Learn more about our Jewelry and Watches department with Kate Della Monica
09/02/2021 Latest News, News and Film, Specialists, Jewelry and Watches
I’ve been at Freeman’s for three and a half years, and before that I was working for a gallery in Center City, in Rittenhouse. The owner of the gallery was a fine art collector—fine art prints in particular. I worked there for seven years before I moved to Freeman’s. When she passed away and we liquidated her estate, we took a few pieces of her jewelry to an auction house, which was a formative experience. The specialist who helped us there was very warm and kind. Before that experience, I didn’t know that you could look at a diamond with a loupe and say anything about it besides “that’s a diamond.” When we were there, I spoke to her about her career path and asked her how she got where she was. She directed me to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), and I started my coursework there in 2012.
I was the administrator for the Jewelry & Watches department. I had actually applied for the Fine Art registrar job. They already had someone in mind for the position, but noticed on my resume that I was going to gemology school, and took the opportunity to interview me for an open position in the jewelry department—that’s where I started.
Being fairly fresh out of gemology school, identifying stones and doing diamond color and clarity—the lab work—is one of the things I love the most about my job. I love Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces, antique pieces, but I think my specific strength would be my eyes, in part because I’m still new to it. I love that part of working in Jewelry & Watches—I love cataloguing, doing identification, and getting to look at pieces with a loupe or a microscope. For me, that’s the most fun part, and though I love works from different time periods, I would say that’s my specialty. Knowing the nuts and bolts of pieces from this perspective is definitely important from a valuation standpoint, but it’s also a way to recognize the individual personalities of each piece—they’re always different.
A rock crystal and eighteen karat gold Chessman bracelet, Seaman Schepps, sold for $25,000
One of the most interesting pieces I’ve ever handled was a Seaman Schepps bracelet made out of carved rock crystal with ruby, sapphire, and emerald accents called the Chessman bracelet. It was made of these big, chunky chess piece elements accented with other stones. It was fascinating to me because, first of all, rock crystal is very delicate, so having it as bracelet material is a novelty. It was also so heavy and ornate and I loved encountering it because it was completely unexpected to me at that moment. I went to school for sculpture, and the sculptural, tactile nature of the bracelet appealed to me.
Around this same time, too, we had a pair of carved Cartier earrings and a brooch, and the brooch had a large, fancy diamond in it. Getting to handle something that was both carved stone and a signed piece by a well-known maker was special—it feels akin to my colleagues who have the opportunity to handle Chagalls or Picassos. These pieces strike me as one-of-a-kind works of art.
Luxe sales offer an accessible and eclectic selection of pieces—from engagement rings to brooches to handbags, there’s a wide variety. The auctions tend to feature a lot of gold pieces, which is a classic look that never goes out of style. There’s always something to find for everyday wear, as opposed to strictly specialty or collector’s pieces—pieces that you can wear both to the office and at a night out. Ultimately, the cornerstone of a Luxe sale is the versatility of what’s offered.
I would love for future Luxe sales to continue to maintain a level of accessibility for new and experienced collectors alike. I find that buying jewelry can be intimidating, especially with retail prices, and being able to offer affordable pieces to up-and-coming collectors is very valuable and important to me. I think in this day and age, people are also rightfully concerned about the ethics surrounding the jewelry industry, and I want to shine more light on the nature of auctions as sustainable options for people interested in collecting. While we are always looking for signed jewelry, I expect to continue to focus on offering estate jewelry, which offers a sentimental value as well, such as personalized charm bracelets. There is a certain familiarity or charm—no pun intended—that comes along with estate jewelry that I think can contribute to the emotional quality of collecting jewelry.
Once you establish an aesthetic that you like, that looks good on you, and that makes you feel good, go with it. Ultimately, it’s all about what makes you feel good and understanding the kinds of pieces you actually want to be wearing. If you’re feeling like you want to be a powerhouse walking into the office with a brooch on your lapel, follow that feeling! Everyone should have the opportunity to feel empowered by feeling good in what they’re wearing.
My advice is to go to the preview. When you’re buying something online, you don’t necessarily know what the source is, especially with jewelry and if you’re just starting out. I urge collectors to do whatever they can to go in person and try things on. It’s hard to get a sense of your personal style and what kinds of pieces you like without seeing them on yourself first. If something catches your eye, try it on and see if it works for you—I highly recommend that.