Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eye on Collecting: A Fine Art Deco Brooch

Art Deco continues to be one of the most collectable periods in vintage jewelry. This trend is in large part due to the rarity of such pieces, as a great number of Art Deco jewels were broken up during the Great Depression and, then, World War II.  The economic circumstances surrounding these two events also contributed to a major change in jewelry fashion in the following decades, turning from platinum jewels set with a multitude of diamonds to designs more heavily focused on large, hollow yellow gold pieces sparingly punctuated with gemstones. It was only in the 1980s that the Art Deco style experienced a renaissance, the opulence of materials and streamlined styling a perfect match for the luxuriant decade.

Despite the present economic climate, demand for Art Deco jewelry continues unabated, for reasons evident upon examining any fine Art Deco piece. This brooch, dating circa 1925, is characteristic of the Art Deco style in many respects. Perhaps the most striking feature is the use of bold geometric forms—curved silhouettes juxtaposed with straight, and square with circular forms—in line with the modernist tastes of the era. Also bold are the color contrasts, executed with the traditional Art Deco gemstones and metals, here in platinum and diamonds played against black onyx and bright green emeralds.  This particular combination recalls decorative arts of the Far East, one of the most important influences on Art Deco designers. The use of lavish materials is also typical of the period, reflecting the economic prosperity of the 1920s. Textural contrast is also rendered by way of gemstone cuts—flat baguette cut onyxes, smooth cabochon emeralds, and glittering, multi-faceted brilliant cut diamonds—which all work together to lend an added lushness.

Unsurprisingly, prices for Art Deco jewels continue to climb. For more on the Art Deco jewelry market see this recent article in The New York Times:

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

An exceptional Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Raymond Yard

This Burmese ruby and diamond ring was made by Raymond Yard, one of America’s premier jewelers, during what is now referred to as the firm’s “classic period”, beginning in the late 1920’s. It was at this time that Yard established himself with the American elite, including barons of industry such as John D. Rockefeller, Henry DuPont and Henry Flagler, and celebrities, like Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks.  It was also when Yard’s own distinctive style emerged, this ring embodying all that made the firm a success.

First and foremost, only the finest colored stones were selected for Yard jewelry—sapphires from Kashmir and rubies, as in this example, from Burma—which were carefully cut for maximum depth of color. Highly polished platinum settings using a minimum of metal, which created the illusion that the gems are floating in air, became another Yard trademark.  Also seen in this ring, Yard utilized contrasting gemstone cuts, playing simple step cuts against sparkling brilliants, which lent his jewels an added lushness.

As for the overall design, this ring is typical of Yard’s early Art Deco rings, with a center stone that blends seamlessly with the shoulders and the shank, in one unified contour. Yard rings of this period combined the Edwardian taste for intricate workmanship—delicate piercing and millegraining– with the Art Deco taste for bold contrast, as seen here in the play of pure red rubies against white diamonds and platinum, and in the various straight and curvilinear geometric forms.

Finally, each piece was executed to the height of perfection, as Yard believed that even the slightest flaw greatly diminished the beauty of a piece of jewelry. To this day Yard’s combination of faultless quality and ingenious design is unsurpassed, and his particular brand of restrained luxuriance continues to be treasured.


Natasha Kuzmanovic, Yard:  The Life and Magnificent Jewelry of Raymond C. Yard, Vendome, 2007.

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