Delicate jewelry surprises at Aguttes

Dec 10, 2021

On 16 December, the Aguttes auction house will be offering a session of 172 lots. As always, when the auction house offers it, I plunged into this catalogue with a certain delight, which held some very nice surprises for me. A catalogue is like a box of sweets or chocolates, depending on the season. In this one, I selected seven pieces, very different from each other but which all seduced me and which I could see myself wearing if I had the opportunity. So, I won’t make you wait any longer and I suggest you follow me in this winter and jewellery stroll.

Lot 6 – Calendar ring, gold and enamel, estimated between 150 and 200 euros. Photos: Aguttes

Seizing and marking time. This is a theme that has monopolised the minds of men for as long as we have been on earth. We can talk for a long time about the appropriation of time, what it represents, how not to lose it or waste it. Jewellers from the very end of the 18th century to the very beginning of the 19th century also tried to find a solution to how to mark time in the most beautiful way possible. Jewellery with perpetual calendars therefore made a noticeable appearance around the 1800s. Most of the pieces known on the market are English and are typical of the Georgian period. So, a French ring could not help but catch my eye. So, of course, this one is a bit damaged, it must have been worn and loved. This one has the particularity of being engraved and of having certainly been offered to a loved woman. “May they all be happy for my dear friend” says the sentence inside. This can be seen as a sort of re-appropriation of the Latin phrase “horas non numero nisi serenas” – I only count the happy hours – which would, years later, be re-used by the House of Cartier on its mysterious clocks. So if you want to count time and see it pass with a piece of jewellery, don’t miss this ring.

Lot 20 – Gold, silver, diamond and emerald necklace given by Napoleon I to Nicolas-Charles Oudinot (1767-1847). Estimated at €100,000 to €120,000. Photos: Aguttes

This is one of the major pieces of this sale. But it is also a piece that testifies to the wonders that lie dormant in family jewellery boxes. This necklace, as simple as it is elegant, is a piece totally in the style of early 19th century jewellery. The shapes are simple but effective and the workmanship is a true demonstration of the jewellery art of that time. If the piece is beautiful, it is even more so because of its provenance and its beautiful family history. Tradition has it that this necklace was given to Marshal Oudinot (he is also Duke of Reggio) after he distinguished himself at the Battle of Wagram. One knows besides many statues of the Marshal representing him. I think, more particularly, of the one that one can admire in Bar-le-Duc for example. It should be borne in mind that Napoleon I and his wife were fond of jewellery and gifts. Thus, Parisian jewellers very often advised and then delivered to the imperial palace. These objects then joined the private collections of the great aristocratic families of France. For it was an honour to receive a gift from the Emperor. This necklace, therefore, was offered shortly after 1809. The Marshal passed it on to his daughter Stéphanie Oudinot de Reggio on the occasion of her marriage in Paris on 31 December 1828 to Baron James Georges Tom Hainguerlot. From then on, this play never left the family. Some precisions nevertheless, the piece is short. It is certainly possible that this necklace has been shortened in time. There are also a few small rings that show the possibility of hanging removable pendants. Emeralds, fine pearls, the period offered few stylistic possibilities. The object is sublime. It is also the witness of a bygone history. But what a history!

Lot 23 – Gold, diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire monogram brooch. Probably 19th century foreign work. Estimate between 1500 and 1800 euros. Photos: Aguttes

To say that this piece struck me is an understatement. I love everything about it. Its overloaded coastline, the mystery of the monogram, its multicoloured stones… This jewel is particular because if it is now a brooch, it was certainly not the case at the beginning. The manufacture is not very delicate and the reverse side shows a side which was in fact, basically, invisible. So don’t stop at this detail. The side that is set is really superb. I think it is a decorative element of a box or a casket. There are two traces of spikes which testify to the fact that the element was probably set in something else. The letters remain. ASN in diamonds, SEY in emeralds. This blue pattern reminds me of an anchor. Is this the testimony of a marriage, of a financial alliance between two families, of an honorary title… Should I see in it the symbol of a shipowning family? A gift from a monarch? Or the union of Sophie and Albert, for example, heirs of two powerful families wishing to keep their separate fortunes alive. I have thousands of ideas in my head, all more or less similar to an absolutely improbable film scenario. To say that this play takes me on a journey is a fact. One day, perhaps, I will discover the meaning of this play. For the moment, it keeps its secrets, unless among my readers, someone has the beginning of a solution. But in the meantime, I’m buying.

Lot 28 – Silver, gold and diamond moon brooch. Work of the 19th century. Note the large size of the object: 7.5 cm in diameter. Estimate between 8000 and 10,000 euros. Photo: Aguttes

The moon brooch is a classic piece of mid-19th century jewellery. The advent of the occult, spiritualism, astronomy and, more broadly, the applied sciences partly explains the taste for these remarkable pieces. Recently, in Geneva, I was handling two exceptional ones. The one that will be presented at Aguttes in a few days is one of these jewels, as beautiful as it is imposing. With its almost 8 cm diameter, this silver, gold and diamond moon is unexpected. Like the rest of the catalogue, you have to go and see it, weigh it and handle it because moons of this size are extremely rare on the market. The use of knife wires gives a great lightness to the piece, aerating the diamonds, allowing the light to pass more easily. I hope it finds a loving owner who will allow it to continue to exist as I find it simply fascinating.

Lot 45 – Important Cartier bracelet with a Kashmir, gold, diamond and emerald motif. Estimated at €60,000 to €80,000. Photos: Aguttes

With the “Cartier and the Arts of Islam” exhibition in full swing at MAD Paris, I was very pleased to see this piece featured in the upcoming Aguttes sale. The reason we are talking about the paisley motif here is because this form is well known in the Persian stylistic repertoire. It is often referred to as the “paisley pattern”, but also as “Boteh”, which means “bouquet of flowers” in Persian. Some see it as the tongue of fire of Zarathustra, a tear of Buddha or a pine cone. The boteh djegheh is a mystical Iranian flower. These flowers usually come in pairs, very often representing in the carpet the union of man and woman. It is the imaginary rose of Iran, the most romantic flower, the symbol of love. It has been found everywhere since the 17th century, in stylised or geometric form. From the beginning of the 20th century, Islamic and oriental influences were to dominate Cartier’s productions, as shown by the designs of Charles Jacqueau. When the Russian ballet company performed Scheherazade in Paris in 1910, a sudden passion was born, a passion that was to permeate both fashion and objects. Technically, this bracelet by Cartier Paris is perfect. The brooch is superb, the combination of platinum and yellow gold works remarkably well. The structure that accommodates it to make a bracelet allows for other sartorial audacity. It is not common to see such a piece on the market. If the motif is common in Cartier objects, this piece remains totally spectacular in its volume and composition. It is almost reminiscent of a certain Suzanne Belperron…

Lot 89 – Georges Lenfant gold bracelet for Jean Eté. Estimate between 5000 and 7000 euros. Photos: Aguttes

I had to choose this jewel for the incredible work on the links that constitute it. Because, inevitably, with such a meticulous manufacture, one can only think of the house of Georges Lenfant whose meshes are as famous as they are sought after. I am in love with these jewels, I love their false simplicity and their true complexity. Because to achieve this, you need a great deal of know-how and a perfect knowledge of metal. No stones, they are not necessary and that’s good. The Lenfant workshop has also marked the history of Parisian jewellery. As an apprentice, I had the chance to admire some of the archives of this beautiful house. Their jewellery is as timeless as it is beautiful. Whether it is the mesh or the animals, they are also famous and celebrated. There are jewels that make a mark and become iconic. The subtlety of this jewel is its signature. For this bracelet was made for Jean Été. So maybe the name doesn’t mean anything to you. But it will bring back memories for the old hands. Jean Été is heir to a family of jewellers who have been working since 1852. He made his name when he set up a shop at 70 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, almost opposite the Élysée Palace. He made many pieces for the heads of state and guests of the French state. There are few documents on this brand, a few advertisements have survived here and there, which testify to the luxury of the house and its refined clientele. Like this bracelet.

Lot 99 – Gold, coral and chrysoprase set, signed Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 euros. Photos: Aguttes

Pink coral and agate is a signature combination for Van Cleef & Arpels. The Delphes collection continues to offer lovers of antique jewellery heavy necklaces and marvellous brooches adorned with imposing cabochons of coral, chrysoprase and amethyst… Also, the association of these colours makes one think of the famous house of the Place Vendôme. The set proposed here is no exception to the rule, but it is the very first time I have admired it. I was not familiar with this model. The earrings and bracelet that make up lot 99 are exceptional in terms of the suppleness of the workmanship, where you can recognize the touch of Georges Lenfant. Lenfant was one of the brand’s regular suppliers. If this model was unknown to me, I see it as an interpretation or a variation of the Twist model that is seen more regularly on the second-hand market. With its festive spirit, this set bodes well for the upcoming holidays. So if you want to look good at the Christmas table, you know what you have to do.

See you soon!


marie chabrol

Hello my name Is Marie. Speaker, consultant & teacher, I write with passion about the world of jewelry.

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