Coming up on 7 July is our Fine Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Luxury Accessories auction. Ahead of the auction, we are delighted to have Levi Higgs, a decorative arts and jewelry historian based in New York, pick out his top ten lots.
Levi currently works as the archivist and brand historian for David Webb on Madison Avenue. He has also lectured on jewellery history at numerous prestigious museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum, The Society of Jewellery Historians, as well as numerous auction houses all over the world. Here he picks out some of the pieces that have particularly caught his eye in our July auction.
Levi Higgs, Decorative Arts & Jewellery Historian
"With so much time spent inside and at home... comes the desire to live with beautiful objects that help manufacture the idyllic home-life"
Within the last year, many have made the move to bigger, newer, fancier apartments or homes. The housing market has exploded, and mass-exoduses toward the proverbial dream home have commenced at a grand scale. The reasoning is simple and obvious; with so much time spent inside and at home, it might as well be exactly the home one wants to live in. With this upgrading in spaces and environs, so too comes the desire to live with beautiful objects that help manufacture the idyllic home-life so fervently imagined during a global pandemic.
In my own life, I have succumbed to this way of thinking as well. Within the last few months, I packed up my apartment with my partner, and moved to a brand new and much bigger Upper East Side apartment. We began happily shedding the furniture we had lived with for the past decade that had seen better days, and had been the post-university flimsy staples that many gravitate toward in this stage of life. Now we live with a French 1930s Francis Jourdain chair upholstered with Kravet fabric, a Josef Frank travertine and mahogany coffee table, and a stunning Sabine Marcelis ombre mirror.
My Top Ten Picks
In the silver department, entertainment and delight are at the core of the discipline. I started with the 1909 novelty silver Edwardian turtle by Birmingham based Grey & Co (Lot 70). The head and the tail activate the windup movement, and a bell is involved, sending tintinnabulations around the dining room. I ardently wish to see the wonderfully modeled reptile waddle forward and chime his bell on the dinner table for the enjoyment of all.
Lot 70: An Edwardian silver mounted novelty tortoise table bell by Grey & Co., Birmingham 1909 | Est. £600-800 (+fees)
Another facet of showmanship for guests is the cocktail hour. How lovely to think of inviting friends over to marvel at your Art Deco cocktail shaker? The flash of the silver Georg Jensen shaker (designed by Oscar Gundlach-Pedersen) as it flits through the air, mixing a drink, sloshing its frothing liquid into the inverted pyramids that serve as the goblets.
Lot 134: A rare Danish Art Deco silver cocktail set by Georg Jensen, 1925-1932 mark, designed by Oscar Gundlach-Pedersen | Est. £1,200-1,800 (+fees)
I find the clean lines of Art Deco are still as salient today as they were then, cutting a geometric slash through the ornamentation of the eras that came before it.
Lot 89: A silver straight-tapered cocktail shaker by William & Son (William Rolls Asprey), London 2003 | Est. £300-500 (+fees)
Also on my dream table, American delegations from Tiffany & Co. The 1850s toast rack (Lot 117) - a favorite decorative object of mine, just for the sheer flourish of presenting toast standing to attention in this way gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure - and the salt cellar (Lot 122), both embellished with motifs very closely tied to the history of the American firm.
Lot 117: Tiffany, an American silver rectangular toast rack by Tiffany & Co., stamped marks, John C. Moore period 1850s | Est. £250-350 (+fees)
Americans in the mid to late 19th century were particularly interested in motifs from other cultures, and the Greek architectural details of this piece (Lot 122) feel particularly apt for the period. The chrysanthemum salt cellar from 1902-07 feels in line with many other Japanesque pieces of silver that Tiffany produced, and that can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among many other museums.
Lot 122: Tiffany, an American silver rounded rectangular Chrysanthemum pattern salt cellar by Tiffany & Co., stamped mark, no. 5720/501, Cook period 1902-07 | Est. £150-250 (+fees)
In the realm of jewelry, I struggled to hold myself back! I have a fondness for all things revivalist in style, so naturally my first gravitational pull was toward the gold scarab brooch, unsigned (Lot 152). It's the perfect piece that has clearly seen a Grand Tour or two, and one that I would sport proudly at a fabulous dinner party to celebrate friends of old.
Lot 152: A mid 19th century historical revival gold brooch, circa 1860 | Est. £300-500 (+fees)
The bold blue and white enamel of Lot 153 - the Thomas Fairfax portrait miniature locket - drew my eye, naturally. It's a beautiful object with a tremendous amount of history tied to it. I've always thought portrait miniatures have a fascinating tradition of long lost loves and commemorative pieces, and this one is only made better by the enamel work and lion on the outside. Wear this tightly around your neck with a simple thick velvet ribbon, and you'd be set for the evening as the hostess with panache.
Lot 153: A 19th century blue and white enamelled locket for the Fairfax family | Est. £1,500-2,500 (+fees)
The diamond brooches are a must as well, an Art Deco geometric clip (Lot 166), and an Edwardian bow brooch (Lot 163). While the two disparate styles butted up against one another, they both celebrated fine craftsmanship, expert platinum work, and brilliant diamonds.
Lot 163: An Edwardian diamond and platinum bow brooch/pendant, circa 1910, Est. £4,000-6,000 (+fees) | Lot 166: An Art Deco diamond triple clip brooch, circa 1930 , Est. £8,000-12,000 (+fees)
Finally, no evening spent with those we love most would be complete without a flashy gentleman's ring. I have always thought that the German engineering of Hemmerle's rings are unparalleled, and this green tourmaline and oxidized iron ring is no exception (Lot 204). The choice of metal is masculine, and the stone itself is not as ostentatious as it could be, and it certainly denotes the wearer as one with a discerning taste. A dark green tourmaline is subtlety incarnate. The fourth generation family behind the Munich-based firm is a small operation that has come to be whispered on the lips of all the top jewelry collectors the world over, so having a chance to own a piece like this from an auction setting is an opportunity not to be missed.
Lot 204: A green tourmaline ring by Hemmerle | Est. £2,000-3,000 (+fees)
Wednesday 7 July | 10.30am
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
This is a live online auction with an auctioneer.
There are a variety of ways that you can view the auction:
- Viewing in London (highlights only) | Tuesday 29 & Wednesday 30 June
- Viewing in Newbury | Sunday 4 - Tuesday 6 July
- Dreweatts Remote Viewing Service | From Sunday 4 July
- Condition reports and detailed images are available on dreweatts.com or by request.
Viewing in person is by appointment and in accordance with Covid-19 regulations. To book an appointment to view, please email email@example.com or call +44 (0) 1635 553 553
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