Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Estate Jewelry: Sapphires, Marble Apples, and Two Fish With Crackers

Oh, no biggie, this is just a 12.27-ct natural fancy pink diamond, certified Type IIa, nearly internally flawless and set in an antique Cartier platinum and 18k rose gold mount with baguette-cut white diamonds. Pssssh; whatever.

It’s called the “Majestic Pink,” and while the dealer, M.S. Rau, doesn’t disclose the price of the ring on their website, JCK has it down as $7.85 million. The ring will go on sale on August 8 via a partnership the luxury website 1stdibs.com.

This diamond is definitely something special. You guys know by now that a certification of Type IIa means the stone contains no nitrogen, making it super transparent and placing it in the company of diamonds from India’s famous Golconda mine. Type IIa is a rare classification to begin with, but even rarer to find in pink diamonds. There are only a few pink IIas in existence, two of which are part of the Iranian crown jewels. (And do you remember the Clark Pink, the 9-ct fancy purplish-pink diamond ring that was auctioned at Christie’s back in April? That baby ultimately went for $15.7 million.) The Majestic Pink is also nearly flawless — another rarity, as pink diamonds typically have more inclusions (or flaws) than other diamonds.

M.S. Rau sent me a very pretty flyer on this piece, and I’ve hung it up, as it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to owning something “majestic.” If you’re a glutton for punishment, go see the ringin person at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show from August 23 to 26.

“Tutti Frutti,” one of Cartier’s most famous jewelry styles, debuted in the 1920s. Using Indian gemstones and mimicking traditional Indian jewelry style, Cartier designers grouped elaborately carved and cabochon stones into fantastic patterns that are a joyful riot of color.

Parisian jeweler Henri Picq did a lot of work for Cartier, and he was renowned both for his platinum jewelry as well as his Tutti Frutti pieces. He created this bracelet, which scatters large carved emeralds and sapphires among diamonds and tiny cabochon rubies and onyx. Circa 1925.

Circa the 17th century, these Chinese Ming Dynasty gold hoop earrings feature a rebus — i.e., they use images to represent words or meanings. The dealer lists the images and their interpretations:

Lotus and Fish: May you have a abundance of wealth and honour;
Gold Fish: May you have an excess of gold;
Shrimp: You have the ability to change your fate;
Fish: Contentment;
Cat Fish: May your wishes come true year after year and may every year be auspicious;
Two Fish with Crackers: May you have plenty year after year;
Dragonfly: May the river stay clear and the sea calm;
Butterfly: A joyful encounter.

This ridiculously cute “Apple of my Eye” ring features a Connemara marble apple (with colored gold stem and leaf) set within a platinum and rose diamond eye-shaped setting. Look at it from the side!

Note: Connemara is an area in western Ireland, and the marble found there dates back to prehistoric times. It’s still quarried today and is used both in jewelry and as a building material. This area also produced Peter O’Toole (he has birth certificates for both Connemara and Leeds, England), so ... I owe you one, Connemara.

In 1783, brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier launched the first manned hot-air balloon. Originally from Annonay, France, the brothers had, for years, been captivated by the possibilities of balloon-borne flight, and their experiments eventually captured the interest of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. One of their first demonstrations was performed at Versailles, in front of the royal pair and an accompanying crowd, with a balloon that was “manned” by a duck, a rooster, and a sheep. The flight lasted around eight minutes and reached 1,500 feet before landing safely.

The brothers later held manned and tethered test flights (Étienne himself went up in one), but the official first untethered launch carrying two men took place on November 21, 1783. Due to the danger involved, King Louis had proposed sending criminals up in the balloon, but Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier, a chemistry and physics teacher, volunteered to go up instead. He was joined by the Marquis d'Arlandes, an army officer. A first-hand report in the December 1783 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine states that, after a delay due to repairs: “The machine was then seen to rise in quite a majestic manner, and when it reached the elevation of about 250 feet, the intrepid travellers, shaking their hats, saluted the spectators.” The flight lasted 25 minutes and crossed above Paris at a distance of 3,000 feet, and they eventually landed safely outside the city. Ten days later, two other French inventors, Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert, successfully flew the first hydrogen gas balloon from Paris. If you’re interested, there’s a video here that covers the competition between the inventors, as well as the differences in hot air and hydrogen balloon technologies.

The successful launches resulted in huge public excitement about ballooning, and balloon designs began to appear in furniture, clothing, jewelry, and decorative items. Beautiful depictions of balloon launches can be seen here and here, while this article delves deeper into the “balloon mania” of the time, and also features some fantastic 18th-century caricatures of balloon-inspired fashion. (And they’re totally Kate Beaton territory, btw.)

ANYWAY, yes, sorry, this column is about jewelry, I know. Here’s a great, rare example of balloon-related jewelry of the time. It’s an 18k yellow gold pendant/locket that dates to around 1785, and is probably French (it’s not hallmarked, and was probably custom-made). The balloon is carved from mother of pearl with both gilded and painted details, while the background is blue silk. The piece is protected by convex glass set in a beautiful 18k yellow gold frame with seed pearls. The back of the locket, also with glass and silk, features a mother of pearl plaque painted with the initials “F.H.”

This European set of bracelet and earrings (c.1875) features Japanese shakudō panels mounted in yellow gold. Shakudō, a traditional Japanese material, is an alloy of gold and copper; the dark bluish-black patina is achieved by applying a compound called rokushō to the piece and then heating it. Shakudō was introduced to the West in the mid-19th century, and it soon became popular to use little panels such as these in contemporary jewelry. This set, which features sweet little scenes of frogs, includes one panel signed in Japanese.

The bezel of this gold ring is a Gothic seal (or signet) that dates to the 13th or 14th century, while the band was added later. Medieval seals often used symbolic animal motifs, and this one features a little squirrel holding a nut. Around the edge of the seal, Lombardic letters read “JOANNE NOTIS,” or “Using the seal of Joanna."

So, it’s interesting that this seal may have originally belonged to a woman, but it’s even more interesting that the motif was a squirrel. Squirrels were common symbols for medieval seals — they could represent diligence or industriousness, or even secrecy (as squirrels keep hidden stores of food). However, they could also jokingly refer to women and sexuality. Take a look at this one, which actually says “I crack nuts.” Yep.

You guys are well aware by now that I adore 19th-century cuff bracelets for their gorgeous enameling and clever designs. Here’s another lovely Late Victorian example: from France, circa 1900, the cuff pairs engraved 18k gold with black enamel, in a design that mimics overlapping swatches of material fastened down by buttons. Fantastic.

This Arts & Crafts necklace (circa 1900) features 25 carats of multi-colored sapphires in shades of blue, pink, teal, and yellow. The sapphires are set within a frame of flowing 14 and 18k gold leaves, which branch upward from a central 8.5-carat raspberry-pink sapphire. Also interspersed throughout the leaves are diamonds and pearls. This is a super-pretty piece, with an overall shape that I think would be really flattering on.

Here’s another contemporary designer whose work is reaching the secondary market. Award-winning English designer Stephen Webster is a rock star of the jewelry industry, with a huge celebrity following, but his creations are worthy of the accolades. He’s also been creative director of Garrard’s, the crown jewelers, since 2008. He’s renowned for unusual yet high-quality jewelry, and I actually interviewed him a while back in relation to a collaboration he had with Wedgwood — yes, the pottery/china company — which resulted in a whimsical and uniquely English collection that teamed jasperware with sterling silver, and featured motifs that included British bulldogs and roses.

Thorns are a common subject in Webster’s jewelry, and this piece features diamonds set into a delicate 18k white gold thorn cuff, with an intricately worked interior. Gorgeous!

Previously: Bird Heads, Bridal Crowns, and an Eyeball.

Related: A Hairpin editor talks about her Monica McLaughlin-inspired obsession with estate jewelry.

Monica McLaughlin is reachable at monstantinople@gmail.com, should anyone wish to hire her services in exchange for money or 12-carat pink diamonds.

85 Comments / Post A Comment

fondue with cheddar


Terrifying Wife-Avatar

@jen325 RIGHT??? I'm a teacher! Which REALLY good student is going to bring me this apple?

I would also accept that thorn cuff, because WOW.

Gettin' all capslocky up in here.



Also, tomorrow is my birthday. APPLE RING.

fondue with cheddar

@Nicole Sauvage@twitter YES the thorn cuff is amazing, too! Did you look at his entire collection. I pretty much want everything.

@carbonation Happy birthday tomorrow! YOU TOTALLY DESERVE AN APPLE RING.


@Nicole Sauvage@twitter Hahaha that was also my very first thought. "I'M A TEACHER! SOMEONE BUY ME THIS"


@carbonation Wouldn't it make the most awesome engagement ring? Being the apple of your loved one's eye, and all?


@SarahDances Especially if you are a teacher. And then you could play "When I Kissed the Teacher" at your wedding. That song is pure joy. Which is what a teacher would be, if she had that ring*

*I am not a teacher; any feelings of teachers expressed in this statement are presumptive, speculative and all my own.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@SarahDances Seriously. I immediately reversed my stance on non-(lab)diamond engagement rings after seeing this apple ring. New dream jewelry! And it doesn't even have to be an engagement ring. I could just buy it for myself (if I had a jillion dollars in my bank account rather than the actual $50-ish that's in there right now).


@SarahDances I am trying *SO HARD* to get my bf to believe that I am not joking about this very same thing. I am so obsessed that I contacted the dealer. I am about to make a Desire Project video over here, rolling on the floor dying from sheer want.


@jen325 I'm from Washington and I love apples. I waaaaaaaaaaant this!


Very creative @n


Never apologize for historical tangents, Monica! That is what makes your column so brilliant!


The setting on the pink diamond ring is kind of freaking me out! It looks like claws reaching up or something!

fondue with cheddar

@Alixana I thought the same thing!


@Alixana I see it, too. And the setting on the apple ring looks like a mouth to me.


Ahh, I needed this! I was panicking about being late on my library books (like, on the Link+ ones that have a $1/day late fee...pretty sure I owe at least $40 total, urgh), but the tiny apple! The frogs! So soothing.


Monica - have you ever done an interview about how you got into the business, your motivations, path, etc? It seems like a fascinating niche, and I'd love to hear more about how you got involved, and what an average day is like.

fondue with cheddar

@minijen My name is Jen and I have brown hair and bangs and the same glasses as you and a similar face and your profile pic is kind of freaking me out!


@minijen I know the real Monica, and she's fantastically interesting. Also hilarious. :)

Faintly Macabre

@minijen I met her, and she showed us a ring made of elephant hair! Therefore I imagine that she spends most of her day sorting jewelry by animal and casting spells to eliminate any little 300-year-old animal ghosts...and trying on all the diamonds at once, of course.


@all Oh my god, I love you guys, but I am seriously the most boring person on earth. SERIOUSLY. Here's my deal: My first "real" job spanned 8 years at a jewelry trade magazine (JCK), and that's where I started writing about antique jewelry. But then I got laid off! And now I'm in medical publishing. So, yeah. I still write freelance when I can, and I owe Edith big time for plucking me out of the Hairpin commenters section to write this column. Because I don't think I could ever stop. Where the hell else could I write about hot air balloon jewelry?


@monicamcl Thanks for the reply! You've a great voice and passion for the glittery glimmers, thank you for sharing your passion with us!


Apple ring for your Connemara pony!


UH CAN I AT LEAST GET SOME FAUX FRUTTI? That shit is byooootiful.


@phipsi I went to a Cartier exhibit at the Legion of Honor in SF a couple years ago. Everything thing there was beautiful, but MYGOD the tutti frutti pieces!! My life has never been the same.


@pterodactgirl I don't know what it is...those emerald "beads" - they remind me of summer camp times a million. So pretty.


oh no ... you've completely outdone yourself this time Monica.

i'm not gonna be around for a while as i have a few heists to pull but when gotham burns i'll consider sharing some of my spoils. not the pink diamond ring though. or the tutti frutti bracelet. or the dynasty earrings (originally wrote: elephant earrings). or enamel cuff bracelet.

okay i'll consider posting pictures of my spoils.

Oliver St. John Mollusc

@redheaded&crazie That pink ring is Gotham's reckoning.


@redheaded&crazie Can I at least have the frog earrings? FROGS.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Bittersweet And can I call dibs on the apple ring? (Seriously you guys I did not know how much I needed an apple ring in my life until now, but now I KNOW I need one.)


this column is EVERYTHING. there are only two items I don't want right this minute (the balloon locket and the gold cuff bracelet). and I am so not even remotely in these vendors' demographic!

Disco Sheets

@stonefruit NBD, I'll take the balloon locket and gold cuff bracelet since you don't want them.


I want that frog bracelet so that I can giggle uncontrollably every time I look at it.

As an English bulldog owner, I also need to find some pictures of this Wedgwood RIGHT NOW.


@girlandtonic The frogs! They are so great!


@girlandtonic I have Frenchies, and I have been drooling over this ring (?) for ages.


@SarahDances OH MY GOODNESS.


@girlandtonic I KNOW, RIGHT? I am just waiting until I feel like I have an extra $200 lying around. Someday!


BRB, crying about all the Nice Things I can never have.



I desperately want a seal of my own. With a squirrel. That says I crack nuts.


@SarahP Someone on Etsy should really get on this.


The squirrel ring (and it's "I crack nuts" sister ring) have brightened my day. But that pink diamond? Holy hell, that pink diamond....

Redheads have even more fun

@abonsig I literally (sorry - but I did) gasped out loud when I scrolled down and saw it.


I would read an entire blog of just these posts. I cheer whenever I see one in google reader. :D

Porn Peddler


(is this a thing yet? I like it, I want it to be a thing.)

hahahaha, ja.

Jewelers designate things by not-at-all-descriptive names like IIa as well? I thought astronomers were the only ones! I sure love me some supernovae.


Oh my gosh, the balloon pendant! I want it so badly. The detail (the figures!) is just mind-boggling.

Disco Sheets

@WhiskeySour Yesssssssssssss the balloon pendant. I can't even muster anything smarter to say about it because it needs to be in my possession now. Balloons!

Faintly Macabre

@WhiskeySour Yeah, I love almost everything here, but the balloon pendant is where I started to hyperventilate a little bit.


@Faintly Macabre It's (possibly) only 20 minutes away from me! I wonder if I could go visit it and clasp it to my bosom? Because I certainly can't afford it.


I literally clapped my hands in glee and threw my arms in the air in victory when I saw there was a new Estate Jewelry. I love these columns so much.


The sapphire necklace speaks to me on a very deep and soulful level. Also, birthstone! Why am I not a bajillionaire?


@rallisaurus Our birthdays are next month! Yay!! Also, totally with you on the needing one bajillion dollars thing.


@Punk-assBookJockey Who knows? Maybe we're going to get a realllllllly good birthday present?


Why has nobody said anything about THE NECKLACE????? I would wear that every day to every event all the time. Yoga! Grocery shopping! The beach! Sleeping!


Man, "Majestic Pink" is so not a cool name for an epic diamond. How about "The Rose of Majesty"?
Also I want pretty much everything in this piece, but when is that news?


Fetch my smelling slats, Standish! It's another Monica column!

Oliver St. John Mollusc

@l'esprit de l'escalier Standish = excellent imaginary butler name. Probably a great name for a real butler as well, but I have less experience with those.


I think I clearly need the frog jewelry, to go with my armadillo, and start my collection of charmingly whimsical animal jewelry.
ALSO. I grew up in Albuquerque, home of the largest hot air balloon festival IN THE WORLD, so I clearly am the rightful possessor of that pendant.


@The Kendragon I may also need the spiny cuff.


@The Kendragon My plan is to have nothing but ridiculous animal-themed costume jewelry, and so far it's going pretty well! I NEED THAT FROG BRACELET OH MY GODDDD


It's Frog and Toad!

Also, I never thought I would covet jewelry with a silly name like Tutti Frutti, but boyhowdy am I coveting. Hard.

Oliver St. John Mollusc

@SuperGogo I thought the exact same thing! Finally God (aka some jewelry maker centuries ago) listened to my prayers for Frog & Toad jewelry!


@SuperGogo If only one of the scenes on the bracelet was of Toad covered in ice cream staggering down the road...

runner in the garden

It's like commemorative jewelry from the Frog Olympics. I love it.


@SuperGogo Frog & Toad: yes! I was just scrolling excitedly through the comments, just to see if anyone else had thought of Frog & Toad!


Oh my god, every single thing on the wartski site where the apple ring is. Monica, you could just annotate their entire catalogue for us.


@noReally I can't think of anything I would like to do more! (Except Benedict Cumberbatch.)


@noReally Ohhhhh my God.


@noReally Not only is everything stunningly gorgeous on that site, but I love how several pieces use subjects that seem pretty pedestrian by modern standards. Mayflies! Cowslips!



What is the pounds sterling-US dollar conversion rate right now? 4800 pounds works out to, what, like 40 bucks? No? Are you sure?


I love the combination of color in the tutti frutti ring. I wonder if someone would wear it as an anniversary ring or just a fashion ring. I would pair it with a simple gold necklace!


I will take the tutti frutti bracelet, the apple ring and the mediaeval signet ring, please. *paws at screen*


I suggest an Engagement Rings edition of this series :-)


I CAN'T CHOOSE, guess I'll have to get all of it. Oh darn.


WAIT THERE WAS A PETER O'TOOLE REFERENCE ON HERE AND I WASN'T HERE TO SEE IT?(also Connemara and County Galway in general are the best; they've given us such wonderful things). That ring is absolutely gorgeous, by the way, as is everything else! :D


The apple, the squirrel seal, the frogs, tutti-fruitti...there are too many to choose from! So I will just put in a plug for an historical romance book I love, that has ballooning as a major plot device: Frederica by Georgette Heyer. One of my absolute favorites, and whereas the book doesn't talk much about jewelry, it does talk about lovely Regency Fashions. Heyer wrote a couple books that actual do have jewelry as plot devices: The Corinthian and False Colours to name a couple. So what I'm saying is if you can't buy gorgeous jewelry at least you can read fun historical fiction about it.

Carolyn Berry

LOVE them all. I am waiting to walk into the right estate sale at the right time!!!

Patrick McLaughlin

This is the best reading on the internet. Excellent outlet for your evil genius.....Now find me some bellybutton jewels with an aside about ancient rubber cement.


@Patrick McLaughlin Haaaa!! My brother, everyone!

I was going to make a smart comment about rubber cement, but it autocorrected to "blubber cement" and now I can't stop laughing.


@monicamcl Blubber cement! *snort*

I think that the Monica and Patrick show should be a thing!

Asad Yousuf@facebook

The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, and by children and older people can vary greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the most consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern Western culture the amount worn by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and other periods in Western culture.online jewelry


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