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Thursday, October 23, 2014

101-Carat Diamond Fetches $5 Million

The top lot at Christie’s Important Jewels auction held Wednesday was a 101.36-carat, cushion-cut, L-color, VS2 diamond that sold for $4.98 million, or $49,100 per carat. The diamond, worn as a necklace, is suspended by a black silk cord with pavé-set diamonds mounted in platinum (pictured above).

In a slight turn of events, seven of the top 10 lots from the sale were colorless diamonds with five of the items selling for more than $1 million (including commission and fees). In recent years, fancy colored diamonds have been stealing the spotlight, achieving record-breaking sales.

Other top lots in the sale included the following:

* A diamond necklace featuring a detachable pendant K-color faint brown VVS1 Potentially Internally Flawless diamond pendant weighing 81.38 carats that sold for $3.19 million. Two other detachable diamonds weigh 15.30 and 7.04 carats, spaced by circular-cut diamonds. The necklace is designed as a line of 17 circular-cut diamonds, the largest weighing 15.46 carats, spaced by rectangular and square-cut diamonds, mounted in 18k white gold (pictured above).

* A 23.89-carat rectangular-cut, H-color, Potentially Internally Flawless diamond mounted in platinum ring that sold for $1.56 million, or 65,500 per carat.

* A 16.07-carat rectangular-cut F-color, Potentially Internally Flawless diamond on a ring set within a circular-cut and pear-shaped diamond surround, to the pear-shaped diamond shoulders, mounted in platinum, with maker's mark that sold for $1.5 million, or $93,700 per carat.

* In addition to diamonds, a Ceylon sapphire and diamond of 63.65 carats on a ring, flanked on either side by a half-moon diamond, mounted in platinum by Tiffany & Co. sold for $587,000, smashing its high estimate of $150,000.

All totaled, the sale of 347 lots fetched $33.7 million, with 75 percent sold by lot and 77 percent sold by value.

“Fine quality colorless diamonds achieved strong prices with international bidding,” said Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Christie’s Jewelry. “Collectors also bid competitively for natural pearls and special jeweled objects such as the Art Deco fish bowl clock, by Black, Starr, and Frost, which realized $137,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $15,000.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

‘Designing jewelry has been a passion of mine,’ Cocktails with JNN: Mayuri Vara of Vara of London

Smoky quartz is the main stone for the Fleur de Chine ring with black diamond pave center mounted on 925 sterling silver and lucky Chinese coin gallery on the back.

Every year that I go to Hong Kong to attend the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair I discover something new. Last year, I attended a press conference at the Portuguese Heritage Club in the city’s Central district hosted by Qeelin, a luxury jewelry brand purchased by French luxury holding company, Kering. Afterward, I interviewed Dennis Chan, the creative director and co-founder of the brand. 

Taylor and Fleur de Chine Cuff uses gold plated textured 925 sterling with amethyst and pink tourmaline.

This year I found myself at the Gray Café Deluxe, on the 49th floor of the Upper House hotel, one of the city’s finest, with a spectacular view of the Kowloon skyline as it turned from day to night. This is where I met with Mayuri Vara, the founder of the new jewelry brand Vara of London, where she showed me her first jewelry collections over well-made martinis.

Bamboo Leaves ring uses chrome diopside for the leaves and 925 sterling silver.

Articulate and soft-spoken, the self-taught jewelry designer explains that the collections reflect her diverse heritage, experiences and personal influences. She is of Indian descent, raised in London and was on course to follow her father and brother’s footsteps in the medical profession before she veered off into more creative ambitions.

The upper part of the Diva drop earrings extend up the earlobe set with amethyst with with pink tourmaline. Lower hoop set with diamonds and amethyst center drop stone.

“I have always been fascinated by art and design, and designing jewelry has been a passion of mine,” she says, “having always made handmade jewelry as far back as I can remember.”

She has lived in Hong Kong for the past five years with her husband who is a lawyer. Her outside influences are equally diverse and include Elizabeth Taylor, Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star and a fashion icon, and Maharani Gayatri Devi, the last queen of Jaipur.

925 sterling silver is used for the Serpentine open bangle with smoky quartz and black diamond surround.

“I draw inspiration from the Chinese culture, artworks and architecture,” she adds. 

For someone with such a diverse background her first offerings are focused and for the most part classic and elegant. It’s a well thought out mix of products where individual pieces match but in a variety of ways so it doesn’t look like a formal suite. Most of the pieces are large and bold enough so they can be worn alone. They also are designed to be worn daily. 

The left side of Le Boteh open ring is set with smoky quartz with a black diamond centre; and the right side set with amethyst and pink tourmaline.

Nearly all of the pieces are made of 925 sterling silver plated with either gold, black rhodium, or white rhodium. She says her next line will be in 18k gold. She is particularly proud that the quality of craftsmanship, done in China, can be seen on both sides of the pieces. “I’m fortunate to find the right people who understand my flow,” she says.

The Cleopatra Noir ring features smoky quartz surrounded by two snakes and black diamond pave on head and tail with red garnet eyes. Black spinel surrounds body of the ring.

The black rhodium finishes add an edge to the classic styles. She also provides contrasts by using classic Lotus flower and paisley shapes with pieces that feature serpents. She is fond of colored gems, with smoky quartz, amethyst, citrine, peridot and tourmaline among her favorites. A few pieces have a sprinkling of diamonds.

The collections were launched in June during the Jewellery & Watch event at London’s Saatchi Gallery and are also available at the Quintessentially Gifts in London. 

Noor drop earrings uses 925 sterling silver set with Rose de France amethyst stones. The upper part is set with white topaz surrounding a single amethyst stone.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'The Power of Style: Verdura at 75' Opens To The Public

The Laurel Tiara was commissioned for Betsey Whitney and worn during the ceremony marking the appointment of her husband, John Hay Whitney, as UK Ambassador.

It’s rare that a retailer and jewelry design firm can put together a museum-quality exhibition as encompassing as the “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75.”

Original Coco Chanel Maltese Cross Cuffs 

The showcase not only celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Verdura brand, but more importantly it serves as a retrospective of the brand’s founder and namesake, Fulco di Verdura, whose work spanned five decades. The exhibition contains 216 pieces of Verdura jewelry in a museum quality space adjacent to the company’s Fifth Avenue flagship location. 

In the foreground is a bracelet worn by Greta Garbo on screen and in the background is a look at the Fulcon di Verdura and Coco Chanel photograph with the Maltese Cross cuff. 

“It started out being 150 pieces but as word got out that we were going to do a museum quality exhibition, people got excited about it and started opening their jewel boxes,” said Ward Landrigan, who purchased Verdura in 1985. “For people who wear this jewelry a lot, it’s a long time to be without it.”

Jewelry and photographs of famous women wearing verdura pieces, including Babe Paley, described as Verdura's muse, in the background.

The exhibition opened to the public Tuesday and will run till December 23 at 745 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor. Reservations can be made by following this link

A portion of the exhibition space is dedicated to ledgers that recorded sales and jewelry drawings by Fulco di Verdura.

Even though the business is a retailer and a creator of jewelry based on Verdura’s original designs, the company managed to put together a proper representation of the designer, his work and a glimpse into the man, known for his well-connected friends and for being the life of the party. At least part of the reason had to be because the exhibition was curated by international fashion designer, Carolina Herrera, and her husband Reinaldo, who were personal friends of Verdura. 

Bejeweled elephant

The items are arranged either by period, theme or style in large wall cases, where the jewelry appears to be floating, or in standalone cases for special pieces, such as the Chanel bracelets or the Whitney tiara. It is a well lit space from the inside and outside light colored walls and well-placed partitions give the space breadth and depth. 

Snail brooches
“First we get all this jewelry and then you try to make sense of what relates to what and how,” Landrigan says. “Luckily, because he did so many things that were of interest, we didn’t have any trouble with that.”

Kunzite Wing Brooch

Along with the pieces are jewelry sketches, photographs of Verdura, who died in 1978, miniature paintings by Verdura, and photographs of the many celebrities, aristocrats, politicians and business people (men and women) who wore his jewelry or collected his art objects. All of the business transactions, no matter how noteworthy the client, were recorded on ledgers. One ledger and photographs of others are on display, revealing some of the famous clientele.

Tea Rose brooch

All of the pieces have either been loaned to the exhibition by the owners or their estates or are part of Landrigan's personal collection. He stresses that none of the items are for sale. Those who donated their pieces include Brooke Shields, Sofia Coppola, Whoopi Goldberg and philanthropist Mercedes Bass. 

Fulco di Verdura and Coco Chanel. Verdura designed the Maltese Cross Cuff for Coco Chanel, which became an iconic fashion symblol for Coco, for Chanel and for Verdura. 

One of the standouts is the Chanel Maltese Cross Cuffs worn by Verdura’s personal friend and collaborator, Coco Chanel. These became her signature cuffs and were recreated as costume jewelry and sold by Chanel. Landrigan explains that people assumed Verdura made costume jewelry but he didn’t. He made jewelry for Coco Chanel who had them re-made as costume pieces. 

Greta Garbo wears Verdura gold bracelet in 1941 photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull

Other pieces of note are a yellow gold bracelet worn by Greta Garbo on screen (one of many Verdura pieces worn in movies) and the Laurel tiara, commissioned for Betsey Whitney and worn for the occasion of her husband, John Hay Whitney, being appointed as UK Ambassador.

Blue Diamond Ring

One of the things about Verdura’s work is that he was a true bespoke jeweler, making one-of-a-kind pieces based on the personal preference of a client or a specific occasion. Just about every piece of jewelry and object on display has a unique story. There are many more examples of Fulco di Verdura’s creativity and imagination and many more stories in the exhibition. 

Verdura owner Ward Landrigan in the reflection of a display case that represents five decades of jewelry created by Fulco di Verdura. Behind Landrigan is a photograph of Verdura. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

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Signet Jewelers CEO Mike Barnes Resigns; Replaced by Mark Light

Mike Barnes

Signet Jewelers Ltd. said Tuesday that Michael Barnes will resign from his position as chief executive officer and from Signet's board of directors, effective October 31, in order to be closer to his family in Dallas.

Mark Light, Signet's president and chief operating officer, has been named to succeed Barnes as CEO and take a seat on the board.

Signet said it is also reaffirming its financial guidance initiated in its second quarter earnings release on August 28.

Barnes joined Signet in December 2010 and became its CEO in January 2011, replacing Terry Burman, the company’s longtime CEO. Most recently he oversaw the $1.46 billion acquisition of Dallas-based Zale Corp., its largest US competitor, in May, making Signet the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the US, UK and Canada with approximately 3,500 retail outlets.

“Mike has been the leader of the Signet executive management team during a period of outstanding transformation and growth,” said Todd Stitzer, Signet chairman. “Since he joined Signet in 2010, Mike has been an instrumental part of Signet's success. He has played a critical role in Signet's recent acquisition of Zale Corp. and its continuing integration. He has also led the development of Signet's Vision 2020 Initiative for the future. We understand and respect his personal desire to relocate nearer to his family and pursue opportunities closer to his home in Dallas at this time.”

Signet is based in Bermuda and is listed on the NYSE. Its US subsidiary, Sterling Jewelers, with more than 1,400 stores in 50 states, is headquartered in Akron, Ohio. The company, in an SEC filing Tuesday, said it will pay Barnes accrued but unpaid benefits or obligations, his base salary for 12 additional months and an annual bonus at the end of the fiscal year.

Light has been with Signet for more than 30 years, with primary responsibility for the Sterling division, by far Sterling’s largest division, until the Zale Corp. acquisition.

“We are delighted to announce Mark’s promotion to chief executive officer of Signet,” Stitzer said. “Mark is an experienced, strategic leader who has been deeply involved in the company's Vision 2020 Strategy, the Zale acquisition and its ongoing integration. In addition he has a meticulous approach to operational details, and has been the main architect of our Sterling division's consistently profitable growth and has played a key role in defining and executing Signet's growth strategy. He has also been an advisor to our UK Managing Director since 2013 and became formally responsible for that business in mid-2014.”

Signet's Sterling division operates primarily under the brands of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry. Signet's UK division operates approximately 500 stores primarily under the name brands of H.Samuel and Ernest Jones. Signet's Zale division operates more than 1,600 locations in the US and Canada primarily under the name brands of Zales, People's, and Piercing Pagoda. The company also has online operations at,,,,, and

Monday, October 13, 2014

3 UCLA Pediatric Physician-Scientists Named Harry Winston Fellows

Harry Winston, Inc. and the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute have named the first three recipients of the inaugural Harry Winston Fellowships.

You may remember that the luxury jewelry and watch brand presented a $1 million gift to establish the fellowship that supports the work of young pediatric physician-scientists from Mattel Children’ s Hospital UCLA who are conducting research to prevent, treat and cure disease and illness in children.

“Through the Harry Winston Fellowship Fund, we are … supporting these young physician-scientists whose vital contributions to pediatric research will help to enable healthy and brilliant futures for children around the world,” said Nayla Hayek, Harry Winston CEO.

The Harry Winston Fellows represent physician-scientists in their second or third year of fellowship at UCLA (a period of specialized training following a doctor’s residency) who have demonstrated a commitment to a career in academic medicine. The fellows, who have all shown unparalleled excellence in clinical and research skills, are also extremely bright, exceptionally hardworking and driven by a desire to make a significant difference in their field.

Harry Winston Fellows will be chosen annually by an internal selection committee led by Dr. Sherin Devaskar, physician-in-chief of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and executive director of the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute.

“The Harry Winston Fellowship Fund will support the best and brightest subspecialty fellows toward becoming exceptional academic physician-scientists who will go on to collaborate and establish networks locally, nationally and globally,” Devaskar said.

The recipients will be formally announced at a reception held on Oct. 9 in Los Angeles.

The 2014 – 2015 Harry Winston Fellows are:

Dr. Kristina Adachi, a third-year fellow in the division of pediatric infectious diseases. Adachi’s work focuses on untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during pregnancy and the deleterious impact of these infections on infants' health.

Dr. Leslie Kimura, a second year fellow in the division of pediatric endocrinology. The incidence of diabetes, particularly type 2, is on the rise, but drugs to treat it have not focused on the largest tissue utilizer of glucose—skeletal muscle.

Dr. Edward Talya, a second year fellow in the division of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition. His research focuses on patients with short bowel syndrome, which is a disease where the patient is missing enough of the small intestine that they cannot get the nutrition they need from eating.

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Clouds, Flowers and Beautiful Gems Inspire Graff’s Nuage Collection

Sapphire and diamond necklace

Clouds and flowers in the world’s most famous gardens provided the inspiration for the the Nuage collection, the latest line by Graff Diamonds available to the public after its unveiling at the recently concluded La Biennale des Antiquaires. 

Ruby and diamond necklace

Anne-Eva Geffroy, Graff’s design director, used organic forms; geometric patterns; and a color palette dominates by red, white and blue to create the first six pieces released in the collection. The inspiration is based on her travels to the world’s most famous gardens, including the Ginkaku-ji a Zen temple in Kyoto, the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, the Kew Gardens in London and the gardens of Claude Monet in France. 

Ruby and diamond bracelet

Nuage is French for cloud and the geometric forms replicate the swirling of these heavenly bodies. For example, a sapphire and diamond necklace uses swirling pavé diamonds in the shapes of clouds that embrace brilliant cut sapphires spouting out of platinum and diamonds like flowers in bloom. The necklace is accompanied by a matching bracelet. 

Sapphire and diamond bracelet

The motif of clouds and flowers are played out throughout the remainder of the collection, which includes a matching earrings, bracelet and necklace set with the same swirling diamond pavé over platinum. In this case the flowers are more pronounced in both the swirling formations and in use of rubies to create flower figures within the clouds. 

Ruby and diamond bracelet

Finally, among the items released by Graff, is a platinum and white diamond bracelet using the same motif.

This is classic jewelry in the Graff tradition where high-quality diamonds and gems take center stage and the designs showcase the gems.

Diamond Nuage bracelet.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pink Diamond Sets Auction Record, Natural Pearls Remain in Demand

8.41-carat internally flawless pink diamond

The jewelry auction market continues to show strength as gems sparkled during sales in Hong Kong and New York. 

Sotheby’s Hong Kong said a world auction record was set for a fancy vivid pink diamond when an 8.41-carat internally flawless pink diamond sold for nearly $17.8 million at its Magnificent Jewels sale on October 7. The internally flawless fancy vivid purple-pink gem is a type IIa diamond, among the most chemically pure with exceptional optical transparency.

According to Sotheby’s, the previous world auction record for a fancy vivid pink diamond and record price per carat for a pink diamond were both achieved by a 5-carat pink diamond that sold for more than $10.7 million, or $2.15 million per carat, in Hong Kong in November 2009.

Per-carat price records were also set for a Cartier Kashmir sapphire ring that sold for $193,975 per carat and for a sapphire and diamond ring that sold for $236,404 per carat.

At Bonhams New York Fine Jewelry auction held October 8, a triple stand natural pearl, gem and diamond necklace (pictured above) fetched $185,000, over three times its high estimate. The piece is completed by a triple pavé diamond flowerhead clasp, enhanced by rubies, emeralds, and sapphires; centered by old European-cut diamonds and a fancy-cut emerald.

The top lot of the evening was a 14.51-carat round brilliant-cut diamond, flanked by tapered baguette-cut diamonds. 

In addition, a ruby and diamond bracelet designed as a graduated band of oval-cut ruby cluster links, enhanced by round brilliant-cut diamond borders, sold for $161,000; and a ruby and diamond pendant/brooch and necklace signed by M. Gerard where the largest ruby weighed 8 carats, achieved $106,250, soaring past its high estimate of $70,000.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Creativity and Originality in Polish Jewelry Design

Amber and silver "Dragon" ring by Jacek Ostrowski

When a friend from the Polish jewelry industry told me during the recently concluded "Gold Silver and Time" tradeshow that the price of amber is comparable with the price of gold, I thought she was exaggerating. It turns out she was being conservative. Good rough amber sells for up to $60 a gram, about $20 per gram more than gold. 

Colorful cuffs by Marcin Zaremski

This came home to me when a woman working for Amber Apple, an amber and jewelry company, showed me a giant bracelet made entirely of rough amber. It was hard to me to believe it was a serious piece of jewelry for anyone other than Wilma Flintstone. I asked who would wear such a thing? The woman behind the counter said "A very large woman." It turns out she would also have to be a very rich woman as that bracelet was valued at more than $10,100. 

Rough amber bracelet by Amber Apple valed at more than $10,100.  Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The reason for this is none other than China, which seems to be sucking up the world’s natural resources (amber is fossilized tree resin) faster than the billions of years it took the earth to produce its bounty. The Chinese are buying rough amber, driving up the price to a ridiculous level, and using it to make inexpensive jewelry to sell to its own market. 

Pendant necklace made with layers of amber and driftwood by Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood 

Much of the amber in the US and other markets is used for inexpensive jewelry matched with silver. However, the escalation in its price has had a detrimental impact on this market. The result is that with rough amber costing more than gold, the Polish jewelry industry has turned to the creativity and originality of its top jewelry designers to distinguish itself in the international marketplace. Poland is the world’s second largest producer of silver jewelry and many of these designers primarily work with silver, gold and other metals.

3D necklace made of oxidized and gold-plated silver by Alicia Jakub Wyganowscy. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

At the tradeshow, several designers were featured in a special exhibit that coincided with the 25 year anniversary of Poland’s Solidarity movement. Tradeshow officials also dedicated about 60 exhibit spaces to these designers at a discounted price. That’s a significant number considering the tradeshow hosted a little more than 300 exhibitors.

Bracelet made with exotic wood, silver and gold by SzwedDesign

“The young people are creating jewelry that is interesting and different … very creative,” says Rafał Galimski, president of the MCT International Fair Centre, co-organizer of the trade fair. “We try to help them with the 60 stands.”

Amber and silver firefly resting on a piece of amber by Malgorzata Wasowska Jewellery Company

One of the selling points of Polish jewelry design (in addition to originality, design and craftsmanship) is value. The Polish currency, the Zolty, is worth about 25 percent of what the euro is worth. Poland is already an EU member and someday the country will adopt the European currency, although there is no timetable to do so. Once that happens, the cost of Polish jewelry will increase significantly. Collectors of modern jewelry may want to stock up on these pieces now. While acknowledging that adoption of the euro will be good for the country overall, Galimski says he isn’t looking forward to the increase in jewelry prices that will no doubt follow.

A yellow amber necklace by Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Poland’s largest jewelry markets for Polish designer jewelry are Germany, China, Italy and the US.

Many of the designs combine a modern aesthetic with a unique artistic perspective from being isolated from the rest of the world during the Soviet occupation. In fact, the approach of many of the designers is artistic rather than market driven.

Amber and silver necklace by Jacek Ostrowski. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

“Poland is a post-Soviet country,” said Warsaw-based Marcin Zaremski, the veteran of seven jewelry designers who presented their works to reporters. “We didn’t have the formal education, so we had a lot of artists that created jewelry. I think we developed in that direction very well.”

Coloful metal necklace by Marcin Zaremski

While speaking for Polish jewelry designers in general, Zaremski wasn’t necessarily speaking for himself. He did have a formal education, attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw with the intent of pursuing an interior design career. However, he chose to follow his parents lead and take up jewelry design but with a personal take. His jewelry and art objects are perhaps the most accessible of the group, creating pieces with all kinds of metals from gold and silver, to steel and copper.

A piece of Csarite, a gem known for changing colors, along with jewelry made from the gem exclusive to mines in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey by Novvak Jewellery. The same gem is also marketed as Zultanite. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

A younger designer whose is getting international attention is Jacek Ostrowski from the northern Polish city of Gdansk, the center of the country’s amber jewelry industry. He works with silver, colored acrylic, crystal Swarovski Elements, and of course, Baltic amber.

“My projects are dominated by the geometry of the shape,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the simplicity of form.”

More rough amber from Amber Apple. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Meanwhile, Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood is a purist. As amber is fossilized tree resin, she chooses to create jewelry by pairing the material, sometimes in its natural state, with driftwood from the same beaches of the Baltic Sea where amber is found.

“I am fascinated by these two organic materials … the possibility to discover the things that have been hidden for millions of years,” she says. “Every piece of amber has its own story.”

However, she doesn’t shy away from using more exotic woods, such as African ebony, brick-red Padouk, and violet Amaranth.

There were plenty of traditional manufacturers working with silver, amber and other materials that were interesting as well. Among them was Novvak Jewellery, a Warsaw-based company working with a gem marketed under the name, Csarite, which comes from specific mines in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey. It’s unique to the remote area. The gem is known for its ability to change colors, from green to purplish-pink depending on the light. The same gem also is marketed under the name, “Zultanite,” which will no doubt be confusing to consumers. But it’s rare to be able to know the original of a gem without trusting the supply chain, which can be unreliable.

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