Rapaport Magazine

Designer Lines

By Amber Michelle
There are some pieces of jewelry that are truly works of art and Birds-in-Flight by Oscar Heyman is one of those pieces. The bracelet was created in 1927 and sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 1998 for $344,190. The original bracelet was one of only four that were ever made, three of which were made after 1998.
   After the bracelet was sold, some of the underbidders came forward and wanted to know if it was still being made, or could be made. Oscar Heyman’s answer was they were not sure they could make the bracelet today. But after a year of research by the jeweler’s master craftsman in their New York City workshop on Madison Avenue, it was determined that the heirloom piece could be replicated. Due to the attention to detail and the precision required to build the bracelet, it took another year to actually fabricate it.
   The bracelet has no repeating pattern so each panel of exotic birds is unique. Gems had to be specially cut by in-house cutters in order for the stones to be in the particular shapes needed to fit specifically into their allotted spot in the bracelet, which is comprised of over 1,400 diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and black onyx set in platinum. Before a stone is set in any Oscar Heyman jewel, the setting goes through a rigorous finishing process where it is thrummed, a technique that polishes the inside metal of the setting so that the stones shine more brightly.
   This masterpiece of jeweled art is a continuation of the Oscar Heyman tradition of meticulously crafted jewelry made by American artisans. The firm was founded in New York in 1912 by three Russian brothers — Oscar, Nathan and Harry — all of whom had apprenticed for the House of Fabergé. Eventually three other brothers joined the family business, each bringing a distinctive skill set to the company that was at that time known as Oscar Heyman & Brothers.
   Over 100 years later, the company continues to be a family affair. Adam, Tom and Lewis Heyman, who are the second and third generations, now manage the firm. The offices are filled with archives of original sketches of jewelry from when the company began. Additionally, cabinets hold pictures of pieces created as far back as the 1950s, when a camera was set up in a closet to photograph each item.
   Oscar Heyman creates its jewels using old-school jewelry-making techniques for modern consumers. As Tom Heyman says, “We want to make a piece so that in ten years customers will want to buy a piece to go with it — and in 30 years, the kids will fight over it.”

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

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