Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
While this is not the first sale available to bidders online—for years Adam’s has offered online access via both invaluable.com and the-saleroom.com—it does coincide with the new platform, Adam’s Live. Users can join, follow the auctioneer, and bid via mobile, laptop, or desktop while paying the same commission as those in the room.
Whitewall checked in with Claire-Laurence Mestrallet, Associate Director and Head of the Jewelry Department, to learn more about highlights like the one-of-a-kind cuff bracelet by Fred Paris and a set of ruby and diamond necklace and earrings by Marina B.
WHITEWALL: Before joining Adam’s, you worked in the jewelry and watch departments of Christie’s and Bonham’s in New York, Geneva, and London. From where does your interest in fine jewelry and timepieces stem?
CLAIRE-LAURENCE MESTRALLET: My father was a diamond dealer, so I got to see, observe, and play with lots of beautiful gems at a very young age. But when I studied at university, I was much more interested in the art business. I interned at Christie’s New York within their PR & Events departments for a year and they offered me my first job right after I graduated. The job was based in Geneva and it was to be the assistant of the head of jewelry. This is when a real interest arose, and I decided to pursue a career within the jewelry industry and grew up the ladder with various roles. I think it’s a coincidence that I fell into this industry while my family thinks it was in the genes!
WW: Looking through some of the highlights of the Adam’s September sale, it feels like a treasure hunt. What makes a jewelry or watch piece fitting for auction?
CLM: What I like to have in my sales when I curate them is to try to really have something for everyone. Whether it is an engagement ring or an investment piece that will hold or increase its value with time. We all, within the industry, look for something rare and special to offer our clients. That’s when the bidding gets really exciting in the room!
WW: Let’s talk about some of the highlights! Can you tell us about the 1970s coral and gold Cartier necklace?
CLM: This necklace (lot 68) is really special. It’s a rare and striking piece, made by Cartier Paris in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It clearly reminds us of the Hippie Chic era of that period. There was a freedom of choice and for the first time, there was a generation of women who purchased jewels for themselves, rather than receiving as gifts. Cartier Heritage has some similar pieces, but I have never seen the same one and its condition is near perfect. I am confident that many Cartier collectors will be interested in this piece and I do expect this necklace to fetch more than its estimate.
WW: And the Van Cleef & Arpels Cadenas watch?
CLM: I love this watch (lot 9). It’s a real classic piece, yet also cool and edgy. The Cadenas have been made, relaunched, and continued since they were first launched in the 1930s. I love the snake-link double bracelet on this particular one we have for sale, which gives it a real retro feel despite being made in the 2000s. And the diamond pavé on the dial and case gives it a discreet luxurious feel that I love.
WW: What about the 1860 turquoise serpent necklace?
CLM: I got so excited when the lady brought this necklace over to me to value (lot 20). She had sent me images of it, and I had to wait for the lockdown to be over to finally see it in the flesh. I was straight away mesmerized by it. Although I fear real snakes, I adore them on jewelry, whether the piece is a period piece or modern such as the Bvlgari Serpenti collection. I also have a real soft spot for Victorian original fitted case, so this piece ticks all the boxes including its very good condition given its age, circa 1865.
Color is of particular importance in jewelry designs, inspired by animal motifs as they added life and character to the piece. Turquoise was plentiful during the 19th century and among the most fashionable gems for everyday wear. Victorian jewelers used round turquoise cabochons to represent the scales of their snaky creations and the stone’s popularity, in fact, inspired Tiffany & Co. founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, to choose its color for the cover the first Blue Book, a catalog of the house’s jewels, in 1845. Today, the color is referred to simply as Tiffany Blue.
WW: The 1960s Van Cleef & Arpels lion and scarecrow brooches bring to mind The Wizard of Oz. Is that intentional?
CLM: It’s funny that the scarecrow (lot 60) reminds you of The Wizard of Oz. I have no idea whether Van Cleef & Arpels was inspired by that particular story but this brooch is really stunning. I love novelty brooches, this one is in pristine condition. Jackie Kennedy Onassis purchased a scarecrow brooch of the same design by VCA, which she was seen wearing on several occasions. In 1996, Sotheby’s New York held “The Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis” auction where the brooch was included (lot 384) and sold for $101,500. Van Cleef & Arpels, with Cartier, is the hottest jewelry house that people want and look for at auction. I have no doubt that this brooch will sell well. The lion brooch (lot 59), also by Van Cleef & Arpels is such a cute and stunning piece. Grace Kelly had that lion too in her jewelry collection.
WW: There’s also a cuff bracelet by Fred Paris that’s one-of-a-kind. Can you tell us about this piece?
CLM: The Fred bracelet (lot 161) is one of our top lots in the sale and it is such honor that the present vendor has chosen Adam’s Auctioneers to sell it on her behalf. One of Fred’s designers came to meet the present vendor in Monte-Carlo and after various design proposals, this unique, one-of-a-kind bracelet was selected to be made for the client. The quality of the craftsmanship makes it most comfortable to wear—which is not always the case with a cuff bracelet. The amount of diamond total carat weight and the fact that the piece is one-of-a-kind makes this bracelet really the star of the sale. The central pear diamond weighs 5.12cts and there are 31.74cts of remaining diamonds.
WW: Are there any personal highlights for you?
CLM: One piece that was consigned very close to the deadline is the beautiful ruby and diamond necklace with its matching earrings by Marina B (lot 96), from the Isphaan collection made in the early 1980s. Her pieces and designs are always very bold and colorful. I also love jewelry from the 1980s and 1990s which is a style that’s coming back to fashion. Marina B’s pieces are very much sought after at auction and it’s not often that you find them for sale at auction.
WW: What are some trends you’re seeing right now in fine jewelry and watches?
CLM: The trend is to find the piece that is not made anymore and therefore you won’t see many others around you have the same, if at all. Art Deco is definitely an era that people favor at auction but retro pieces from the 1940s and 1950s are more and more popular too.
WW: What can collectors expect of the new bidding platform, Adam’s Live, available to use in the September sale?
CLM: Our sales at Adam’s have already been live on two bidding platforms but Adam’s Live is free—we’re not charging an additional fee for bidding live as opposed to the other platforms that will charge a small percentage for hosting the sale on their website. More generally, Adam’s Live enables us to reach people all over the world, wherever they might be. You don’t have to be in the room or on the phone anymore. People don’t have to be only limited to auction houses that are in their country—they can bid from anywhere which is huge progress and a success for us all.
WW: Jewelry and watches carry with them a history—in their making, precious material, and how they enter the wearer’s life. For you, what makes these items so special?
CLM: Their history is of course what makes them special but also the history they will continue to carry with the new vendor is what I find fascinating. I also love that these pieces, despite different trends, can be worn a new way by the new buyer. The fashion in the 1860s was clearly different than of today, yet whoever the buyer will be that buys the turquoise serpent necklace, will wear it differently while still carrying a huge heritage of history with them.