By Avril Groom
By Avril Groom
The well-named Masterpiece London is foremost a collector’s fair, a serious gathering of experts and connoisseurs in art and objets, both contemporary and antique. The jewellers who show there, and their clients, are no different. Here you find some of the best examples of antique jewellery, from specialist dealers such as Wartski, SJ Phillips and Véronique Bamps – some of it is very old, while they invariably have highly collectable pieces from the great early to mid-twentieth century designers such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, René Boivin, Suzanne Belperron and Paul Flato.
For many collectors, the highlights of Masterpiece jewellery are the small but extremely select band of houses showing contemporary jewellery, in some cases mixed with prize examples from their vintage stock. This year, Van Cleef outdid the dealers showing the brand by bringing the Fée Ondine, a unique automaton clock, years in the making, with a jewelled fairy who raises her diamond head and opens her wings beside an enamelled lily pond. Beautiful new pieces unveiled included a sautoir partly made of black opal beads that glow with a deep blue fire, and new additions to the Arche de Noé animal pairs series.
Another highlight is always Hemmerle, the German art jewellers, who this year expand their experiments with unusual materials such as aluminium, used for colour and lightness, and bronze – always lined with 18-carat gold and set with rare, unusual coloured stones, diamond beads or superb examples of antique gems such as cameos or Italian coral. Wallace Chan also uses adventurous materials, especially titanium, for huge pieces that hover between jewellery and art objects.
For sheer gemstone glow, Chatila’s ruby and diamond cuff or their display of yellow diamonds, would be great investment pieces, while Boghossian combined stunning stones with their inimitable techniques of precious gems inlaid one into another. There are also fascinating revival brands where original pieces sit alongside modern inteptretations. The classic Verdura Maltese cross cuff, originally designed for Coco Chanel, now looks modern set with irregular gemstones, while the latest brand revival is Belperron – though her original pieces, such as a 1940s textured gold and diamond cuff, look as if they were designed yesterday.