Freeman’s often hosts sales featuring classic pieces from a range of notable historical styles. Three of the most influential trends collectors will find represented in recent auctions are the Victorian era, La Belle Époque, and the Art Deco period.
Between 1837-1901, during Queen Victoria’s reign in England, several large diamond and gemstone deposits were discovered in Africa and the Americas, leading to an expansion of the fine jewelry market, allowing the middle and lower classes new access to trends previously reserved for the upper class. Early in her reign, also known as the Victorian Romantic period, the love of the young royal couple was reflected in colorful designs featuring hearts, flowers, bows and jeweled serpents. The famous cameo design, where profiles of family members and loved ones were carved into shell or coral and given as mementos, was common at this time as well.
The Victorian Grand period followed, with more somber pieces becoming popular, featuring onyx, black enamel, amethysts and pearls. This reflected the decades-long mourning period of Queen Victoria for her deceased husband. Lot 9 in the Fine Jewelry sale, a striking Victorian diamond and gold brooch with an old mine-cut diamond surrounded by rows of smaller diamonds and accented by black enamel, is from this era. When at last Queen Victoria concluded mourning, this period gave way to the Late Victorian Period, which saw the rise of more whimsical, smaller and simpler, designs.
During the Edwardian period that followed, known in France as La Belle Époque, there was a return to more elaborate and aristocratic jewelry, with Cartier at the forefront of the trend. As necklines of women’s dresses plunged lower and lower, necklaces took on new importance as the centerpiece of style. The “garland” style became popular, with its signature fluid lines and ornamental motifs. Advances in platinum fabrication and the strength of the metal allowed for these designs featuring garlands and ribbons, laurel wreaths, bowknots, tassels and lace to be rendered with a lightness and delicate touch not previously possible.
Freeman’s is thrilled to have three fantastic examples of necklaces from the Belle Époque Period. The first lot in the Fine Jewelry sale is an Edwardian diamond and platinum lavalier by Baily Banks & Boddle circa 1910. The piece is set with two pear-shaped drops weighing 1.20 carats each. These are suspended from collet-set circular-cut diamonds. The center panel of the lavalier is set with an old European-cut diamond weighing 1.30 carats, suspended from a bow motif chain accented by old European and single-cut diamonds. The estimated total remaining diamond weight is 4.75 carats.
Lot 12 is a three-row citrine bead, seed pearl and 18 karat gold choker circa 1910. Lot 34 is a classic from this period, a diamond and platinum pendant circa 1915 with an openwork garland design and accented with an articulated diamond set drop.
In addition, Lot 172, a show-stopping statement piece, is a rare fancy vivid yellow diamond pendant by J.E. Caldwell & Co circa 1910. The 10.59 carat diamond is framed by a three tiered diamond frame and suspended by a fine link platinum chain. This piece is representative of some of the finest jewelry from this period.
Just before World War I, La Belle Époque gave way to the Art Deco period. Beginning in France, Art Deco was one of the first truly international trends—no small part because a pastiche of many different styles from around the globe, all with the uniting desire to be modern. Jewelry became more colorful and varied in style, jade and coral were often combined with platinum and diamonds.
Lot 171 is a fine example of bracelets favored during this period –a diamond and platinum band of diamonds accenting a centered octagonal step-cut diamond weighing approximately 1.80 carats.