Antique Jewellery

Antique, heirloom second-hand jewellery is a finite commodity, sometimes incorporating unrepeatable craftsmanship and irreplaceable gemstones.

Some of my favourite jewels are antique pieces. The reason is simple: exceptional quality and craftsmanship. One could argue that with today’s tools and technology, jewels are just as well made, if not better. But there is a difference, the exquisite craftsmanship from a hundred, or two hundred years ago was so exceptional that these “artists” accomplished unique pieces, without our modern tools and are still admired to this day.

Cartier is often the go to example when discussing unique skills, then and now. The above Art Déco sautoir by Cartier, was sold at Christie’s in May 2012. With an estimate of CHF74,000-110,000 (approx. £60,000-85,000), it sold for CHF 507,000 (approx. £400,000), excluding premium. The hammer price reflects a combination of excellent work but also unique gems. The quality of the emeralds would have been chosen to be the most vivid green, eye-clean or with very few inclusions. And the pearls, would have had to be selected minutely to match in size, colour, overtone and quality. Any blemish to the nacre, and the pearl would have been discarded.

This necklace would have required hundreds of hours from skilled jewellers and tradesmen.

Another example of the skilled work is this below Belle Epoque pendant watch by Cartier. The pink is enamel and the technique is called guilloché enamel. It resembles waves and the know-how to achieve this is unparalleled. It was sold for CHF7,500 (approx. £6,700) excluding premium at Sotheby’s.

Though the technique requires exceptional skill, the piece’s relatively “low” value for an antique Cartier jewel, can be explained by the lack of gems. Unlike the sautoir, only a few rose-cut diamonds were used in this piece. As complex and unique as this piece is, the demand for such an item is less than, for example, the below rock crystal and diamond Art Deco bracelet by Cartier, and therefore commands a lower price.

The rock crystal and diamond bracelet sold at Sotheby’s for USD237,500. The seven larger old European-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 11.60 carats, are approximately H-I colour and SI-I clarity. The smaller old European, old mine and rose-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 6.80 carats, are approximately G-J colour and VS-I clarity. This piece, just as with the sautoir, is a perfect combination of choosing good quality gems, and working with a semiprecious gem, rock crystal, in such a manner, that probably only a handful of people could ever deal with. The bracelet was sold with a note from the jewellery department stating that it is “exceptionally flexible and supple”. An incredible achievement.

Side stepping away from the worldrenowned jeweller, is Bvlgari. In the 60s, Bvlgari created an entire collection based on antique and irreplaceable coins, the Monete collection. Launched in the 60s, it is one of their most celebrated and successful collections, worn by private individuals and also Hollywood glam, such as Anne Hathaway, below, wearing Monete High Jewellery by Bvlgari.

Their collection includes coins from centuries BC, and never-used replicas. This meant there was limited supply and sourcing took a long time when they initially launched the collection. As popularity grew stronger, sourcing became easier and quicker. Though readily available, these jewels still retail for several thousands, and tens of thousands of pounds.

Irreplaceable gems and antique jewels make up some of the most precious collections, whether on display in a museum or on sale at auction. Exceptional prices and auction sale results will always take the world by surprise but can we actually put a price on a unique antique items of jewellery? Sentimentality will always play a role when inheriting jewellery, and who could put a price on those feelings.

Strumming The Strings Of History

Christie’s auction of Mark Knopfler’s guitar collection on 31st January 2024.

Mark Knopfler, the virtuoso guitarist and frontman of the iconic rock band Dire Straits, is not only a musical legend but also a passionate collector of guitars that have played a significant role in
shaping his distinctive sound.

On the 31st January, Christie’s Auction House had the privilege of hosting the sale of a portion of Knopfler’s remarkable guitar collection, offering enthusiasts a chance to own a piece of musical history.

The preview of the sale included an immersive sound experience delivered by Dolby and Neumann, which attracted fans from across the world, and generated excitement for almost two weeks before the sale.

The collection saw unprecedented interest, with over 2,300 registrants from 61 countries taking part — 84% of whom were new buyers to Christie’s, the sale lasted over six hours and sold 100% of the lots being offered.

Mark Knopfler: A Musical Journey

Mark Knopfler’s musical journey began in the late 1970s when he formed Dire Straits. His fingerstyle technique and soulful compositions quickly set him apart, earning the band global acclaim. Over the decades, Knopfler has become a respected solo artist, known for his storytelling lyrics and masterful guitar work.

Beyond his success in the music industry, Knopfler’s passion for guitars has been a constant companion throughout his career. The auction at Christie’s provided a rare opportunity for fans to delve into his personal collection and connect with the instruments that contributed to the creation of some of the most iconic songs in rock history.

Some of the highlights included:-

A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, achieving an impressive £693,000, this vintage Les Paul Standard was a centrepiece of the auction. With its rich tone and exquisite craftsmanship, it’s a guitar that undoubtedly played a crucial role in shaping the Dire Straits sound.

A 1988 Pensa-Suhr MK-1, co-designed by Mark Knopfler and used at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in 1988 at Wembley Stadium, sold for £504,000.

A red Schecter Telecaster used to record the hit Dire Straits song ‘Walk Of Life’, fetched £415,800.

The iconic 1983 Gibson Les Paul Standard ’59 Historic Reissue, used by Mark Knopfler to record and perform ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Brothers In Arms’ and played on stage at Live Aid, achieved £592,200.

The auction also featured handwritten lyrics, stage-used amplifiers, and other memorabilia, giving fans a comprehensive look into Knopfler’s musical journey.

The Christie’s auction not only provided a platform for guitar enthusiasts to acquire instruments from a music legend but also allowed them to own a piece of the stories behind the music. Each lot sold at the auction carried a unique history, resonating with the spirit of Mark Knopfler’s illustrious career.

As the gavel fell on each lot, it marked the beginning of a new chapter for these guitars, now in the hands of collectors who will cherish and appreciate the musical legacy they represent.

The total sale achieved £8,840,160 – a fantastic result and a true testament to the phenomenal global appeal of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits.

25% of the proceeds will be divided equally and donated to charities Mark Knopfler has supported for many years: the British Red Cross, Tusk and Brave Hearts of the North East.

100% of the funds raised from the final lot, the 2021 Gibson Les Paul ‘Gold Top’ guitar signed by world-famous musicians including Mark Knopfler, which sold for £403,200, will be donated to Teenage Cancer Trust.

Bonhams: The Crown Auction

We are in the era of prestige television.

Historically, T.V. programmes have been looked upon as the lesser relation to cinematic releases – movies traditionally viewed as pinnacle of film making. Today, television shows are often highly respected productions. As series run over weeks or even years, they can capture the public imagination with scores of fans and followers alike. These shows are essential to the success of streaming
platforms – with large budgets and famous casts the quality of productions has improved enormously.

As such the field of Entertainment Memorabilia collecting has expanded with those objects featured in major television series, being broader and highly sort. Production companies have apparently become more aware of the value of these assets. Once filming ceases and series end, auctions of costumes and props are becoming more of a common occurrence.

It is with this backdrop, and several months of planning that Bonhams, London announced they would be holding an auction of costumes, props and designs used during production of the Netflix series ‘The Crown’.

The Crown has done a tremendous job of creating fictionalised accounts of historic events – capturing World Affairs and global politics from the 1930s to early 2000s. The series managed to recreate the costumes and settings enjoyed by the Royal family.

The Bonhams auction was arranged as two separate sales – a one day Live Auction including 161 lots and many of the most valuable pieces, held at their New Bond Street headquarters. The second being an Online Auction of the more affordable and decorative objects, closing the following day. Proceeds from the Live Auction are to be donated to the National Film and Television School for a scholarship programme.

The pre-sale viewing for the auction was very popular with over 30,000 people attending – it is not very often that one can be photographed standing in the doorway to Number 10 Downing Street (be it a prop or otherwise – which eventually sold for £10,800 plus BP) or next to so many recognisable costumes.

The skill of the prop makers and set designers for the series was clear throughout the sale. One of the most impressive lots of the live auction was lot 80 – a reproduction of the Golden State Coach.

This is a highly accurate facsimile of the famous original, which has been used at every Coronation ceremony since 1831. The coach is a magnificent achievement in prop making. The replica was
designed and manufactured by specialist team including film horsemasters The Devil’s Horsemen and prop design company Anarchy. To achieve an accurate copy the coach was constructed in part from fibreglass, clay and 3-D printed elements. This stunning lot was sold for £56,280 (inc. BP).

A similarly important prop relating to the Coronation was lot 20 – a reproduction of Saint Edward’s Chair, otherwise known as the Coronation Chair. The chair – central to British history and the Coronation ceremony was predominantly manufactured out of fibreglass and had featured in the 5th episode of series one of the show. This precise replica of the 14th century original, such an important symbol of Royal authority, sold for £25,660 (inc. BP).

Another feat of prop making was lot 158 – a replica model of the funeral procession of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. According to the catalogue the model had taken between six and eight weeks to produce, being over 12 meters wides, including over 500 Britains soldiers, two hundred 3-D printed models (all having been designed and produced by The Crown team and hand-painted with accurate costume) devised by a group of experts. The selling price here was £53,740 (inc. BP).

As with the props, costume was an important element of the sale with detailed reproductions of famous regalia, evening wear and everyday outfits being included. The highest price achieved for costume in the Live Auction was for lot 21 – a replica of Queen Elizabeth II’s ceremonial Coronation garments. The original was in part designed by Norman Hartnell – the multi element costume worn by Claire Foy sold for £19,200. Also from the Coronation ceremony was lot 22 – a replica of Princess Margaret’s Coronation gown and robe. This time the lot sold for £6,144 (inc. BP).

Lot 238 was a cornelian jewellery suite designed for Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and featuring in season 2. The set was specially commissioned by costume designer Jane Petrie and made by jewellery designer Katy Hackney. The catalogue detailed the inspiration behind the suite, conceived to act as a direct contrast to Her Majesty’s pearls. The lot included ear clips, triple strand
choker, together with original design. This fashionable suite sold for £5,376 (inc. BP).

For the fashion savvy lot 125 – a Christian Dior ‘Lady Dior’ handbag. This example, in black lambskin had been worn by Elizabeth Debicki during Season 5. The bag is closely associated with the late Princess Diana and was named ‘Lady Dior’ after Lady Diana. It is believed she owned the bag in every colour and was regularly seen carrying it, after she first received one as a gift from the First Lady of France in 1995. This bag sold for £10,880 (inc. BP).

Arguably one of the most iconic costumes in the auction was lot 134 – a replica of the black silk and chiffon cocktail dress worn by Princess Diana in November 1994. Dubbed the ‘Revenge’ dress, it had featured in Season 5, Episode 5 ‘The Way Ahead’. Unsurprisingly, one of the most sought after outfits in the sale (the lot additionally included bag and shoes) it sold for £12,800 (inc. BP).

In direct contrast one of the more affordable lots of the sale was 314 – A blouse and dungarees worn by Emma Corrin portraying the young Lady Diana Spencer. This lot costume achieved £435.20 (inc. BP).

Costume designs themselves were also popular with a number being offered for sale. Lot 170 was a collection of three watercolour and pencil designs executed by Michele Clapton for the character
of the Queen. The illustrations, which included fabric swatches and detailed annotations gave an insight into the Emmy Award winning costume designers work. They sold for £5,376 (inc. BP).

Interestingly, many of the pieces featured in the sale were not modern replicas but fine antique furniture and decorative objects. To reproduce the interiors afforded to a Royal household, pieces
had been carefully selected by the set designers. Chimney pieces, toys, ceramics and glass were all available.

Within the Online Auction lot 168 was a William IV rosewood breakfast table used as part of the Buckingham Palace set. This traditional antique sold for £8,320 (inc. BP).

Lot 200 was a typical lot one might expect to see in a sale of Fine Furniture – a George II chest on chest. This 18th century and later piece of crossbanded walnut had been used as part of the set
for the Queen’s bedroom. With strong bidding it eventually sold for £21,760.

Lot 322 was a French 19th century kingwood, parquetry and cross banded brass mounted liqueur set. The set which is visible in the Audience Room scenes included glasses and decanters. It fetched £5,632 (inc. BP).

The most expensive piece of furniture included in the two auctions was lot 237 – A parquetry and gilt metal mounted cylinder bureau in the Louis XVI style. The bureau, having only been estimated at £2,000 – 3,000 was used by all three of the actresses playing the Queen (Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton). The lot was offered with set dressing, including framed
photographs and desk accessories. The piece was important to the history of the show, having served as a prop during the London stage production of ‘The Audience’ in 2013 – the inspiration
for The Crown series. The eventual online selling price was £46,080 (inc. BP).

On a different note, was lot 58 – two Beswick porcelain models of corgis. A common sight in Antique Centres across the UK, they had been chosen by the Set Decorating Department due to their similarity to pieces found in Windsor Castle. Offered together with an Edwardian silver photo frame containing a picture of a corgi – against a pre-sale estimate of £200 – 300 the charming lot sold for £3,328 (inc. BP).

The highest price paid during the Live Auction was for lot 102 – a 1987 Jaguar XJ-SC car – the vehicle had been used as a double for the late Princess Diana’s Jaguar, driven from 1987 – 1991.
The original, now part of the collection of Jaguar Heritage Trust, was adapted from a two-seater to allow Princes William and Harry to be passengers. Elizabeth Debicki as the Princess can be
seen driving it in the show. The car eventually achieved £70,250 (inc. BP).

The auction highlighted the research and detail required when staging a production such as The Crown. This was evident during the online auction, where seven lots from The Crown’s reference library were on offer. Lot 498 included 90 volumes on the Royal Family – the books were no doubt invaluable to the team involved. The footnote detailed how the production used five full time researchers and other full-time staff to achieve historical accuracy – this lot sold for £2,816 (inc. premium).

This white glove sale of over 470 lots eventually realised over £1.6 million.

Ladies Valentine’s Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd Century. There are many stories about St Valentine and over time these stories grew into the legend we know today. It is an annual festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship, and admiration. Every year on the 14th of February people celebrate this day by sending messages of love and affection to partners, family, and friends.

Some people love it, some hate it, and some just ignore it altogether. We believe that rather than seeing it as an exclusively romantic occasion, why not look at it as an opportunity to show your favourite person how much you love them?

Although giving a gift is not essential, when it comes to showing a little appreciation, springing for one of the best Valentine’s gifts certainly won’t go unnoticed. For a few ideas on ways to celebrate, share, and spread the love this year this is our guide to what women want for Valentine’s day.

Tiffany & Co

Tiffany & Co was founded in 1837 and has been in the hearts and collections of jewellery lovers for 187 years. They have a fabulous range of jewellery including diamond engagement rings and designs by Schlumberger and Paloma Piccasso. One especially romantically themed design is the Open Heart Collection by Elsa Peretti.

Elsa Peretti’s history with the brand started in 1974, when she began her longstanding collaboration that resulted in the creation of many of Tiffany and Co.’s most iconic designs.

Known for her unique silhouettes, Peretti designed Tiffany pieces that have now become synonymous with love, minimalism, and luxury. The Open Heart Collection, which features sleek heart designs strung from delicate chains or ropes, has been a bestseller since its release. Pieces are available in gold and silver and some are diamond set. The design has featured in many films, including Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Due to their popularity these pieces increase in value every year. They remain extremely popular, often going out of stock, they also sell very well on the open market.

Here is an Elsa Peretti Open heart pendant in 18ct yellow gold retailing for £2,225.

This diamond and platinum open heart retails for just under £8,000.

This Elsa Peretti mesh link heart retails for £7,725.

Boodles Ashoka Diamonds

Diamonds have been a declaration of true love for centuries and the Boodles Ashoka diamond is a great way to express some individuality.

Boodles is the only jeweller to offer Ashoka-cut diamonds and their range includes diamond rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The Ashoka cut is named after an ancient Indian emperor and has an impressive 62 facets. They are prized for both rarity and incomparable sparkle.

Here are some Ashoka diamonds with an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 at a 2015 sale at Bonhams in New York.

The Ashoka diamond range retails at prices from the low thousands up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Here is a beautiful Ashoka diamond ring weighing 7.00cts.

These Ashoka diamond earrings retail for £27,500.

Cartier

Nothing says I love you, like a Cartier Love bracelet.

The Love bracelet was designed by Aldo Cipullo in 1969 in New York. He wanted to design a bracelet that fit as closely as possible to a loved one’s wrist. Not only that, it was also intended to be worn by both men and women. They were referred to as a “modern love handcuff” for the way in which they are secured using a screwdriver.

It is rumoured that Cartier once banned customers from buying the Love bracelet for themselves, with a policy stating that they could only be purchased by a couple. It was even designed to require the assistance of someone else to put it on.

The diamond-studded Love bracelet was first introduced in 1979, ten years after the original.

When the Love bracelet was first launched, it is said that Cartier gave pairs of them to some of the most famous couples of the 20th century, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen, and Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

There are now many variations of the Love bracelet including some set with diamonds.

For example, this diamond set Love bracelet with 1.99ct of diamonds retails for £45,400.

A 18ct gold Love bracelet is available for just over £7,000.

Synthetic diamonds

Synthetic diamonds are becoming a very popular choice in the jewellery market. Lab grown diamonds are visually, chemically, and physically the same as a diamond mined from the earth. The only difference is that it is created in a laboratory and it’s here where they emulate the natural process of a diamond’s growth. They are also considered a more sustainable option than mined diamonds.

Here is a diamond line bracelet set with 6cts of diamonds retailing for $6,999.

Here is a Lab grown diamond pendant set with a 1ct diamond retailing for $1,200.

Here is a pair of fancy blue and pink synthetic diamonds retailing for $250.

Chanel Classic

A Chanel handbag always makes a fantastic gift. Their designs are timeless.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel introduced her first version of the classic bag with flap in February of 1955. Now known as the 2.55, it was revolutionary because of its functionality; the shoulder bag freed women’s hands to do other things than hold a cumbersome handbag.

This Chanel pink flap bag retails for £5,200 and has the Classic style in a summer fabric.

This small Chanel Bucket bag retails for £4,260.

Conclusion

There’s nothing greater than seeing a loved one, friend or member of the family enjoying luxury gifts. It is always important to make sure that your insurance valuation is up to date, should the very worst happen. Having an out-of-date valuation can result in an underpayment if you were to make a claim. Retailers such as Cartier, Tiffany & Co and Chanel often increase their retail values by up to 40% twice a year. If you need an up-todate valuation, then contact the experts at Doerr Dallas Valuations on 01883 722 736.

Gents Valentine’s Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and this is undoubtedly a busy time for jewellers all over the world. An irrevocably sentimental art form, jewellery has been a tangible token of love for centuries. From the breathtaking Posy rings of the Medieval times to mysterious ‘Lover’s Eye’ brooches fashionable in the Georgian era, symbolic and acrostic Victorian jewellery, all the way to modern day engagement rings, eternity rings and promise rings, jewellery has expressed love in many, many forms!

During this busy time in the retail sphere, much attention is given to jewellery for her. However, there are a stunning selection of pieces also suitable for showing your love to the gentleman in your life. The demand is there, Tiffany & Co. made brand history in October last year for launching their first ‘Tiffany Men’s’ collection, to cater to a wider audience and a keen consumer base. With that in mind, here is a ‘jewellery gift guide’ for that special man in your life, with examples ranging from the 19th century all the way to the present day.

Rings

Understandably, rings on Valentine’s Day are certainly sending a very strong message but as a gift for a spouse, a special dress ring could be the perfect piece! According to GHQ Magazine, rings are the top male jewellery trend of 2024. Citing inspiration from the likes of Harry Styles, bold, stacked rings are the accessory of the year.

Whilst most will steer away from Harry’s maximalist styling, the ring is the classic token of enduring love and affection, symbolised in its circular form. Ideas for gifts could include a classic signet ring in a heavy gauge and engraving for everyday wear, perhaps a fascinating gemstone intaglio for a history lover or decorated with enamelled detailing that is highly personal to the wearer.

Intaglio jewellery, particularly early and crystalline gem-set pieces sold exceptionally well at auction in 2023, and continue to exponentially rise in value, so it is extremely important to ensure your items possess an up-to-date insurance valuation.

Unique band rings are also an easy style to incorporate into a jewellery rotation and update a look. Adding silver, gold, or platinum bands are an easy way to enhance an ensemble. Part of Tiffany’s 2023 ‘Forge’ collection, this unique linked band is available in silver and blackened silver finishes and form a great entry piece for collectors. Another iconic gold band is the classic ‘B.Zero1’ ring by Bulgari, retailing at £3,200. This design was debuted in 1999 and has become a classic, for its unique spiral design, generous proportions, and striking double logo.

Cufflinks

For a more classic look, a beautiful pair of cufflinks will always be in style. Pairs of cufflinks set in gold or platinum and paired with gemstones rating higher on the Moh’s scale of hardness such as diamond, sapphire and topaz will ensure a gift that can be worn again and again.

As a rule, cufflinks that retain and increase in value are those by well-known and revered makers. Early 20th century antique cufflinks from the likes of August Frederik Hollming for Fabergé, set with precious gemstones, ornamented with the maker’s famed enamel, and bearing maker’s marks would be the perfect gift for any discerning collector.

Without a doubt, Cartier produced an exceptional array of fine cufflinks and dress sets from the early 20th century onwards. With an exceptional and varied output spanning decades, styles, gemstones, and featuring designs from the ostentatious to the refined, and the timeless to the novelty, these cufflinks are amongst the most sought-after at auction, with diamond-set examples selling for in excess of £52,000 (Christies, Auction 15493, 2018).

Particularly stylish and useful are the ‘interchangeable’ or ‘baton’ cufflinks that were introduced by Cartier in the 1960s and also produced by celebrated jewellers such as André Vassort, Boucheron, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Cleverly designed with a fixed gold bar mount and a series of gemstone batons or terminals that could be swapped and changed to match the wearer’s mood, these wonderful cufflinks have become increasingly sought-after in the last couple of years.

Necklaces

A necklace is also a great idea for a Valentine’s gift for him. Ever increasing in popularity, the Google search for ‘Men’s pendant necklaces’ increased over 900% from 2021-22. For a unique and personalised gift, consider purchasing an antique or mid-century piece, and consider which metal, link design, style of clasp, and length would be your partner’s preference. As one would expect, unique links, designer attributions and heft all play a part in the intrinsic value of the piece, so choose carefully especially when buying through retail.

Whether it is a ring, pair of cufflinks, a necklace, or another piece of jewellery entirely that you treat your significant other with this Valentine’s Day, do make sure that you buy a piece that has that personal feel and sentimental value. Buying second hand and at auction are fantastic ways to procure items that are beautifully one-of-a-kind.

The jewellery market is ever-changing, and values are increasing all the time, so make sure you consider a comprehensive valuation of your items to ensure adequate cover and peace of mind. For further information on our nationwide valuation services, contact us via enquiries@doerrvaluations.co.uk.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year, which begins on 10 February in 2024, is the largest festival in many East and Central Asian cultures. Lunar New Year typically falls on the second new moon following the winter solstice. In China, this festival is also called Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. Each year highlights one of twelve animals in the Shengxiao, the Chinese Zodiac.

This year will be the year of the dragon, one of the most prevalent symbols in East and Central Asian material culture. People born in the year of the dragon are characterized as intelligent, lucky, and charismatic. Dragons have historically been depicted in forms such as embroidery, porcelain, sculpture, paintings, jade, ivory, and furniture.

Dragons are particularly popular in embroidery, one of East Asia’s oldest decorative arts traditions, originating in China during the late Neolithic period. From the first century CE, silk embroidery technology spread to Japan, Korea, and Central Asia. Throughout the centuries, Chinese symbols, imagery, and embroidery techniques continued to have significant influences on embroidery practices across Asia. Dragons, also originating in China, have a long history in East Asian art forms. Dragon imagery dates to at least the Zhou period (1046-256 BCE), where it functioned as a totem to which small agricultural clans prayed for rain and protection from fires. This is why many East Asian dragons, such as those depicted in the much later Meiji tapestry below, are often depicted in ponds or seas. Water dragons symbolize prosperity for the owner. While imperial robes are the most famous form of dragon embroidery today, everyday water dragons comprise a far larger quantity of objects that have survived. This is particularly a result of the Ming Dynasty’s (1368-1644) rapidly growing merchant class, which increased the demand for silk embroidery and continued into the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was unprecedented Western demand for Chinese and Japanese silk embroidery, as China and especially Japan opened foreign trade. Export markets were already popular within Asia and Europeans had long enjoyed fine examples of handwoven dragon embroideries. As foreign demand grew, China and Japan mass produced silk embroidery in export markets for the first time. Improved technology and the advent of embroidery factories also contributed to this rapidly increasing market, which catered to Western tastes. In the early 20th century, silk was China’s largest export commodity. By the 1930s, this demand subsided due to the rise of synthetic fibers. Today, regardless of the medium, dragons continue to enjoy popularity in Asia and throughout the world.

Old Master Sales December 2023

The December Old Master Sales were rather lacklustre with the three major London salerooms, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams reporting combined totals for their five sales of £55.8M, just less than December 2022’s feeble total of £56.3M.

One can hardly blame consignors for not wishing to offer great paintings at auction in the current geo-political climate. These totals would have been nearly 40% lower but for an early Rembrandt of the Adoration of the Magi sold by Sotheby’s to the guarantor for £9.5M and two Canalettos (1697-1768) (not a pair, but part of a set of Venetian views), sold at Christie’s for £8.2M. They had never previously been published and were, therefore, ‘fresh’ to the market.

Interestingly, the Rembrandt at Sotheby’s, had been offered by Christie’s Amsterdam, two years ago, as ‘Circle of Rembrandt’, with an estimate of €10-15,000. It was knocked down to the Sotheby’s consignor for €860,000. So, somebody else had recognised its potential, too.

My favourite painting from all the sales was the most unusual ‘The Virgin in Prayer’, by the enigmatic Flemish artist, Michiel Sweerts (1618-1664).

This is a picture within a picture. Sweerts paints himself, peeping shyly round the edge of a framed picture of the Virgin in Prayer, which he has painted and, which he is showing to you, the onlooker, with a cloudy sky behind him. It is a touching picture, not only for the sacred nature of the central subject, but because here is the apprehensive artist, watching anxiously to gauge your response to his painting. It made a well-deserved £1.4M hammer price, 3 ½ times the lower estimate.

If the market is wary of exposing Old Master masterpieces at the current time, no such worries affected the group of beautiful Rembrandt etchings collected by the discerning Sam Josefowitz. There were some great rarities offered amongst the 70 lots offered in a dedicated catalogue and every print was in excellent condition. This was a collection for connoisseurs and museum curators. Every lot sold, mostly well above the top estimate and 51 world records were achieved for individual subjects. This catalogue and the 5 prints offered in their Old Master sale, grossed Christie’s £10.2M including buyer’s premium. The front cover lot of a Sea Shell, (Conus Marmoreus), which measures 97 x 132 mm and is an etching, engraving and drypoint on laid paper, made £730,800 with buyer’s premium. It is a natural object of profound beauty and simplicity. It was the top price of the sale and proves that whatever market conditions prevail, masterpieces will find their true level.

Year of the Dragon

In East Asian cultures, the Year of The Dragon in the Zodiac is marked with power, energy and fortune, with strength and intelligence assured of those born during this period.

Whilst every symbol holds a special place in East Asian cultures, the dragon has always held a significant place in the nations folklore and history, with emperors associating themselves with the dragon as a symbol of imperial authority and strength.

The dragon has often been used for many decorative items throughout history in the art world and even further afield. At Doerr Dallas we thought we would talk you through some of the most glorious examples of this most auspicious figure.

1. Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers – Recits de Voyages collection

Vacheron Constantin, despite usually being a very conservative watch brand have recently introduced this impactful piece in a series of multicultural one-offs. Included in the stunning line-up is an ode to China, with a five-clawed dragon realised in grisaille enamel. The 16th century technique uses white enamel on a dark enamel base to emphasise the interplay of light and shadow without the use of vibrant colours.

2. An early 20th century Chinese Dragon carpet

The carpets of the far east have always been fascinating to many people and this example is no different.

Stunning golden dragons on a deep indigo blue background with a classical T pattern border design, it is supposed that the figures from which they were derived, once symbolised thunder and clouds.

3. A mid 19th century Tibetan painted chest of drawers

The number 12 figures prominently in Tibetan astrology, making this simple chest’s dozen drawers the perfect canvas to honour the year of the dragon. Tibetan astrology recognizes a 12-year cycle, characterized by 12 animals, including the dragons that wind their way on this expressively painted cabinet. The gessoed dragons symbolize ambition, dignity and success. Camouflaged by lush flowers and vines, each writhing dragon clutches in its claws a lotus flower, a symbol of purity and perfection, and a peach, a symbol of immortality.

4. A 20th century Chinese Jardiniere upon stand

This monumental cloisonné enamel jardinière is a superb example of 20th century Chinese design. The jardinière is of traditional form, rising from a narrow foot to a flared shoulder and culminating in a rolled rim. The body is profusely adorned with cloisonné enamel designs over the white enamel ground: dragons, waves, floral patterns, and other motifs abound. The piece is supported by a wooden stand, each of the stand’s four legs ornately carved and finished.

So whilst the images of other Zodiac figures such as the Rat, Dog, Rabbit and others all have their fans, it’s clear that the Dragon really does hold a special place in the heart of the Chinese people and judging by the popularity of the items relating to it, all over the world.

Cartier and Tiffany rocked at the Golden Globes…

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and I don’t mean Christmas. My favourite time of the year is now, for all the red carpet gowns and jewels. So many impressive pieces displayed at this year’s Golden Globes. This year, I take a look at the two usual suspects that never miss: Cartier and Tiffany & Co., both symbols of chic and glamour, using the finest craftsman and precious gems.

One of my all time favourite actresses is Jennifer Lawrence, and she was faultless with her “simple” velvet gown and diamond-set Tiffany & Co. jewels.

The necklace was composed of a series of princess-cut diamonds, suspending to the front an 11 carat diamond pear-shaped drop. Her earrings were decorated with a total of 6 carats of untreated blue sapphire and diamond surround, mounted in platinum and 18 carat yellow gold. She matched these with a diamond ring and nothing too big which could distract from the Dior clutch.

It was a big year for singer/songwriter Dua Lipa, with a nomination for Best Original Song for the Barbie movie.

She dazzled the crowds with a 1962 gold and platinum Tiffany & Co. necklace. It is set throughout with oval, pear and briolette-cut yellow beryls and brilliant-cut diamonds. A similar piece, dating from 1967, sold in June last year, 2023, at Christie’s for USD $189,000, set with approximately 86 brilliant-cut diamonds, weighing 7.00 carats.

The singer completed her look with a yellow sapphire and diamond cluster ring.

Another very talented singer/songwriter is Jon Batiste. He was superb with a few Tiffany & Co. jewels which sparkled on his Dior suit.

The necklace is from the HardWear collection. It is set throughout with fancy links, each set with brilliant-cut diamonds and mounted in 18 carat yellow gold. This necklace currently retails for £70,000. However, there are several other options retailing from £550 mounted in silver, to £215,500 set with diamonds and mounted in rose gold.

A lovely addition to the necklace was the platinum and 18 carat gold Starfish brooch by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. It is decorated with a three carat aquamarine and diamond surround. The Starfish collection ranges from silver, selling for £365, to yellow gold, retailing at £3,450.

While Tiffany & Co. draped several artists, Cartier High Jewellery was the brand of choice for actress Julianne Moore.

She wore a spectacular gold and petrified wood necklace of reptile inspiration. Composed of 57 links, each set with white and yellow diamonds.

Echoing that style of individual panels is the Panthère de Cartier necklace set with almost 2,000 white, orange, yellow and brown diamonds, totalling just under 40 carats. A truly unique piece and a statement to Cartier’s savoir-faire.

The Panthère collection has several options of bracelets, watches and necklaces.

The actor Jared Leto, usually known for taking daring fashion risks, wore a simple 18 carat white gold and diamond Panthère de Cartier necklace.

It is set with two emerald eyes, 309 diamonds, weighing a total of 3.24 carats and highlighted by calibré-cut onyx. It currently retails for £78,500.

The Panthère collection is as desirable as ever and Cartier will always be a go to jeweller for any red carpet event.