A gem of a sale at Adam’s
Diamonds, rubies, sapphires and a cute dog in fine jewellery auction
Sapphire and diamond ring €16,000-€20,000.
Cartier necklace of lapis lazuli, cultured pearls and diamonds, €25,000-€35,000
1960s dog brooch, collar set with cabuchon turquoises, nose of black onyx and one cheeky eye made from a ruby and diamonds. €900-€1,200
Claire-Laurence Mestrallet enters the viewing room at Adam’s on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin pushing a cart piled high with trays of various shapes and sizes. If it were a dessert trolley, the appropriate reaction might be “yum”, but as she produces an apparently endless array of rings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets and holds them to the light with a magician’s flourish, the contents of the boxes elicit something more akin to gasps of admiration, murmurs of delight and the occasional sharp intake of breath – from this particular viewer, at least.
The jewellery will be going under the hammer at Adam’s Fine Jewellery & Watches sale in Dublin on Tuesday evening. “I’m trying to make it more fun,” says Mestrallet, who is head of jewellery at Adam’s. “I’ve got antique pieces, contemporary pieces, some pieces that are new and have never been worn. I want people to understand that you can have new pieces – and of quality, as well. Not just a nine-carat chain with a fob on it, you know?”
Not there’s anything wrong with a fob and chain. But the range of colours, textures and styles of jewellery she has assembled for this sale is truly impressive. Having begun her gemology career with Christie’s in New York and Geneva, moved to Bonhams in London and appraised items for auctions in France, Germany and Austria before taking up her current position with Adam’s, Mestrallet has an expansive network of contacts so there are pieces of jewellery in this sale which came from all over Europe as well as the UK.
One of her favourite pieces in the sale is Lot 88, a sapphire and diamond ring with an estimate of €16,000-€20,000. “It’s over 20 carats, it’s natural, it’s got a certificate,” she says of the large, cushion-shaped yellow sapphire. “It’s pale – people who buy yellow sapphires may be looking for a stronger colour – but it’s a mine-cut sapphire, over 50 years old, on a modern mounting. The charm is in the cut.”
The most expensive item in the sale is Lot 39, a Cartier necklace of lapis lazuli, cultured pearls and diamonds (€25,000-€35,000). “It has a typical Cartier pave diamond clasp, it has lapis lazuli carved in art deco style, it’s in great condition, considering it’s 30 years old, and it has a box and a cert,” says Mestrallet. She phoned Cartier to inquire about retail prices and the closest equivalent was over €100,000.
The difference in price is, of course, one very good reason to buy jewellery at auctions. This sale also features a pretty Van Cleef & Arpels pendant/brooch (Lot 36) with an estimate of €6,000-€8,000 which would retail at €14,000, and a string of cool grey-tinted Tahitian pearls with a diamond clasp, (€2,500- €3,500. To buy a similar string in a shop, says Mestrallet, you could pay between €6,000 and €7,000. “Of course you don’t always get the original box, but . . .” She offers a very French shrug. Who, after all, wants to wear a box?
It’s easy to see why people buy these beautiful objects but why do their owners sell them in the first place? “People either inherit them, or they want to buy something new, or simply – and sadly – they need the money because of a sudden situation that they’re in.”
One life situation where jewellery plays a central role is, of course, an engagement. “I’ve got a few different engagement rings at a few different prices. I’ve got a little Tiffany ring with a diamond that’s €650-€850 (Lot 71).” At the top end, a diamond of nearly 2½ carats (Lot 162) has a guide price of €10,000 to €15,000.
There is also a selection of cluster rings which, Mestrallet says, are highly fashionable as engagement rings now that Kate Middleton has her sapphire cluster. They sit like glowing flowers on the desk: to take just three examples, a blue cushion-cut sapphire which would surely earn the royal nod (Lot 86, €5,000 -€6,000); a round red ruby (Lot 178, €6,500-€7,500); a square-cut Colombian emerald (Lot 174, €6,000-€8,000) and an orange art deco zircon cluster (Lot 194, €1,800-€2,800).
For something absolutely contemporary and cutting-edge, she suggests some earrings from the Italian designer Margherita Burgener, whose work sells only at auction. “A lot of designers are using titanium now because it’s so light; her earrings are designed to sit beautifully on the ear. Actually they look much better when they’re being worn than they do in photographs or even in the hand.”
There are two pairs in the sale, both green in colour but very different in mood and feel: Lot 120, tiny teardrops set with tsavorite garnets and a cabochon sapphire (€1,600-€2,200) and Lot 171, some exquisite stylised leaves in green titanium with pave diamond trim (€1,600-€2,600).
A necklace, also by Burgener, offers yet another colour palette, this time, beryl beads in soft blue, pink and green pastels with diamond rondelles and a diamond clasp (Lot 124, €3,000-€4,000). “I picked it because I thought it would be fun for the summer,” Mestrallet smiles. As for Lot 114, it would make anybody smile: a dog brooch from the 1960s, cute as a button, teeny collar set with cabuchon turquoises, nose of black onyx and one cheeky eye made from a ruby and diamonds. It has a guide price of €900-€1,200.
Adam’s, 26 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Fine Jewellery & Watches sale, May 9th at 6 pm; viewing today and tomorrow, 1pm-5pm, Monday 10am-5pm and Tuesday, 10am-4pm. See adams.ie