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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

This May comes another extraordinary Luxury sale series of jewels and watches at Christie’s in Geneva. The Magnificent Jewels auction on 17 May will be offering the largest collection of JAR jewels ever to come to auction. 

UPDATE – 18 May: The auction achieved CHF 41,177,400 in total. The largest private collection of JAR jewels to come to auction sold 100% by lot and totalled CHF 6,001,380. The selection of 28 lots, was highlighted by the JAR sapphire, spinel and diamond ‘Eye’ Bangle (on the main picture above) which sold for CHF 856,800.

The Luxury season at Christie’s in Geneva starts with the exhibition and the auction of the unparalleled jewellery collection of the late Mrs Heidi Horten. As a worthy sequel, the Magnificent Jewels auction includes rare and important European royal jewels (diamond tiaras, necklaces and earrings) from the 19th and early 20th century, great creations from French and Italian Maisons like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari and the largest JAR collection ever to appear at auction. 

Joel Arthur Rosenthal or known by his initials, JAR is not a household name. Born in New York City in 1943, he graduated from Harvard as an Art Historian in 1966. He briefly worked as screen-writer in the film industry. He opened a small needlepoint shop in Paris where he learned about colours and experimented with unusual combinations of yarns. Later he went on to work for Bulgari in New York. He opened his first store back in Paris at 7 Place Vendôme in 1977, with his partner, Pierre Jeannet. His salon has no shop window and no advertisement – but his low-profile approach surely finds the most devoted fine-jewellery aficionados. He creates about 70-80 pieces a year – interesting and one-of-a-kind jewellery for an exclusive clientele. He’s the only living jeweller to have had a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013

I learned more about JAR in 2014, when I visited Daniel Struyf (back then Jewellery Specialist at Christie’s, later International Jewellery Director of Bonhams who in 2016 established his own company) at his office in Geneva. He showed me a few exceptional jewellery highlights such as a signature JAR piece, the ‘Parrot Tulip’ bangle – a gold sculpted flower with single-cut diamonds and circular-cut green garnets. This piece showcases some of JAR’s trademarks – the bold, unexpected design, the metal surfaces appearing as if made of fabric, and his pavé technique. The pavé setting constructs an almost continuous surface of small stones with subtle gradations of colour to create a painterly effect. The jewel was sold at the auction in 2014 for CHF 3,525,000. 

Christie’s has already had the privilege of offering some of the most important JAR collections in the world including those of the actress Ellen Barkin in October 2006, the Lily Safra Jewels for Hope Collection in 2012, and more recently 12 JAR jewels from the Collection of Ann Getty.

Now the ‘A Refined Eye: Fabulous Jewels by JAR’ chapter of the Magnificent Jewels auction includes 25 JAR pieces – a collection which was built over the past 15 years by an important art and jewellery collector. 

The creations present the different facets of JAR – nature-inspired pieces like a pair of carved nephrite jade and diamond Geranium earrings (estimate: CHF 20,000-30,000) or two pavé-set jewels – the diamond ‘Ivy Leaves’ earrings (from 1991, estimated at CHF 300,000-500,000) or a pair of multi-gem ‘Pansy’ earrings (estimate: CHF 150,000-250,000). 

In 2002 The Gilbert Collection at Somerset House in London staged an exhibition of 400 JAR works, many loaned by his clients. As the story goes, he sent each one a pair of ‘Pansy’ earrings in coloured aluminium as a ‘thank-you’ gift.

The piece at the auction is a more elaborate version – set with round sapphires of various hues, amethysts, emeralds and diamonds. 

Beside the floral inspiration, he also uses bold, geometrical compositions, and employs vibrant contrasts and rare coloured stones such as green garnet, bubble-shaped turquoise, pink sapphire, black diamond or unusual jewellery-materials, like petrified palm wood or aluminium. 

The yellow and white gold ring with round diamonds (estimate: CHF 20,000 – CHF 30,000) from the late seventies reflects a different design style of JAR. So does an interesting ring in platinum and 18k gold, with rubies, diamonds and an onyx intaglio (the stone is engraved in a way that it gives a hollow impression of the pattern in the untouched background). This piece was at auction at Christie’s a few years ago, formerly in the Collection of Marion Lambert, Swiss art collector (the current estimate is CHF 60,000 – CHF 80,000). 

A bit more classic but no-less JAR are the ‘Fan’ earrings with sapphires, emeralds and diamonds on a blackened silver surface (estimate: CHF 400,000 – CHF 600,000). 

Photo credits: Christie’s
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