Post-pandemic treat in store for devotees of fine jewellery at Adam’s auction

Upcoming sale to feature rare emerald and pieces by Van Cleef and Arpels and Bulgari


The world wars of the last century had a profound effect on jewellery and its design. With Europe in disarray, many jewellery firms closed, and some metals – especially platinum – became in short supply. During this time copper and other metals were added to gold in order to make it more affordable, which changed the colour slightly. As a result rose and green gold can be commonly seen in retro jewellery.

Bracelets were also modelled to make them look bigger, and this post-art deco era saw the advent of bold three-dimensional geometric shapes and textured design.

During the war years remodelling of old jewellery was often the only way to get a new piece, and in France it was normal to have a percentage of gold taken by the state for the war. As precious gems were difficult to procure, the growth in popularity of semi-precious stones such as aquamarine, amethyst and citrine began.

In Paris many houses produced patriotic jewellery with designs in red, white and blue colours in the form of military symbols such as flags and aeroplanes. But French house Cartier took it one step further. To the annoyance of the Germans who were occupying the French capital, the jewellery house began to produce little birds studded in white, blue and red gems set in a closed cage which they displayed in their windows. These symbols of German occupation were replaced as the war ended with a new line of Oiseau Libere (or free bird in an open cage) to symbolise the liberation of France.


Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green Fine Jewellery and Watch online sale, which ends on Tuesday, May 25th, has a really chunky gold tank bracelet dating from circa 1944 which takes its name and design from wheel-track system on military tanks used during the wars (lot 39, €2,800-€3,200). There are a number of other chunky gold bracelets including a superb bamboo motif link offering (lot 85, €2,800-€3,200) and two interesting Italian pieces from the 1950s. Claire-Laurent Mestrallet, who curated the sale, explains that along with her awareness of different designs from that period and the patina created over time, she can also tell that the pieces date from the 1950s by examining their stamps. “When Mussolini was in power in Italy, all the gold was stamped with an image of an axe, which was the symbol of fascism. This was replaced with a different shape from 1945 until 1968, and from 1968 a new stamp was introduced which still remains today”.

Mestrallet finds that aquamarine is becoming popular in Ireland and the sale offers quite a number of pieces to suit all budgets. Two of the standout lots are a pair of drop earrings with three diamond studs over long aquamarine pendants by Margherita Burgener (lot 170, €5,500-€6,500) and a rare and unique collection by Cartier. The private set of three pieces that include a brooch, ring and matching earrings came about after a lady in Monte Carlo had the dazzling blue aquamarines sourced in the prestigious mines of Santa Maria in Brazil, which she then took to Cartier in Paris who set them in a 1960s design. All pieces are unique, and the brooch is the most impressive with its whopping intense stone measuring 36 carats surrounded by 10 carats of baguette cut diamonds (lot 82, €15,000-€25,000).

High-quality diamonds

Those in search of a tennis bracelet – but with a twist – might enjoy lot 45, which is an articulated three-strand bracelet by Bulgari from the 1950s. With 22 carats of high-quality diamonds, Mestrallet says that it is the flexibility of the piece that also makes it important as “not that many jewellers could be able to produce something like it” (€25,000-€35,000).

Fans of Van Cleef and Arpels may have an interest in lot 119, a pretty double butterfly ring with diamonds and lapis lazuli. The French jewellery house currently sells these rings for €25,000, and the ring in Adam’s sale which is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the jeweller’s shop in Monaco, dated 2019 is seeking €12,500-€14,500.

The top lot is an impressive emerald and diamond ring. Besides the Zambian emerald weighing almost 12 carats, Mestrallet says its rarity of having only minor enhancements is what makes this ring really special. “Emeralds are notorious for inclusions, which are pieces of material trapped in the stone. As oil is added to get rid of these inclusions, 95 percent of the worlds emeralds have gone through moderate or significant oil treatment.” This ring is accompanied by certification from the C. Dunaigre Laboratory in Switzerland stating that the oil treatment is minor, making it a very rare (five percent) stone, and explains its estimate of €45,000-€50,000. If you need any excuse after the year we have all had, emeralds are also this month’s birthstone and viewings are currently taking place in the showroom.

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