A stroll through the Garden of Emeralds with Bonhams and Van Cleef & Arpels
November 2016 – Bonhams New York recently welcomed an exclusive audience of clients and jewellery lovers to discover the rich and fascinating history of emeralds at an evening of conversation with L’École Van Cleef and Arpels.
Matthew Girling, global chief executive officer and group jewellery director at Bonhams, hosted the event and was joined on stage by L’École professors and art historians, Inezita Gay-Eckel and Gislain Aucremanne.
“L’École Van Cleef & Arpels is delighted to bring its professors, classes and evening conversations to new and diverse audiences, from the New York Academy of Art to the Cooper Hewitt, and on this special occasion, to Bonhams,” said Sophie Biscard, development & communications director at L’École.
Entitled A Stroll Through the Garden of Emeralds, the conversation took the audience on a journey throughout time and around the world to discover the legends and myths surrounding the gemstone that has fascinated man since its discovery by the ancient Egyptians 4,000 years ago.
The talk revealed some of history’s most storied emerald jewellery, including the magnificent mitre from Naples’ Treasure of San Gennaro and the Cheapside Hoard’s emerald watch.
Having survived diverse challenges, whether it be civil war in England, revolutions in France and America, or simply being taken apart to suit the prevailing fashions of the time, much of this jewellery can still be enjoyed in museums around the world today.
The evening also celebrated some of the most famous collectors of the 20th century, such as the Maharajahs who descended on Place Vendome with their vast collections of emeralds and other gems in the 1920s, and Elizabeth Taylor and her beloved Bulgari emerald necklace.
The green gemstone, perhaps owing to its richness and purity of colour, has long been associated with nature and was believed by many cultures to have magical and healing properties. Some believed emerald dust could be used as a cure for fever. Others wore it as a talisman to protect themselves from disease and ill fortune.
In Colombia, where some of the most exquisite and valuable emeralds are still discovered today, many legends grew around the stone. In the pre-Colombian story of the world’s first man and woman, Fura and Tena, Tena’s tears turned to emeralds after Fura killed her lover and then himself.
The stone’s significance in the region is epitomized by the exceptional Crown of the Andes, which recently entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in New York. The late 16th century headpiece, created in Colombia by Spanish craftsmen, features 453 Colombian emeralds which weigh 1500 carats.
For Girling, the hexagonal emerald watch from the Cheapside Hoard, the 15th and 16th century treasure trove discovered by workmen in London in the early 20th century is another exceptional historical piece. “It is the embodiment of the Renaissance: it was a time that saw the discovery of the New World together with so many developments in science and machinery,” he said.
Many emeralds have travelled far and wide since first being discovered deep beneath the earth. Grand Duchess Wladimir of Russia, member of the Romanov family and aunt to the last Tsar, possessed more than 100 carats of emeralds. Some of her largest stones ended up in the jewellery collection of Barbara Hutton, the Woolworths heiress, who was nicknamed “the Poor Little Rich Girl”. She had Cartier make them into a magnificent tiara.
History is full of such fascinating stories of emeralds, the jewellery they were used to create and the people that loved them. It was Bonhams’ and L’École Van Cleef and Arpels’ mutual wish to bring this knowledge to a larger audience that inspired the evening.
“Bonhams is delighted to be able to lend our specialist knowledge and support to L’École Van Cleef and Arpels’ educational programme,” Girling said. “We want to share the world of jewellery and our passion for it with a wider audience.”
“I’m delighted to see that people share a passion for discovery and provenance, for interaction and communication,” added Susan Abeles, director of US jewellery at Bonhams.
“We are grateful to Bonhams for welcoming L’École and for their partnership in hosting a fantastic evening discussing the interplay of jewellery, culture and art,” Biscard said. Since opening its doors in Paris five years ago, L’École Van Cleef and Arpels has welcomed more than 16,000 students of all ages and nationalities to learn about the hidden worlds of jewellery and watchmaking. Traveling to venues in New York, Hong Kong and around the world, L’École professors also share their knowledge online at http://www.lecolevancleefarpels.com/en/go-further.
Emerald lots to watch at Bonhams forthcoming Fine Jewellery sale to be held at its New Bond Street salesroom on Sunday 4 December at 10.30am include:
Lot 117, An Art Deco emerald single-stone ring, circa 1920
£150,000 – 200,000
Cut-cornered step-cut, weighing 14.70 carats, accompanied by a report from SSEF stating that the emerald is of Colombian origin, with no indication of clarity modification, and an appendix letter stating that a natural emerald from Colombia of this size and quality is rare and exceptional and merits special mention and appreciationLot 118, An Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet, by Cartier, circa 1935
£80,000 – 100,000
Accompanied by a report from GCS stating that the emeralds weighing 3.65 and 2.64 carats are of Colombian origin, with indications of minor clarity enhancementLot 54, An emerald and diamond brooch, earring and ring suite, by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1970
£20,000 – 30,000
For more information on the lots t o be auctioned in the Bonhams Fine Jewellery in London please go to http://www.bonhams.com/departments/JWL/ Bonhams Jewellery is also on Instagram @BonhamsJewels.