Estate Jewelry: The Horror

This 18k yellow gold “Scorpion” necklace, ca. 1978, was created by Italian designer Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. The necklace, which is formed of interlocking segments, has a detachable tail, so that just the scorpion claws can be worn as a collar. It’s an iconic piece, and typical of the stripped-down, organic style of the designer. Peretti actually drew her inspiration for this piece from the scorpions living near her home in Catalonia, Spain, and the British Museum, which owns one of these necklaces in sterling silver, quotes her as saying “While working in Sant Martí Vell, I came across a lot of scorpions. The animals are incredibly attractive, with fascinating mechanics. Strangely they are never around when I need to review something in my design. I have to confess that I had to sacrifice a few. I feel sorry.” READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: (Partial) Maritime Edition

Due to its fragility, this beautiful ring is also a rarity. Circa 1790, it features a tiny, hand-carved ivory ship set under crystal. A frame of garnets surrounds the crystal, and the waves beneath the ship are hand-painted. Popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, pieces like this were carved by specialists predominately located in Germany, Switzerland, and France. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Fable Rings, Space Bracelets, and Mystery Wirework

This fantastic ring, circa 1850-1870, is based on Aesop’s Fable “The Fox and the Stork,” in which a fox invites his friend, a stork, over for dinner. Being a wiseass, the fox serves the stork a shallow bowl of soup, which the stork is unable to eat due to his long beak. Even though he’s still hungry, the stork politely offers to return the visit, and invites the fox to dinner at a later date. When the fox arrives, the stork presents him with his meal in a long-necked jar with a narrow mouth. Despite his long snout, there is no way the fox could reach the contents. “I will not apologize for the dinner,” said the stork. “One bad turn deserves another.” READ MORE

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. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Bird Heads, Bridal Crowns, and an Eyeball

Some of you may want to sit down for this. This simple gold ring, set with a cabochon-cut blue stone that Sotheby’s believes to be odontalite (a 19th-century substitute for turquoise) comes with a note. Dated November 1869, it says: “My dear Caroline. The enclosed Ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your Uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!” The note is signed by Eleanor Austen. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Egyptomania and the Tiniest Gold Coils of Rope

Dating to the early 1800s, this 18k yellow gold-and-enamel Freemason’s ring is loaded with symbolism. The dealer consulted with London’s Museum of Freemasonry to decipher the motifs it features, thinking it may have been a mourning piece for a high-ranking member of the order. Central to the design is a garnet cross (possibly referencing the Knights Templar), which divides the face into four sections, each featuring three rose-cut diamond teardrops. Those twelve teardrops may represent the twelve apostles and their tears of mourning for Christ. A diamond-set crescent and sun are also featured, and these traditionally signify the heavenly lights and the universe, as well as the universal nature of freemasonry.  READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Ruby Roses and the Memento Mori

Wow. Okay, here goes: this is a modified cushion-cut 9-carat fancy vivid purplish-pink diamond, set in platinum with single-cut diamond prongs, gallery, and shoulders. The color is natural, and the stone is GIA-certified to be a Type IIa, which (as you’ll remember from my past ravings about Golconda diamonds) means it's the most chemically pure and transparent form of diamond. The Type IIa designation is common to famous stones such as the Cullinan I (a.k.a. the Great Star of Africa) and the Koh-i-noor, both of which are part of the British Crown Jewels. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Witch Hearts and the Victorian Onyx Mystery

Many people don’t realize that sapphire comes in all sorts of colors, not just blue. Sapphire is the gem form of the mineral corundum, and depending on other elements within the stone, it can also be pink, yellow, green — or even red (but if it’s red, it’s a ruby!). Padparadscha is the rarest, most desirable — and most valuable — form of sapphire around. The demand is due to the beautiful color, which is a delicate mix of orange and pink. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: A Cuff, a Spear, and a Window Locket

Back in 1867, a Venetian Marquis by the name of Pietro Selvatico established an art school in Padua, Italy. While The Istituto Statale d'Arte Pietro Selvatico was essentially a vocational school, Selvatico — who was himself an architect and art critic — didn’t just want the students to learn how to churn out items on a production line, he wanted them to gain an intellectual mastery of their craft as well. The school maintained this well-rounded approach to education, particularly in the second half of the 20th century, through professors such as Mario Pinton, a great champion of the use of gold when it was considered unfashionable, and Francesco Pavan, one of Pinton's former students and a master of geometrical forms. Under Pinton, Pavan, and others, the students at the institute were encouraged to treat jewelry as sculpture, and their unconventional work eventually drew international attention. These goldsmiths and jewelers came to be known collectively as the “The Padua School,” and a large exhibit featuring their work recently travelled the world. One of those former students is Marco Rigovacca, who designed this 18k gold “Javelin” earring in 1986. READ MORE

Estate Jewelry: Crab Rings and the Emperor of All Bird Brooches

This brooch is so beautiful I’m tempted to just leave it here, with no explanation, nothing. Just look at it. READ MORE