COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
High Jewelry
Pierre Sterlé. Bracelet, 1950s. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Pierre Sterlé. Bracelet, 1950s. Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

If the world of high jewelry had a scent, this would be Jicky by Guerlain. Jicky, permeator of dreams and private moments, exudes old world elegance and simplicity just like finely set precious stones do. It is modern and evolving, evocative of new technology and seeker of excitement in new materials and techniques. As all masterpieces before it, Jicky too requires a similar degree of commitment, innovation, and creativity. Why is it then that contemporary production at the great Maisons de la Haute Joaillerie alludes to generic, off the shelf, aftershave?

The number of precious stones or the weight of gold are not enough to elevate contemporary creations to the level of artistry that high jewelry has known. The last 40 years have brought to it the same degree of dilution that mass marketing inflicted on perfume making after the WWII.

If this is hard to imagine take a look at jewelry auctions that feature pieces from the 1920s and all the way to the early 1970s.  There, one discovers that les Maisons have always relied on individual talent and that their style evolved as the art of the individual artists matured. For example, we can easily distinguish a piece by Cartier and at the same time identify with certainty its designer as Jeanne Toussaint.  We can also identify both the brand (Cartier) and the designer (Aldo Cipullo) in Juste un clou.

In the upcoming “Jewels” sale by Sotheby’s London (April 11, 2013) there are several exceptional pieces, like the 1950s bracelet by Pierre Sterlé. Designed as a cord of rope-work, it ends in two round pendants with golden tassels, accented with circular-cut rubies and diamonds. This highly refined treatment of precious materials has been steadily declining since about the 1980s and has turned even the most esteemed names of jewelry design in ghosts of the masters they used to be. Plenitude of diamond engagement rings (regardless of brand name or design) recalls the mass marketing of scented water after the WWII. The world of high jewelry has been diluted to a cookie-cutter vulgarization of its former self. It is time to return to the drafting board to create, innovate, and seduce.

© Thomaï Serdari