For every great jewel there is a great story, and the same can be said about the famed houses responsible for their creation. Any venerable jeweler fortunate enough to thrive over decades, or even centuries, has had to pass the torch from one designer to the next. Tiffany & Co. is one example of this evolution, finding new and incredible talent while continuing to shine spotlights on their famed artists. The house has created some of the most cult collectible jewelry in the process. Our April 23 and 24 Important Jewelry auction will showcase several designers sourced from over a century of Tiffany’s vast catalogue.
Over 100 Years of Tiffany & Co.
Until somewhat recently, anyone interested in the early history of Tiffany & Co. could be forgiven if they had not heard of one of its most dynamically creative early voices: G. Paulding Farnham. Often overshadowing Farnham is Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the founder and a genius in his own right. Yet, through the diligence of authors and historians such as John Loring, Farnham’s incredible contributions to American jewelry design have more recently received due attention.
Throughout his twenty-year career, Tiffany’s gave him the creative space to explore and innovate. Perhaps best known for his naturalistic designs, Farnham won honor and accolades for Tiffany at the 1889 Paris Exposition with his collection of intricate gold, silver, gem and enamel orchid brooches.
Lot 13 in our April session, a lovely gold and emerald brooch, exemplifies Farnham’s style in its realistically undulating leaves and its use of “green” gold as a complimentary base for carefully chosen grass green emeralds. This previously unknown Farnham design has been in private hands since its original purchase in the 1890s.
Jean Schlumberger began his illustrious career at Tiffany & Co. in the mid-1950s. Schlumberger nurtured a lifelong passion for creative design, first with childhood sketches, then in the buttons and costume jewelry he designed for Elsa Schiaparelli and finally as a designer at Tiffany. As jewelry designer, Schlumberger catered to everyone from the elite tastemakers of the day to Hollywood stars and the halls of royalty. What a joy it must have been for this gentleman artiste to arrive at Tiffany and have both the finest gems and the most skilled artisans at his fingertips.
Our spring session highlights this wonderful pairing of Schlumberger and Tiffany by offering several signed jewels such as lots 149 and 152. Both represent the pursuit of the finest quality that motivated Schlumberger. Lot 149, a sumptuous multistrand coral sautoir, combines coral’s bold color accent with a strikingly intricate platinum, gold and diamond clasp that transforms a very wearable necklace into a luxurious collectible. Lot 152 is a tour-de-force of complex design, every section from petal to stamen of the stylized blossom not only laboriously crafted in platinum and gold with diamonds but also painstakingly articulated to allow the wearer to “play” and help shape the final form to be worn.
Moving to the 1970s, we discover another artist ready to change minds and defy convention. After joining Tiffany in the 1960s, Angela Cummings was given the rare distinction of designing collections under her own name and had a huge impact on contemporary jewelry. Unafraid to forge her own path, Cummings made excellent use of unorthodox materials and techniques such as wood and damascene, respectively. It is a testament to her influence that we now commonly see so many of these influences in today’s jewelry though rarely executed to a similar level of extraordinary quality.
A noticeably increasing interest in Cummings work, both during her time at Tiffany and afterwards, is evidenced by rising values at auction. Several fine items by Cummings in our upcoming sale includes lot 186, a stunning “rose petal” necklace composed of meticulously texturized links, all subtly different in their handmade detail and romantically evoking their namesake. Lot 462, a gloriously bold cuff in damascened multicolor gold and iron, utilizes a subtle trompe-l’œil effect the artist popularized and has a lively kinectic quality to the “bubble” design that reminds one of a glass of champagne.
To learn more about Tiffany & Co. highlights in our April 23 and 24 auction, test your knowledge of the design house’s history.
The April 23 – April 24 Important Jewelry sale will be available for online bidding on LHLive and Bidsquare.
Preview in Chicago:
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Thursday, April 20, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Friday, April 21, 2017, 10am – 3pm
Saturday, April 22, 2017, 10am – 3pm
Sunday, April 23, 2017, 12pm – 4pm