>The Sotheby’s Press Preview of the December 2010 “Magnificent Jewels” Auction

9 Dec

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TEXT, VIVIAN KELLY
Sotheby’s Gary Schuler and the GIA’s Thomas M. Moses Romance the Stone

We attended a breakfast late last week at Sotheby’s NYC, to preview the incomparable gems that would be up for sale December 9th.
The viewing and presentation was a visual A-list experience. We walked into the airy white room filled with sparkling glass cases housing an Ali Baba’s cavern of spectacular jewelry from the Estate of William B. Dietrich. In his lifetime, Mr. Dietrich indulged his eclectic side and collected a diverse collection of treasures, including Old Masters, Ceramics, Americana, and of course, this incredible gem collection. During his 25 years as the President of the William B. Dietrich Foundation, he funded the restoration and preservation of art and architectural treasures in his native Philadelphia. One notable project was the structural restoration and roof repair of Mount Pleasant (built 1762-1765), a National Historic Landmark building in 2004.

Stepping into the exhibit space, a bit bleary eyed, my eyes cleared when I spotted the super sized “big whites” [diamonds], sapphire and diamond rings, ruby and diamond rings in the case next to the coffee table. For once, I ignored the coffee and concentrated on the matter and hand, resulting in my fogging up the outside of the jewelry case until the lovely curator came over and asked me if I wanted to inspect and try anything on. Did I want to get closer?? This was like letting a heroin junkie loose in the backroom in “American Gangster” and telling them to fill up their garbage bag with as much powder as they could carry.

The proceeds of the December 9 sale will go to benefit the Foundation and to continue Mr. Dietrich’s work. Any or all of these sparklers can be yours. “Magnificent Jewels, sale NO8687”is up for sale ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, IN 3 BIDDING SESSIONS:
10:45a.m., 2:00p.m., and 6:00p.m.

As I jokingly told friend, author/documentary film-maker Roger Manley, “Not to worry, if you can’t make it in person, you can participate via BID now and try some Live Online bidding.”
Open another window on your computer and go to: sothebys.com/bidnow.

Roger, the author of a seriously entertaining book, Weird Carolinas, is married to the stylish Theadora Brack, Paris Editor of www.eurocheapo.com. Theadora is among other things, a serious collector. She’s got a mouth-watering collection of rare rings she finds while scouring the flea markets near their home in Montmartre. I’d love to see her add a brooch to her collection of one of -a -kind pieces. My candidate is #17: the Louis Comfort Tiffany, 18 Karat Gold, Platinum, Opal, Sapphire, and Garnet Brooch, circa 1920. The reserve is set at US$25,000-35,000.

The press presentation was a dialogue between Sotheby’s Gary Schuler, and the GIA’s Thomas L. Moses, in which they extolled the virtues of some key pieces they’d selected to showcase for their informal presentation. The event was co-sponsored by Sotheby’s, the GIA and Architectural Digest. Each man is a key player in his respective place of work. Mr. Schuler is Senior Vice President and Director of Jewelry Department. He is also a skilled auctioneer Mr. Moses is one of the world’s top gemologists. He began his career at the GIA in the seventies testing pearls with x-rays to determine their authenticity. Mr. Moses provided interesting technical information, and spoke very specifically about just exactly what makes a “magnificent jewel” magnificent.
When Gary spoke, I finally understood what the phrase “romancing the stone” really means.

When he spoke he had my complete and undivided attention. Friend, R Scott French, Editor in Chief of www.TheFashionList.com whispered, “Gary is one of the best auctioneers in the world. You should see him in action.” After watching and listening for 3 minutes, I had do doubt he was right. Gary engaged the weary crowd of editors, making us all forget about the New York cold and the long post-Holiday week. Gary lovingly turned a dazzling pear diamond ring
over in his fingers and rhapsodized about its qualities. The GIA stats were all in place, of course, but the real selling point takes place when the piece of jewelry hits you on an emotional level.

All eyes were on Gary when he spoke, no one got up to grab one of the little breakfast petit fours or yet another cup of coffee. Everyone in the audience was too busy mentally “collecting” one of these pieces for their own personal fantasy “if I win Lotto” collection. Many of us in the audience were collectors.

Just a week earlier, while attending an oval table panel “Collecting: Tales of Obsession”, I came to an epiphany – I too, like the luminaries on that panel, am a collector. In my case, as panelist Iris Apfel shared, “it’s the thrill of the hunt”. My little corner encompasses vintage Prada and Miu Miu shoes [the stranger the better], Louis Vuitton vintage brown monogrammed handbags [only those], 1920’s Art Deco white gold filigree rings, and most recently, Miriam Haskell Jewelry.

By any standards, I’m a guppie-sized collector, but I now have a sense of identity about my little obsessions now that I’ve discovered that I am most definitely not alone. It’s hard to ask for better company than Iris and Carolyn Roehm. Collections such as Mr. Dietrich’s are about dreaming, fantasizing and thinking big.

Gary has definitely kissed the Blarney Stone at least once and his skill combined that rare talent of down-home friendly manner you don’t usually see North of the Mason-Dixon line combined with encyclopedic knowledge about the jewelry for sale was a beautiful thing to behold. In the 20 minutes I sat and listened, I felt like I was traveling with the A-List pack of Great White Collector sharks that will doubtlessly be bidding and taking home some of these treasures.

I won’t be buying any of these jewels, but I did get to walk away with a few pounds of glossy literature which I look forward to perusing on lazy winter Sunday afternoons in front of the fire.
Among these is the catalogue, which is really more of a coffee table book than a mere catalogue. The Sotheby’s catalogue is in itself “magnificent”, like an Art Basel Catalogue – too scrumptious to throw away. The 2005 Art Basel catalogue and now the “Magnificent Jewels” catalogue have found a home amongst my cherished coffee table books in the Home Office bookshelf.

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