element.”
   Whatever the decade, the one thing that remains true, sums up Teakle, “Good design will always be good design. While it might go out of immediate fashion, if the jewelry is well-designed and well-made and representative of the period, it will come full circle.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2016. To subscribe click here.

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