Bidding Advice for First-Time Bidders

A uctions attract many people looking for the opportunity to own and collect exquisite, designer pieces. If you are a first-time bidder at a jewelry or watch auction, navigating the ins-and-outs might not be super obvious, but it is actually quite simple. There’s a common misconception that auctions are only for a niche group of people, but we here at Fortuna are trying to change that notion. The thrill of taking part in an auction should be for everybody and we are happy to share some tips as to how you can get started.

What are the Different Ways to Bid & Their Advantages

You may be used to seeing auctions in movies and TV where an exclusive group of people, all in their best-kept suits, eagerly battle to be the first to hold up a paddle. At Fortuna, there are actually multiple ways to bid besides bidding on the floor. Each method comes with its own set of advantages, and we are happy to help find the right way for you.

Online bidding is perfect for beginners who are new to the auction process. You can bid from anywhere in the world on your computer or your mobile device, and can even leave bids before the auction goes live. Leading up to the auction, you will also receive instant notifications if you have been outbid on a lot. We also offer the chance to watch a video live stream and click-in your bids in the moment. The online bidding process is simple, and one of our experts would be happy to walk you through it if you’re not particularly tech-savvy.

Phone bidding is recommended for extremely high-value lots. When the stakes are high, you want to make sure you have the specially trained eyes and ears of our phone bidders on the floor to keep you constantly informed. Phone bidders have to be ready to make split-second decisions so we recommend having a good idea of what you’re willing to spend on each lot ahead of time. Many people who bid with us would like to keep anonymous, and phone bidding is the perfect way to bid like you are in the room, with no eyes on you. Another perk of phone bidding is the lack of work on your part; you don’t have to free up your day to make sure you don’t miss your lot, all you have to do is answer the phone.

An absentee bid allows you to leave your highest possible bid ahead of time. The auctioneer will bid on your behalf during the live auction, increment by increment, up until this maximum amount. If nobody bids against you, you will win your lot for the lowest allowed bid. This form of bidding is perfect for those who have a set budget for a particular lot and do not want to overspend. They also take precedence over all other kinds of bids during a live auction, meaning that the auctioneer will honor the absentee bid first, even if an online or phone bid comes in for the same amount. Absentee bids are also ideal for those that find that neither the location nor time of the auction is convenient.

While in-person bidding is currently suspended due to the global health emergency, we recommend anyone who wants to feel the high-paced thrill of a live auction to view our livestreams on the day of the sale either on Facebook or our website.

Are There Specifics to Know Ahead of Time?

Typically, new bidders with any auction house will need to submit a valid form of photo ID and credit card information in order to be approved for bidding. The reason for this extra measure is to confirm the bidder’s seriousness in buying at auction, and ensure that all bidders are participating under the fairest conditions. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you realized you were competing against a fraudulent bidder for the same lot! This information usually takes time to process so it is best to do so at least 24 hours before the sale. This, however, is a one-time action. Once you are registered and approved to bid in your first sale, you will be automatically approved to bid in all future sales

If you have already been pre-approved for a past auction with Fortuna, registering for an auction is as simple as a click of a button or just showing up on the day of a sale and receiving a paddle. (Floor bidding is currently unavailable due to the statewide response to stunt the spread of COVID-19.)

Leading up to the auction, it is a good idea to decide exactly which lots you intend to bid on, for a number of reasons:

  1. If you plan on bidding on multiple lots, we advise bidders to calculate in advance how much they plan on spending in total, with buyer’s premium included. For a refresher on our buyer’s premium schedule, click here.
  2. Depending on the value of the lot, the bid increments may vary. If you want to spend no more than your absolute maximum for a particular lot, it is best to familiarize yourself with the bid increments ahead of the sale—especially since they can range from $100 to $10,000.
  3. If you don’t intend on watching the sale from start to finish, it’s best to have an idea of the lot numbers you are interested in. The auctioneer typically moves through the sale at a rate of 1 lot per minute, so you can generally mark a reasonable time to check in on the progress of the sale.

If you want to be sure about every detail of an auction house’s process, you can always contact our office with your questions.

Is There A Limit To What You Can Bid On?

You can bid on as many items you want during a single auction. If you have online bids exceeding $50,000, it is likely our office might ask you to provide a bank reference prior to the sale.

Experienced bidders will tell you that it is important to set an overall budget for yourself so you don’t spend more than anticipated. Keep track of what you have bid on already, so you do not accidentally bid more on additional items—especially if you are reaching your limit for the auction.

Remember to also take into account additional costs, aside from the buyer’s premium—such as local taxes if applicable, and online fees for bidding platforms other than Fortuna’s app or website.

Should You Research Prior to the Auction?

Absolutely! You should always learn about the jewelry on sale to make the most informed bids at an auction since all merchandise is sold as-is. Read about an item’s details in the online catalog, visit the showroom during exhibition dates or schedule an appointment to preview. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for our social media and blog posts, which always give a closer look at our jewelry and watch lots. If you can’t come to view your desired lot in person, you can always email condition@fortunaauction.com to request more information or photographs. Our specialists want you to bid confidently and encourage all questions about our offered lots.

Sign up to Bid at an Upcoming Fortuna Auction

If you’re planning to bid on a sale, take the first step and evaluate the selection of future auctions. Should you find an item that interests you, contact a Fortuna specialist in-person or online to help you view the selection and prepare for auction day.

The Art of Traditional Diamond Craftsmanship

Learn about the beauty and lost art of traditional diamond cutting with one of the jewelry specialists at Fortuna. In the modern age, diamond cutting has been perfected with advanced machinery and a rough diamond can be transformed into a faceted stone with optimal brilliance. But how did the master jewelers and diamantaires in the age before mechanized tools accomplish such a feat? Watch the video to appreciate the skill and patience required to create a diamond the traditional way.

Types of Antique Diamonds

Diamonds that have been cut in the traditional way might not be as brilliant or scatter light with the same vigor as modern diamonds, but they are heavily appreciated for the craftsmanship behind them and the warm, subtle glow they give off. In fact, their market value has steadily increased and continue to be heavily sought after. Here are some of the main traditional diamond cuts used in antique jewelry:

Single Cut: One of the oldest diamond cuts, the single cut dates back to 1300s. It possesses a large table (or top face), and octagonal girdle (which refers to the defining edge that shapes a diamond). A single cut diamond usually has 18 facets—almost a quarter of the facets seen in the modern round brilliant cut diamonds.

Rose Cut: The rose cut dates to the 1500s and was especially common during the Georgian and Victorian eras. It features a flat bottom with a dome-shaped crown, with triangular facets rising to a single apex—thus, resembling the shape of a rose bud.

A Victorian brooch featuring a center old European-cut diamond, surrounded by old mine-cut diamonds throughout. (Fortuna September 2017 Fine Jewels)

Old Mine Cut: Diamonds with this cut are somewhat similar to today’s cushion-cut. They possess a squarish girdle with gently rounded corners, and have a high crown, a small table, and a large, flat culet (which refers to the pointed bottom of diamonds). The old mine cut dates to the 1700s and was most prevalent during the 1800s.

Old European Cut: This diamond cut is considered a subset of old mine cut diamonds, but are distinguished by a circular girdle, instead of a squared one. Like the old mine cut, it possesses a high crown, small table, and a noticeably flat culet. With 58 facets, it is the precursor of today’s modern round brilliant cut. The Old European cut was heavily used in jewelry of the Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Nouveau eras.

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Rubies, The Kings of Gems

Rubies have been appreciated by royalty in both Eastern and Western culture. Discover the alluring qualities of this rare gemstone and some of Fortuna’s favorite ruby jewels offered in past auctions.

Fortuna is excited to delve deeper into the history and lore of July’s birthstone, the magnificent ruby. Because of the deep blood-like color, the precious gemstone has been thought to hold the power of life in ancient cultures. The stone was believed to protect the lands of kings and noblemen in ancient India, and has long been perceived as a symbol of royalty in medieval Europe. In fact, the literal translation of “ruby” in Sanskrit is the “king of gemstones.” The deep red tint of the ruby has naturally also come to symbolize love and passion and has become the gemstone of choice in romantic gifts.

Rubies in Popular Culture

Rubies have such a long and rich history of being appreciated in both the East and West, it is no wonder that their influence stretches into cinema and popular culture. One of our favorite examples would be the iconic ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.” While the original ruby slipper were actually made of felt, glue, and stones more suitable to crafting, for the 50th anniversary of the film, Harry Winston jewelers created a real-life pair of the iconic slippers—using 50 carats of diamonds and nearly 1,400 carats of rubies. And thus, the famed American jewelry house created the most expensive pair of shoes in the world. The slippers, which were meticulously set with 4,600 beautiful ruby stones, is valued at $3 million.
Rubies have also made their way into your favorite rom-coms. In the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere gifts Julia Roberts with an accessory as red as her hair. The wealthy tycoon presents her with a custom ruby necklace set with 23 pear-cut rubies. And unlike most movie props, the necklace was actually real—custom made by French jeweler, Fred Joaillier. It consisted of 23 pear-shaped rubies accented by diamonds in the form of a heart. This scene was made all the more iconic by Gere’s snapping the box shut on Ms. Roberts’s fingers as she goes to put on the lavish accessory. You can relive the comedic moment below.

Our Favorite Ruby Jewels Seen At Auction

Fortuna has had the pleasure of offering some of the most stunning ruby jewels at auction. Our specialists have come across fine rubies that have adorned jewelry by the renowned makers of our time to jewels dating back to the Victorian and Art Deco style eras. It was a true delight to recollect some of the finest ruby jewels our specialists have set their eyes on.


Achieved $78,125 at Fortuna’s 2018 sale, The Estate of Bo Legendre.

When auctioning the estate of legendary New York heiress and socialite, Bo Legendre, our jewelry team faced the daunting task of pricing her vast collection of jewelry. Our top jewelry specialists knew a select group of pieces had to be the work of the master jeweler of the early 20th century, Suzanne Belperron. Belperron believed her style to be her signature, and while she was right, it made it extremely difficult to authenticate her works. Through vigorous research, our specialists were able to identify and acquire certificates of authenticity for five of the pieces in her collection and attestations from famed Belperron expert, Mr. Olivier Baroin for the rest.
Like many of Belperron’s creations, this rock crystal convertible cuff and flower brooch was truly ahead of its time and unlike any of the popular Art Deco jewels of the age. The brooch is set in platinum, displaying beautiful cabochon rubies weighing a total of approximately 5.90 carats, and round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.20 carat, with I-J color and VS clarity. The unique design can be worn as a brooch fastened by double pin-stems or attached to an 18K white gold cuff. This wondrous piece was offered for $10,000; but with Belperron’s name attributed to the design, the lot ended up achieving $78,125 at auction.


A Superb 2.34-Carat Unheated Burmese Ruby and Diamond Ring. Sold for $48,800.

Featuring a very lively, unheated Burmese cushion-cut ruby, this 2.34-Carat Ruby and Diamond Ring achieved more than double its starting bid at Fortuna’s 2017 Summer Fine Jewels sale. The ring comes in a platinum setting and is accented by round brilliant-cut diamonds, and is reminiscent of Jessica Simpson’s 2010 ruby and diamond engagement ring. Our in-house expert gemologists determined the ruby’s color to be “Pigeon’s Blood”—a rare characteristic among rubies that greatly enhances their value. The color is described as having a bright red hue with a small tint of purple that appears deep red when seen in light. This extraordinary color contributed in earning the ring $48,000 at auction.


Achieved $31,250 at Fortuna’s February Fine Jewels auction in 2018.

The french jewelery maison, Van Cleef & Arpels, has long been acclaimed for its elegant designs and use of quality gemstones. In fact, in 2019 the jewelry house released their “Treasures of Rubies Collection,” which featured 3,000 carats worth of rubies set into 60 unique pieces. This Van Cleef & Arpels “Couscous” Ruby and Diamond Bracelet is no exception to the brand’s dedication in creating only the finest ruby jewelry. Their jewelers choose only the cleanest of stones—a truly difficult task due to the presence of chromium in rubies. While chromium gives rubies their beautiful hue, it also makes them prone to cracks. As a result, very few rubies are able to grow intact into larger sizes and form perfect gemstones. Van Cleef & Arpels selects only the finest natural rubies possible, all of which are unheated and well-cut stones. Crafted in 18K gold, the bombe bracelet of polished gold boules is accented by 156 circular-cut rubies, weighing a total of approximately 8.00 carats—each ruby graced with a remarkable red. The rubies are flanked by three rows of round brilliant cut diamonds, creating a beautiful contrast. This eye-catching accessory had a starting bid of $15,000 at Fortuna’s February Fine Jewels sale in 2018 and ended up achieving $31,250 at auction.


Achieved $27,500 at Fortuna’s Magnificent Jewels auction in November 2019.

Some of the most famous rubies in the world were set into designs by the French jewelry maison, Cartier. In 1957, Elizabeth Taylor was filmed being gifted a suite of ruby Cartier jewels by her husband famed film producer, Mike Todd. The images of her glamorous lifestyle made waves everywhere as she had already been wearing a diamond tiara while swimming in the couple’s pool. Taylor wore the ruby jewelry many times throughout her life, to red carpet events and when meeting royalty. This Cartier Fine Burmese Unheated Ruby and Diamond ring holds the same glamour and show which would make it worthy of Elizabeth Taylor. Crafted in 18K gold and featuring a 1.63-carats cushion-shaped Burmese unheated ruby, this spectacular cocktail ring is covered with round brilliant-cut diamonds of E-F color and VS clarity. This magnificent domed accessory achieved $27,500—more than triple its starting bid—from an excited phone bidder at our 2019 Magnificent Jewels sale.


Achieved $25,000 at Fortuna’s 2018 Magnificent Jewels auction.

This antique 6.36-Carat Unheated Burmese Ruby and Diamond Platinum Brooch is quintessential Art Deco design and an excellent example of spectacular ruby gemstones. Crafted in platinum, as many Art Deco pieces often were, this unique brooch features an unheated Burmese ruby cabochon weighing an impressive 6.36 carats. It is difficult to find a large ruby of such a natural pure red hue. This deep red is augmented all the more by accenting it with 60 old European-cut diamonds of F-G color and VS clarity. This contrast in colors and the geometric design is highly characteristic of the Art Deco period. Unsurprisingly, this fine piece of jewelry history achieved $25,000 at auction.


Achieved $28,125 at Fortuna’s April 2018 auction, The Estate of Bo Legendre.

One of the largest rubies in the world is known as the Rajaratna Ruby. The ruby is a whopping 2,475 carats and currently resides in Bangalore, India. This impressive ruby first belonged to the Kings of Vijayanagar, a major South Indian empire between 1300 to 1600 AD, and dedicated this stone to the worship of the god Shiva. This impressive ruby, is cut as a cabochon, as were many of the King’s smaller rubies.

The tradition of cutting larger rubies as a cabochon remains today. This Bulgari cabochon unheated Burmese ruby weighs approximately 10.00 carats and is enhanced by stunning round brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds. The Trombino (translated as “little trumpet”) is one of Bulgari’s most time enduring designs. The Italian jewelry brand first introduced the design in the 1930s where it gained instant popularity. The design brought attention to the gemstone at the center and evoked a sense of royalty. It was instantly popular because it allowed the gemstone to stand proud. This Bulgari Burmese Ruby and Diamond “Trombino” Ring evokes that same regal quality as Bulgari’s first designs. This ring is made all the more worthy of nobility with the setting of one of the “king of gems.”


Achieved $22,500 at Fortuna’s September 2017 Fine Jewels auction.

One would like to think that Cartier only selected rubies as deep a red as the red leather boxes they are gifted in; and that certainly seems to be the case for this Cartier Ruby and Diamond Ring. This beautiful three-row ring is triple the fun, with each row sitting whimsically atop one another, each featuring a fine oval-shaped ruby cabochon, set diagonally from each other. The rubies are surrounded by pavé-set round-cut diamonds, which further enhances the color of the rubies with its beautiful contrast. This unique piece of jewelry design achieved $22,500 at our September 2017 Fine Jewels sale.

Get a Free Valuation at Fortuna Auction

At Fortuna Auction, we want to be a resource for all who wish to learn more about watches and jewelry—replete with stylistic periods, history of craftsmanship and designers—as well as how to understand the real market value of these fine collectibles.

You can consult our jewelry experts for free, unbiased valuations, with no obligation to sell. And if you do decide to sell at auction, our team will market your item to millions of competing bidders located in more than 50 countries. If you’re interested in buying or selling at one of Fortuna’s upcoming auctions, feel free to contact our office today.

The Beauty of Pearls

Fortuna is excited to give you a closer look into the deep history of pearls and share some of our highest selling pearl lots.

In honor of June’s birthstone, we are excited to share the cultural importance of pearls and dive deep into the origins of this natural treasure. The beautiful underwater gem is found in mollusks and clams and is the only precious stone to come from a living creature. Their association with bodies of water makes them an apt choice for a summertime birthstone; however, pearls have held significance throughout jewelry history, long before birthstone months existed. In Persian mythology, pearls were thought to be the “tears of the gods,” while ancient Chinese legend held that the moon used powers to create pearls in order to mirror the moon’s celestial glow and mystery.

“I feel undressed if I don’t have my pearls on. My pearls are my security blanket.”

Lady Sarah Churchill

What augments the allure of pearls even further is the infinitesimal chance of them existing naturally. Pearls occur in nature by the presence of an irritant within the mollusk or oyster, which may be a parasite or even a single grain of sand that has made its way into the shell. The mollusk produces a coating layer called “nacre.” It takes many months, even years, for the oyster to produce a pearl. The acquisition of natural pearls requires long dives into the ocean’s depths, most of which prove to be fruitless. Only 1 in about 10,000 wild oysters will yield a pearl, and even fewer will produce a pearl of gem quality.

As such, contemporary jewelers have almost entirely relied on the cultured pearl industry to source pearls. Pearl culturing is when pearl farmers inject an irritant into mollusks for the specific purpose of producing pearls. This method does away with the need for long and dangerous dives in search of the pearls.

Pearls that Shaped History

It would be a huge disservice to discuss pearls and fail to mention Cartier and arguably the most famous example of pearl jewelry. While Cartier is renowned worldwide for its long history of jewelry excellence, a large part of their legacy is owed to pearls. You may be running through a list of iconic Cartier pieces in your mind: the Love Bracelet, the Panthère d’Cartier, etc. But if you think bigger, you’ll picture the famous Fifth Avenue Cartier mansion, a New York landmark. Remarkably, the impetus behind Cartier’s monumental acquisition of this iconic structure can be attributed to two strands of pearls.

Portrait of Mrs. Mae Caldwell Manwaring Plant Rovensky, wearing the famed Cartier pearl necklace. Courtesy of Preservation Society of Newport County

In 1909, Pierre Cartier arrived to New York in an exciting attempt to bring Cartier to the forefront of the American market. He set up a small office on 5th Avenue to sell his brother’s creations. It wasn’t until Maisie Plant set her eyes on a Cartier double strand pearl necklace that the French jeweler had the opportunity for such a magnificent piece of real estate. Maisie was the young wife of a very wealthy and eager-to-please man, Morton F. Plant, the heir to the Plant railroad and steamship empire, and she desperately wanted the coveted necklace. Mr. Plant agreed to exchange his Renaissance-style mansion on the corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street for what was widely believed to be the most expensive pearl necklace in the world, composed of two strands of enormous natural South Sea pearls, one consisting of 55 pearls; and the other, 73 perfect pearls—estimated to be over $20 million in today’s dollars. Even for a jeweler of such prestige, it was no easy feat for Cartier to acquire such a necklace. With the exchange, the old 5-story townhouse was converted into the New York Headquarters for Cartier, and remains so today.

“Pearls are always appropriate.”

Jackie Kennedy

Our Favorite Pearl Jewels Seen At Auction

Cartier Art Deco Natural Pearl Diamond and Rock Crystal Platinum

Achieved $140,625 at Fortuna’s June Fine Jewels auction in 2018.

This Cartier Art Deco Natural Pearl Diamond and Rock Crystal Platinum Bracelet was crafted in the same era as Maisie’s beloved necklace. The Art Deco era saw a combination of seemingly clashing materials resulting in wonderful designs. Cartier created beautiful contrast by juxtaposing the geometric rock crystal accent with six rows of round natural cream-colored saltwater pearls. The delicate, fluid pearl strands make a bold statement when combined with the rock crystal and diamond accents. This incredible piece of history and artistry was estimated to sell at auction for between $50,000 – $70,000. However, the power of the pearl seems to hold true, for after a starting bid of $30,000 the piece ended up achieving $140,625 at Fortuna’s Fine Jewels auction in June 2018.

Rene Boivin Cultured Pearl Diamond and Emerald Bracelet

Achieved $22,500 at Fortuna’s April Important Jewels auction in 2020.

The French design house of René Boivin was known to create some of the most original and modern sculptural pieces of the time, setting themselves apart from the typical aesthetic that characterized jewelry of the 1930s and 1940s. The collectability of René Boivin jewelry continues to grow over time, as demonstrated by this particular piece which achieved $22,500 at auction.
Exquisitely crafted in platinum with an 18K white gold tongue, strung with perfectly matched cultured pearls, featuring a magnificent clasp with a large old European-cut diamond accented by deep green emeralds, we can only imagine how many heads turn as a result of this piece walking into a room.

A Double Strand Natural Saltwater Pearl Necklace

Achieved $143,750 in Fortuna’s April Important Jewels auction in 2018.

Much like Maisie’s coveted necklace, this next high achieving pearl lot features a double strand of graduated natural saltwater pearls. This necklace, exuding timeless elegance and class, had a modest estimate of estimate of $20,000 – $30,000 in our April 2018 Important Jewels sale. With a starting bid of $12,500, this necklace eventually achieved an impressive $143,750 at auction, proving pearls still reign supreme.

“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.”

Coco Channel

Cartier South Sea Pearl Necklace

Achieved $22,500 at Fortuna’s April Important Jewels auction in 2018.

A timeless classic, this fine, single strand of graduated South Sea pearls is completed by an 18K white gold clasp set with round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.98 carats. The kind of necklace handed down for generations made its way into our auction with a starting bid of $12,000 and achieved $22,500 at auction. While the pearl necklace appears effortlessly elegant, it was no easy feat to find such well-matched pearls for this piece. Whoever has the outdated notion that pearls are frumpy and the accessory of old women, think again. Pearls are as prominent now as ever before, being worn by everyone from the Queen of England to Scarlett Johansson. In fact, recent years have seen the adornment being worn by notable male figures as well, including Harry Styles, Shawn Mendes, the Jonas Brothers, and A$AP Rocky—promising for the demand of these pieces to grow alongside their new market.

A 50.00-Carat Aquamarine, Diamond and Pearl Necklace

Achieved $24,400 at Fortuna’s June Jewels auction in 2017.

Pearls have a natural association with water. However, another stone not naturally found in the depths of the ocean has also come to be associated with the mighty expanse of the sea; aquamarine bore its name from its deep blue hue resembling the sea. This 50.00-Carat Aquamarine, Diamond and Pearl Necklace was offered by Fortuna for an original $13,000 and went on to achieve  $24,400 at auction.
Featuring a modified brilliant-cut aquamarine, weighing approximately 50.00 carats, accented with old European-cut and transitional-cut diamonds, hung from a seed pearl necklace, this necklace like many antique jewels can be worn in multiple ways, with the detachable pendant doubling as a clip-on brooch.

“Pearls are the gems of queens and the queens of gems.”

Grace Kelly

Harry Winston Very Fine Cultured Pearl and Diamond Earrings

Harry Winston Diamond Pearl Earrings - Fortuna NYC Fine Jewelry Auction
Achieved $13,750 at Fortuna’s October Jewels auction in 2019.

Though known as the King of Diamonds, Harry Winston is no stranger to pearls. In fact, the 2019 Harry Winston New York city collection was led by a Pearl and Diamond draperies earrings and necklace suite, proving once more that pearls remain as quintessential to New York style as the day Audrey Hepburn put on her multi-strand pearl necklace and gazed into the windows of Tiffany & Co. as Holly Golightly. This particular set of earrings is set with white cultured pearls with rose overtones and a high luster. The June birthstone is accented by marquise-cut diamonds of approximately 3.6 carats total and are set to create the shape of a flower or sun. These striking earrings were offered for $8,000 and achieved $13,750 at auction.

Get a Free Valuation at Fortuna Auction

At Fortuna Auction, we want to be a resource for all who wish to learn more about watches and jewelry—replete with stylistic periods, history of craftsmanship and designers—as well as how to understand the real market value of different types of collectible jewelry and watches.

You can consult our jewelry experts for free, unbiased valuations, with no obligation to sell. And if you do decide to sell at auction, our team will market your item to millions of competing bidders located in more than 50 countries. If you’re interested in buying or selling at one of Fortuna’s upcoming auctions, feel free to contact our office today.

Origin of the Cartier Panthère

The Cartier Panthère is an iconic jewelry motif with roots in Paris. The history of the Cartier Panthère began with one woman—Jeanne Toussaint. When Toussaint, a Parisian style icon, became acquainted with French jeweler Louis Cartier, new inspiration for Cartier’s famous jewelry line was born. As a result of Toussaint’s elegance and remarkable determination—as well as her finely decorated apartment adorned with leopard skin—she earned the nickname “La Panthère” from her then-lover, Louis Cartier.

Jeanne Toussiant in her Cartier office at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris. Private Collection © Cartier

What started as a nickname became the basis of one of Cartier’s most stunning developments in jewelry pieces—the Cartier Panthère wristwatch. Toussaint was soon named Head of Creation at Cartier, a coveted position that wouldn’t ordinarily have been held by a woman; her contributions led the company to even greater success throughout the 1900s. Toussaint’s panther was known for its stunningly sculpted yellow gold and black enamel—a color combination that gave the animal more dimension.

In 1914, the famous wildcat appeared on a Cartier wristwatch for the first time. The stones adorning the piece symbolized the feminine temperament and avant-garde allure of the panther, while the diamond’s scintillation was a nod to the wildcat’s gleaming coat.

The first noted appearance of the panther pattern on a Cartier ladies’ wristwatch in 1914. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

Thanks to Toussaint’s inspiration, Cartier’s idea to incorporate the panther motif into his jewelry pieces earned him full acclaim in nobility circles. In addition to being the first jeweler to incorporate the panther motif as a trademark on his exclusive timepieces, Cartier was one of the first jewelers to use platinum in his luxurious creations.

Cartier’s elegant panther has endured for more than a century, in part because the Cartier Panthère continues to evolve. In a careful attempt to lend justice to the original piece, artisans sculpt each example in wax, cast the ornament in platinum or gold, then set the piece with thousands of hand-cut gemstones painstakingly positioned to convey movement and life.

A Closer Look at Louis Cartier: The Stirrings of the Cartier Panthère

In taking over the craft of his master, Louis-François Cartier founded his own company in 1847 Paris. His inventiveness and daring capacity to try new things led him to create exclusive, exquisite timepieces revered among the nobility of the time. His attention to detail and supreme level of craftsmanship drew the eye of the French empress Eugenie, among other socialites. As a result, his company expanded rapidly.

Cartier loved to try his hand at a variety of jewelry pieces, and in 1888, he presented his first wristwatch to the public. The watch closely resembled the sleek, classic feminine bracelets of that time. The difference? His addition of a small clock in the design. Following the initial inspiration of this first wristwatch, Cartier was driven to completely revitalize all aspects of watch design.

It may have been this initial curiosity that paved the way for Cartier’s inspired collaboration with Toussaint, as well as his subsequent fascination with the panther. Today, Cartier’s timeless pieces continue to be passed down from one generation to the next. The Cartier Panthère remains an iconic, desirable design of the most serious artistic expression.

A Timeline History of the Cartier Panthère

To better understand how the Cartier Panthère came about and how the bold motif has evolved over the years, we’ve put together a timeline of the iconic design:

1914: Cartier crafts the first panther pattern on a wristwatch and presents it to the public. The watch was adorned with white diamonds, spotted with striking onyx stones.

1922-1935: The spotted panther motif starts appearing on various Cartier watches, jewelry designs, and accessories, such as cigarette cases.

1948: The Duchess of Windsor tasks Jeanne Toussaint with creating a panther brooch and the first three-dimensional representation of the panther is born. The sculptural approach with the panther design redefines how Cartier breathes life and personality into their future panther creations. The Duchess of Windsor, being so taken by the iconic feline, later purchases more than six additional panther designs. The most famous pieces are the panther brooch of pavé diamonds and sapphires, perched atop a 152.35ct sapphire cabochon, and an onyx and diamond panther bracelet, which most recently achieved over $7 million at auction.

1949-1950: American heiress, Barbara Hutton and French socialite, Daisy Fellowes, among other fashionable aristocrats, begin investing in their own versions of the panther.

Completed in 1949 for the Duchess of Windsor. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

1983: Cartier launches the Panthère de Cartier line of quartz watches. Although a ladies’ watch, the fine yellow gold link bracelet perfectly matched the 80s “glam” aesthetic, and the watch quickly saw an upsurge in popularity—featuring notable celebrity wearers, such as Keith Richard and Pierce Brosnan.

2005: Introduction of the Panthère de Cartier ring with its fangs bared. It is the first appearance of the Cartier panther in a stylized, faceted design.

A geometric, modern take on the panther motif. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

2012: Panthère de Cartier necklace in white gold, with pavé diamonds and emerald eyes. The modern jewel can be worn in two styles, as a choker or an opera-length necklace, according to the position of the panther head on the link. A stunning example of style and ingenuity.

2019NOV Cartier Panthere de Cartier Pave Diamond Necklace
Panthère de Cartier Necklace with Pavé Diamonds (achieved $50,000 at Fortuna).

2017: Panthère de Cartier High Jewelry necklace in platinum, aquamarines, emeralds, onyx and diamonds. In this opulent masterpiece, the iconic feline seems to be emerging from a waterfall, and its stretched silhouette creates the illusion of movement.

Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

The Cartier Panthère Today

The Cartier Panthère, much like the fierce, untamable feline, possesses many facets to its personality and continues to be reimagined in countless jewelry designs. Whether it’s the more abstract spotted pattern that emboldens elegant jewelry designs, or sculptural representations of the panther that give the motif life and sparks of energy, the Cartier Panthère has established itself as a visual icon in jewelry history.

Cartier Panthère Convertible Brooch/Pendant with a Tahitian cultured pearl drop.

Today, vintage Cartier Panthère jewels, especially dating back to the height of Jeanne Toussaint’s time as Cartier’s creative director, continue to demand sky-high prices at auction. Contemporary Panthère jewels remain just as popular with the social elite, and with the unmatched quality of Cartier craftsmanship, they make great opportunities for investment when they appear at auction.

Get a Free Valuation at Fortuna Auction

The Cartier Panthère retains its roots in luxury, history, and tradition while still being the perfect accessory for the modern woman. There are few pieces that, without trying too hard, convey bold utilitarianism and a refined restraint all at once. If you are hunting for the perfect Cartier piece to add to your collection, visit our Upcoming Auctions page to browse our upcoming sales.

At Fortuna Auction, we want to be a resource for all who wish to learn more about watches and jewelry—replete with stylistic periods, history, craftsmanship and designers—as well as how to understand the real market value of different types of collectible jewelry and watches.

You can consult our jewelry experts for free, unbiased valuations, with no obligation to sell. And if you do decide to sell at auction, our team will market your item to millions of competing bidders located in more than 50 countries. If you’re interested in buying or selling at one of Fortuna’s upcoming auctions, feel free to contact our office today.

What Are The Different Types of Antique Jewelry?

It is said that art imitates life, and this is true for jewelry design. Throughout history, the events of the times left a definite impact on how designers used metals and gemstones in their jewelry creations, as well as what motifs and features became vogue. In analyzing jewelry, the themes are clear and speak to the story of how jewelry evolved with the ages.

What Is Considered Antique Jewelry?

A piece gets the “antique” label if it is more than 100 years old, so every year, more pieces become antiques. Read our quick guide on the different types of antique jewelry.

Victorian Jewelry

Victorian Diamond Pendant Necklace , achieved $2,250 at our February 2020 Fine Jewels sale

The monarch Queen Victoria inspired many of the tastes of this period. These pieces are considered sentimental and include brooches, link bracelets, fans and hair jewelry.

Early in her reign, pieces took floral inspiration or were otherwise symbolic of flowers. Gold was a popular metal since different plating techniques had been invented. Designers used gemstones including amethyst and garnet.

In the mid-century, when Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria went into mourning. Jewelry made during this time was black with bold designs and gold with black enamel. After this, jewelry styles from the Renaissance and Gothic periods came into favor.

Later in the century, silver became the popular metal, and diamonds and pearls became the popular gemstones.

Art Nouveau Jewelry

Art Nouveau Diamond and Enamel Pendant Necklace, achieved $10,000 at our December Magnificent Jewels sale, 2018

This period includes the dawn of the 20th century and its first decade. Designs were rebellious against the excess of the Victorian-era styles. Designers used unconventional materials, such as glass or enamel, and created pieces by hand, setting aside the ways of the industrial age and discourage mass production. Many jewelry designs were likened to works of art in the hands of a sculptor.

Pendants, necklaces and hair ornaments were the famous pieces of this time, and their designs were inspired by natural elements. Dragonflies, flowing hair, female figures, plants and flowers were common. These designs favored curved silhouettes and incorporated elements like silver, enamel, moonstones, horn and natural materials.

Art Deco Jewelry

Cartier Art Deco Colombian Emerald and Diamond Bracelet, achieved $237,500 at our sale of the Estate of Bo Legendre

This style thrived in the years between World War I and II and reflected the opulence and extravagance of the Roaring Twenties. Music and art inspired the design of pieces. The Jazz Age prompted the use of color and shapes, as well as oriental and exotic elements presented in simple, angular, geometric forms.

White gold and platinum were common metals, and diamonds were heavily utilized to create utterly stunning pieces that glittered with every square inch. Popular pieces included long earrings, rings, stacked bracelets and flapper beads, often worn together shirking any attitude of “less is more” leftover from the War, and replacing it with “joie de vivre.”

Retro Jewelry

Van Cleef & Arpels Retro Diamond Bracelet, achieved $43,750 at our December 2019 Important Jewels Sale

World War II left an impact on this period of jewelry design. While the men were off to war, women found jobs in the workplace. With the rise of the working woman, jewelry and fashion became popular. Before the 1940s, platinum was the popular jewelry metal. However, the war made it scarce. As a result, designs from this period favored the usage of gold and rose gold.

Pieces from this era use bold and chunky designs of floral patterns. Colored gemstones like aquamarine and topaz were common, and clip-on earrings that were close to or just below the ear became trendy.

Buy or Sell Antiques With Fortuna Auction

Fortuna Auction is the only no-risk fine jewelry and watch auction house in the world. Our transparent methods make buying or selling antique jewelry secure and enjoyable.

If you want to purchase a lovely antique jewel or sell a piece through us, contact our specialists today!

Chaumet Diamond and Ruby Bracelet - Fortuna Auction NYC

Top 5 Jewels for April

Bulgari Fireworks Diamond Necklace & Bracelet

Why we love it:

Okay so technically these are two lots, but we couldn’t resist! Bulgari is probably most well-known for coining the concept of modular design, using bold and recognizable designs with clean shapes. These designs are devoid of excessive ornamentation and are instead composed of interlocking elements.

Lot 9 & 10: Bulgari Fireworks Diamond Necklace and Bracelet

The Bulgari “Astrale” Fireworks line combines elements that make it quintessentially Bulgari. The necklace and bracelet adapts Bulgari’s modular design concept to a more glamorous night time look, using inspirations from their past “Boules” (or beads) line with the use of white gold beads. In the 1980’s Bulgari was also one of the first to create matching sets of jewelry, like this necklace and bracelet but selling them separately, understanding the modern woman’s desire to choose whether she wanted to mix or match. The matching necklace and bracelet are sold separately but they sure do look lovely together!

Art Deco Diamond & Emerald Bracelet

Why we love it:

The opulence and fine craftsmanship seen in Art Deco jewelry is what makes them absolute favorites at Fortuna. The sleek, geometric design seen in this piece is quite popular in many Art Deco jewels. Fashionable women of the 1920s and 1930s often preferred lower hemlines and slimmer silhouettes in their clothing, and the jewelry evolved to complement those designs. Art Deco will always be a subject of fascination amongst collectors and jewelry lovers; the era was the high point of french jewelry design and is incredibly unique in the emotion and beauty it evokes.

Lot 1001: Art Deco Diamond and Emerald Bracelet, French

The use of diamonds and emeralds in this piece is actually quite notable as well; diamonds had been in decline during the period of Art Nouveau, but the prosperity that followed WW1 and the rise of the Art Deco style saw a revival of the heavy use of diamonds and precious gemstones in jewelry. This glittering bracelet, featuring bright green emeralds against sleek white diamonds and a white gold setting is classic Art Deco in both its use of materials and design.

Chaumet Ruby and Diamond Bracelet

Why we love it:

Parisian jewelry house, Chaumet was founded in 1780 by Marie-Étienne Nitot, who worked as an apprentice to the official jeweler of Queen Marie Antoinette. Nitot himself went on to design jewels for Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine, continuing the honor of designing for royalty. This led to the creation of Chaumet’s signature Josephine collection and a tradition of glamour and regality in all of the pieces from the design house. Today the brand has been worn by celebrities like Natalie Portman and Chinese superstar and actress, Angelababy. 

Lot 1004: Chaumet Ruby and Diamond Bracelet

This Chaumet bracelet appears at first glance, to be effortlessly beautiful, its delicate curvature and occasional touches of bright color by use of the rubies are truly something to marvel at. Not to mention, the setting of emerald-,pear-, and round brilliant cut diamonds is truly intricate work only possible with a master jeweler. Chaumet’s reputation for excellence and majesty is exemplified in this beautiful accessory.

8.88-Carat Cushion-Shaped Diamond Ring

Why we love it:

This 8.88-carat cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond, boasts H/VS2 clarity and is flanked by round brilliant-cut diamonds of approximately 1.00 carat total, most G-H/VS clarity. Modified brilliant-cut diamonds are cut to have the same number and pattern of facets as round brilliants. This makes modified brilliant cuts an extremely popular choice of diamond, as they emit the superior brilliance of a round diamond with a more unique shape.

Lot 1005: 8.88-Carat Cushion-Shaped Diamond Ring

When purchasing diamond rings, particularly for that special someone, one often hopes for luck and love to last a lifetime. A diamond as beautiful as this is already a lucky find, but the carat weight carries an extra significance with it. In eastern culture, 8 is considered to be the luckiest number of them all. When 8 appears three times in a sequence, the number is considered a “triple fortune,” and people in China even pay extra to have their telephone numbers include “888.” If you’re lucky enough to be the winning bidder on this beautiful diamond ring, you’ll carry more than a reminder of love on your finger, you’ll hold a reminder of luck and optimism for years to come.

Radiant-Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet

Why we love it:

Fancy Yellow or “canary” diamonds have been rising in value over the years and this Radiant-Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet is essential for the discerning collector. Crafted in 18K gold to accentuate the color of the stones, this bracelet is set with radiant-cut diamonds, most with Fancy Yellow color, VS-SI1 clarity, and weighing a total of approximately 18.00 carats. One of the most famous diamonds in the world is actually a Fancy Yellow: the Tiffany Diamond. The impressive 128.54-Carat Fancy Yellow Diamond was famously worn by Audrey Hepburn, and most recently, by Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars. Fancy Yellow diamonds occur much more rarely in nature than white diamonds, so their usage may not be as widespread in jewelry designs. However, we are glad to showcase an incredible example of these diamonds in our April auction.

Lot 26: Radiant-Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet

Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” Ref. 6239 in Steel | April 2020 Important Watches

Paul Newman wearing his own Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239

Paul Newman wearing his own Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 (Photo by Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty Images).

Fortuna is happy to give you a closer look at a prized highlight from our upcoming Important Watches sale, the Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” Ref. 6239 in Steel.

The “Paul Newman” is one of the most desirable and valuable of vintage sport watches. Rolex unveiled the first Daytona watch in the early 1960s and named it after the famous raceway. A subset of these watches, with the distinctive “exotic” dial, came to be associated with the American icon, Paul Newman, who is known and revered for his many pursuits, from his acting to his philanthropy, and most importantly his career as a professional race car driver. Paul’s wife gifted him the watch and he became quite fond of it, seen wearing it often—on and off the racetrack.

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A Closer Look at Our Highlights | March 2020 Fine Jewels

Fortuna is excited to share some of our favorite highlights from our upcoming March Fine Jewels sale! The sale goes live March 19, 2020, at 1:00 PM EDT

Antique Diamond and Sapphire Compact, Provenance of Anna Thompson Dodge

Lot 78, Antique Diamond and Sapphire Compact

This Antique Diamond and Sapphire Compact is one of the most special pieces in our March Fine Jewels sale. The antique compact is crafted in a combination of gold and platinum with an exquisite floral design: indicative of the late Victorian era. Hours were likely spent on the intricate carvings of the mountainside, cherubs, and floral motifs.  The compact is made more glamorous by the setting of pear- and old European-cut diamonds enhanced by oval cabochon and calibre-cut sapphires; the touch of color contrasts beautifully with the 14k gold. The precious compact has a compartment to store a photo, a mirror enclosed, as well as small compartments where one could hold rouge and some hairpins; the only essentials a lady of that time would need, especially one of as high a status as the original owner…

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David Webb Horse Bracelet - Fortuna Auction - NYC

David Webb

A maker who stands unequaled in his bold use of colored enamel and love of animal motifs, David Webb’s creations offer a playful escape from the everyday.

In 1945, the North Carolina native opened, what remains today, one of the most successful American jewelry houses of the century. His strikingly imaginative designs filled with eye-catching geometric elements and remarkable use of color quickly became the favorite amongst celebrities and fashion aficionados alike. Amongst his elite clientele are celebrities like Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Vreeland, as well as Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the Duchess of Windsor.

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