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Iconic Animals in Jewelry

Jewelry designs are often rich in symbolism, especially pieces featuring creatures great and small, mythical or real. Human relationships with animals have existed since the birth of mankind. This enduring relationship we have with the animal kingdom is responsible for the rich and complex tapestry of animal symbolism, inspiring some of the most iconic jewelry pieces that are forever linked with a jewelry house.

In this article, we have highlighted some of the most iconic animal designs from the celebrated jewelry houses and how they came to be.

“Women are tired of jewelry-looking jewelry, and they want one-of-a-kind pieces… Animals are here to stay.”

David Webb
david webb diamond and enamel tiger
David Webb Diamond and Enamel Tiger Bracelet (Lot 2111, April Jewels & Watches)

David Webb

David Webb is one of America’s most important and distinguished jewelers. He is best known for his distinctively carved, enameled animal bracelets, his use of rich, burnished, textured gold and exquisite rock crystal pieces. The use of animals has been a David Webb signature, admired by collectors who recognize his creative genius. His statement pieces bring animals like the zebra, chimera, leopard, tiger and other fantastic creatures to life. His bold designs have been made even more iconic by powerful women like Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Beyoncé—who represent a small group of Webb’s influential clientele. This David Webb Diamond and Enamel Tiger Bracelet from our April Jewels & Watches auction is a prime example of Webb’s fierce creativity.

david webb coral panther ring
David Webb Coral Panther Ring (Lot 2219, April Jewels & Watches)

Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger

tiffany & co
Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Vintage Multi-Gemstone Fish Brooch (Lot 2039, April Jewels & Watches)


Throughout the history of Tiffany & Co., the brand has worked with visionary jewelry designers, including Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, Frank Gehry and, of course, Jean Schlumberger, who is renowned for his layered enamel technique. Jean Schlumberger was deeply inspired by nature and movement, which is apparent in this Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Vintage Multi-Gemstone Fish Brooch from our upcoming sale. The vibrant fish is caught mid-swim and its gem-covered scales glimmer quickly to bring life to the piece. The jeweler traveled far and wide seeking inspiration from places like Bali, India, and Thailand. The “Bird on a Rock” is one of the famed French designer’s most iconic pieces, originally designed in 1956 with the Tiffany Yellow Diamond in mind, one of the largest yellow diamonds to have ever been discovered. Since then, the design has been reissued by Tiffany & Co.—still with only large stones as the bird’s perch. many of which have been sold by Fortuna throughout the years. When Tiffany hired Schlumberger, it was made clear he was to maintain his unique style in his creations for the jeweler. That much is evident in this Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Diamond Multi-Gemstone and Enamel Cow Brooch, perhaps inspired by his travels to India where the animal is held to be sacred. The bold brooch is currently available for a starting bid of $4,500 in our April Jewels & Watches sale.

diamond multi-gemstone and enamel cow brooch
Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Diamond Multi-Gemstone and Enamel Cow Brooch (Lot 2018, April Jewels & Watches)

Cartier

cartier emerald panthere brooch
Cartier Emerald “Panthère” Brooch in 18K Gold

When discussing animal designs, the world-renowned brand, Cartier has become synonymous with the Panthère. When Jeanne 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. Toussaint soon became the creative inspiration for many of Cartier’s most popular Panthère motifs.

nautilus shell coral and emerald brooch
Cartier Nautilus Shell Coral and Emerald Brooch/Pendant

Yet, Cartier’s artful appreciation of the animal kingdom is by no means limited to the Panthère. This Cartier Nautilus Shell Coral and Emerald Brooch/Pendant from our upcoming April Jewels & Watches sale encapsulates many of the same traditions of excellence as seen in the famous Panthère. The bold accessory is carved in 18K gold and is set with a beautifully carved nautilus shell shaped coral. Cartier has exhibited spectacular ingenuity in their use of red coral, from this striking nautilus conch piece to charming lady bug designs.

Patek Philippe Natutilus

Patek Philippe: Luxury Watch Manufacturer

Many of today’s luxury watch brands were founded hundreds of years ago by master watchmakers. Patek Philippe is one such brand, prized by serious collectors worldwide for the precision and artistry of its pieces.

Who Is Patek Philippe?

The Patek Philippe brand of watches was founded by two master watchmakers—Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe. Their combined last names form the brand name familiar to collectors today. The company launched in 1851 when the first Patek Philippe watches were displayed at the Great Exhibition in London.

The Great Exhibition was dedicated to the most modern and exciting inventions of that era. Patek Philippe watches were innovative, with gadgetry and gears new to the world of watches. Today, Patek Philippe is still known for modernity as well as elegant styling and quality.

patek phillippe watch
Patek Philippe Ref. 5040J-014 Perpetual Calendar in 18K Gold. Achieved $23,750 at auction.
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watch

BVLGARI: Iconic Designs by the Italian Jeweler

Fortuna has always enjoyed the fortune of offering extraordinary jewelry pieces from the historic makers. For our August Jewels & Watches auction, we are excited to present multiple iconic pieces by Bulgari, the renowned luxury Italian jeweler. To commemorate the long history and successes of the brand, we decided to dive deep into its past and highlight some of their more celebrated designs.

Bulgari was founded in Rome in 1884 by the talented Greek silversmith Sotirios Georgis Boulgaris; his name was later Italianised to Sotirio Bulgari. In its early years, Bulgari was known for silver pieces that borrowed elements from Byzantine and Islamic art, combining them with floral motifs. Having latched onto jewelry style trends emanating from Paris, Bulgari continued to follow the lead of what was then the world’s jewelry capital throughout the first half of the century.

When Sotirio passed away in 1932, his two sons, Giorgio and Costantino—who each had a keen interest in precious stones and jewels—took over the business. The brothers undertook an extravagant remodeling of both the interior and the exterior of the Via Condotti store and formally changed the company logo to “BVLGARI,” an application of the traditional Roman alphabet. 

bvgari serpenti tubogas in 18K rose gold
Bvlgari Serpenti Tubogas in 18K Rose Gold. Achieved $13,750 at auction.

As the 1940s came to a close, Bulgari introduced the Serpenti bracelet-watches, which were constructed using a technique called Tubogas. Tubogas literally translates to “gas pipe,” and is the descriptive name given to a type of chain formed from a pair of interlocking long gold strips wrapped tightly together. The core is then removed, making the now hollow piece remarkably flexible and lightweight. The edges interlock, requiring no soldering. While Bulgari’s first example was made in 1948, it took another 15 years before its goldsmiths fully mastered the technique, and made it one of the brand’s iconic designs. Even without the recognizable Tubogas look, the Italian jeweler has often incorporated flexible bands in many of their works, such as these vintage Bulgari accessories.

Enamored by ancient legends of the snake, a symbol of rebirth and vitality, Bulgari has reimagined its famous serpent in countless designs. Pictured below, LVCEA’s gleaming band also takes inspiration from Serpenti, with each interlocking element mimicking a reptilian scale. The LVCEA diamond encrusted ladies watch in 18K white gold achieved $11,250 in our August Jewels & Watches auction.

bulgari lvcea ladies 18K white gold
Bulgari Lvcea Ladies’ in 18K White Gold. Achieved $11,250 at auction.

Bulgari, always ahead of the curve, also began creating matching sets of jewelry and selling them as separate pieces. The Italian jeweler recognized the modern woman’s desire to decide whether she wanted to mix and match, giving her countless combinations to create different looks. These vintage Bulgari pieces from Fortuna’s August Jewels & Watches sale are sold separately but would be tremendously chic when worn together. By selling the accessories separately, Bulgari gave women the opportunity to accumulate the matching designs over time and added to the excitement of the jewelry shopping experience.

vintage bulgari necklace, bracelet, earclips and ring
Vintage Bulgari necklace (Lot 2037), bracelet (Lot 2038), earclips (Lot 2039), and ring (Lot 2040).

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 that can adapt easily to different sizes by simply removing or adding components. The most famous example of modular designs can be found in the Parentesi collection.

bulgari parentesi bracelet
Bulgari Parentesi Bracelet in 18K Gold. Achieved $5,625 at auction.

The Bulgari Parentesi was introduced in the 1980s, and were an instant hit amongst modern women who sought jewels that were appropriate for both daytime and evening occasions. The modular Parentesi designs were widely inspired by the ancient city of Rome, where Bulgari is headquartered. The details found in Roman pavements and the travertine junctions used to link the stone blocks all incorporate the parenthesis-like shape from which the collection gets its name.

Bulgari has derived inspiration from the Eternal City in more than one fashion. The cupolas of the Roman landscape were able to grace their way onto women’s fingers in the form of bold colored gemstones with a smooth, domed cut—known as “cabochon.” Perhaps the most famous use of the cabochon by Bulgari is the Trombino ring—famously worn by Elizabeth Taylor.

bulgari pink tourmaline and diamond ring
Bulgari Pink Tourmaline and Diamond Ring. Achieved $10,000 at auction.

Like any innovative jeweler, the brand is constantly updating its designs and seeking out new inspirations. Bulgari has since come out with more rings that resemble the imposing design of the Trombino. The Bulgari Pink Tourmaline and Diamond Ring, pictured above, is set with a large cabochon pink tourmaline, standing proudly above round brilliant cut diamonds. The use of stones for their impact, rather than the intrinsic value of the gem, was a huge departure from the classical Parisian design that dominated the time and distinguished Bulgari as an inimitable creator in the jewelry industry.

Bulgari has never been afraid to make bold statements with their designs and they have faithfully brought back past designs in fresh ways. The brand has not only maintained relevance but continues to lead the jewelry industry, no less than 130 years since its inception.

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
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.

Cartier Watch
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.

jewelry for duchess of windsor
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.

cartier panther
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).
cartier necklace
cartier necklace

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.

cartier necklace
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 panthere
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.

David Webb Horse Bracelet - Fortuna Auction - NYC

David Webb Fine Jewelry

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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Van Cleef & Arpels Magic Alhambra Malachite Earrings - Fortuna October Exchange_Mobile

The Origins of the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels’s opened the Parisian “La Boutique,” in 1954, which was meant to offer more accessible fine jewelry for young women to wear. This burgeoned the creativity that would eventually lead to the creation of the jewelry house’s most iconic collection, the Alhambra, in 1968. The craftsmen at VCA could not have anticipated the sweeping change that this new line would bring from 1968 and onward.

That year saw the introduction of the VCA Alhambra design, with a shape reminiscent of a four-leaf clover crafted from beaded edges. A long necklace adorned with 20 motifs debuted the collection, the origin of an emblematic style for the jeweler that since proliferated and endures today.

What Is the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Design?

The Alhambra collection likely received its namesake from the palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, whose sweeping ornate archways are said to have been the inspiration.

Princess Consort Grace Kelly of Monaco wearing two strands of Van Cleef and Arpels Alhambra necklaces in 1977.

The design resembles the four overlapping circles of Moorish quatrefoil decorations—traditional signs of good luck— so the symbol had small appearances in jewelry during the 1920s as a talisman.

“To be lucky you have to believe in luck.”

—Jacques Arpels, who was fond of including symbols of luck in many of his designs.

The Alhambra motif could also be described as a four-leaf clover, which the artisan collected in his garden in Germigny-l’Évêque just northeast of Paris.

The collection became a celebrity favorite throughout the 1970s. Former Hollywood star and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly was particularly fond of the iconic design, oftentimes wearing more than one strand of Alhambra necklaces at once.

The Alhambra motif has been revived every decade since its induction, utilizing new gemstones, such as chalcedony, carnelian, tiger’s eye and diamond, building upon the design’s versatility. Royalty and celebrities alike remain partial to the designs; the Duchess of Cambridge wore them just a few weeks ago at the BAFTA awards, and Reese Witherspoon can be spotted wearing them casually while out walking through Los Angeles. The versatility of the piece is a testament to the skill of the artisans and their incredible eye for design.

What’s the Most Sought-After Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Piece?

Some of the most prized VCA Alhambra pieces include the opera-length necklaces in the Vintage Alhambra collection, a reproduction of the design’s first editions. The Magic Alhambra collection uses a bold, asymmetrical design for the modern-day.  Chains of white, yellow or rose gold set with up to 20 diamond motifs are the most expensive pieces in these collections.

The turquoise Alhambra set, first introduced in the ’60s has been notoriously difficult to find as turquoise that meets the jewelry maison’s quality standard is hard to come by.

Are There Still Pieces Being Made?

The most recent releases featuring the Alhambra included four models of long necklaces and bracelets introduced at the collection’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2018. Their design also follows the original, this time set with diamonds or rock crystals with grey mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli or onyx.

Vintage Alhambra Necklace with Yellow Gols and Diamond motifs from Timecraft Exchange

Today, wearers of VCA jewelry have a variety of materials, sizes and gems to choose from. The many iterations of the Alhambra make more personal expressions possible. Some of VCA’s most recent takes on the motif were revived in collections like Magic Alhambra, Sweet Alhambra, Pure Alhambra, Lucky Alhambra and Byzantine Alhambra, to name a few. Fortuna recently sold a piece from the Magic Alhambra collection, a chic pair of Malachite and Diamond Earrings with 3 Motifs (pictured above), for $11,250 at our October ’19 Exchange sale.

The high-end jewelry maison never expected their fine jewelry line to withstand the test of time but the collection remains one of their most coveted and recognizable designs. The Alhambra design changed significantly throughout the legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels. However, the enduring, iconic nature and popularity of these pieces may mean that later generations could be lucky enough to acquire new editions for themselves. Find Stunning Van Cleef & Arpels Jewelry at Fortuna Auction’

Kate Middleton in Van Cleef & Arpels Magic Alhambra Necklace and Earrings in Gold and Mother-Of-Pearl

If you’re pursuing pieces of fine jewelry from the designers of VCA, a sale by Fortuna Auction may have just the piece you’re looking for. Browse past VCA Alhambra pieces sold by Fortuna here.
 
 

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We also provide unbiased appraisals and handle all of the consignment for your VCA rings, necklaces and other accessories. Like you, Fortuna is passionate about the craftsmanship and value of fine jewelry, and we strive to provide the most transparent, risk-free experience in selling or buying your next piece.

The Jewelry of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau was a broad artistic movement, with one of its key beliefs being art should be a part of daily life. Although short-lived, the Art Nouveau style is amongst the most celebrated periods of jewelry design.

Lasting only 15 years from 1895 through 1910, the style saw a flourishing of innovative ideas, materials and techniques that propelled jewelry designers into artists, crafting exquisite, often breathtaking jewelry.

At the turn of the 20th century, the zeitgeist called for bold, new ideas and an abandonment of the historical Victorian precedents of the 19th century in all forms of art, from the decorative arts to music, and architecture to poetry. During this time, colonial expansion by European countries re-opened trade routes with the East, bringing exotic products to the Western world. With widespread industrial production of the decorative arts, poorly made objects often imitating earlier periods were widely available. As a reaction to the overly rigid and somber Victorian period, a rejection of the machine-made and an embrace of Eastern aesthetics, the Art Nouveau style was born. Its masters sought to modernize design, revive quality of production and elevate the status of the artisanship.

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History of the Rolex Daytona - Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

History of the Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is an iconic success story that began as a tool of ambition. First introduced with the “Daytona” signature in 1965, the watch proclaimed Rolex’s sponsorship of the celebrated sports car race in Daytona Beach, Florida. For the Daytona specifically, Rolex had introduced a couple of major stylistic changes from its earlier chronographs, drastically improving the utility of the watch with a race car driver’s needs in mind. First, the inverse colors of the main dial and registers provided the watch with a sportier look and clear contrast to read elapsed times in each sub-dial. Second, the tachymeter scale was removed from the dial and engraved onto the bezel, allowing for greater legibility.

Daytona Beach

The historic Daytona race was born at the turn of the 20th century, at Daytona Beach (shown above). Only in 1959, did the race relocate to the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.

Yet despite its durability, aesthetics, and reliable movement, the Daytona was not hugely in demand when produced. In fact, many sat at retailers before they were sold, and often at steep discounts. At the time, Rolex was competing with a host of other watch brands that had already been well-known for creating chronographs. Furthermore, the Daytona remained a manually-wound timepiece until 1987, during the height of the world-wide craze for quartz movements.

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Jewelry of Tony Duquette - Momento Mori Brooch- Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

The Jewelry of Tony Duquette

Renowned for his unabashed love of ornament and theatricality, Tony Duquette’s inimitable design is one of the highlights of Fortuna’s September sale. A well-known painter, sculptor and jeweler, he was renowned for his over-the-top style in interiors, jewelry, costumes, and set design.

With the creation of pieces that are filled with such awe-inducing whimsy and wonder, it is no surprise that this American style icon started his career in costume and set design for theater. As a young man, Tony Duquette was awarded scholarships to the renowned Chouinard Institute in Los Angeles and the Yale School of Theater. Growing to become one of the most recognized LA designers of the time, it was through the patronage of Sir Charles and Lady Mendl, the then international arbiters of taste, that Duquette was able to establish himself as a designer for the film industry. He created both costumes and sets for theater, opera and ballet, as well as many Metro Goldwyn Mayer films.

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Ilias Lalaounis Gold Ruby Bull Brooch- Fortuna Auction NYC

Ilias Lalaounis

Taking inspiration from Grecian, Byzantine, and a variety of other ancient jewelry styles to create contemporary pieces, the Athenian goldsmith Ilias Lalaounis has gifted the world with an appreciation for the venerable art of adornment.

Lalaounis started working as an apprentice in his family’s jewelry company in 1940. In 1969, he decided to separate from the family business to start his own production. Focusing mainly on the fabrication of chains, Lalaounis would later introduce ancient Greek revival pieces to incredible success. The jewelry house achieves the international recognition that it was striving for when in the 1960s, Aristotle Onassis started purchasing pieces for Maria Callas, as well as his later wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

 
Ilias Lalaounis Pearl Necklace (Lot 2108) and matching earrings (Lot 2109), offered in the November 2020 Jewels & Watches auction.

An artist as well as a jeweler, Lalaounis explored the ancient jewels of his ancestors to breathe new life into forgotten crafts. He schooled his fellow craftsmen in the production of his pieces, using ancient techniques such as granulation, filigree, hand-weaving, and hand-hammering to create pieces that are steeped in antiquity. His inexhaustible creativity and appreciation of antique crafts led him to be the first goldsmith to be honored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres, for his contribution to the art of jewelry.

History of Ilias Lalaounis

Born in 1920 as a fourth-generation Athenian goldsmith, the art of fine jewelry crafting was always Ilias Lalaounis’s destiny. After taking the helm at his family’s jewelry firm, Lalaouinis began to pave the path for his future passion — blending a love for Grecian art and jewelry-making practices with the twist of modern technology. Before long, Lalaounis was making a name for himself as he crafted unique pieces that reimagined ancient Greek artifacts.

Introducing His Collection to the World

Lalaouinis’ first collection — which was heavily inspired by classical and Hellenistic art — debuted in 1957. This launch was met with international acclaim, providing the perfect starting point for a new company, which he would start more than a decade later.

Lalalounis’ company presented an avenue to delve even deeper into his distinct style, which was characterized by a focus on gold materials. He primarily drew inspiration from the historical periods spanning from prehistoric Minoan art through the art of the English Tudors, as well as humanistic elements of nature and animals.

Expanding His Legacy Overseas

Lalaounis’s company soon found success overseas, expanding to galleries across Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Between 1969 and 2002, Lalaounis presented 50 collections worldwide. In 1993, he unveiled the Ilias Lalalounis Jewelry Museum, located at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. This museum — run today by his daughters — continues to be a cultural center connecting ancient history with the present day through jewelry.

Ilias Lalaounis Hinged Choker (Lot 2110) and matching bracelet (Lot 2111), offered in the November 2020 Jewels & Watches auction.

Discover Ilias Lalaounis’s Most Beloved Pieces

Ilias Lalaounis is said to describe his own pieces as “jewelry with soul.” This inspiration paved the way for a collection of lifelike pieces that draw incredible warmth and vivacity from each gemstone’s striking beauty. His iconic style is characterized by an orchestration of ancient styles with bold reimagined statement pieces. It is no surprise that Ilias Lalaounis fine jewelry has earned its place among a lineage of premium artwork.

In line with the unique craftsmanship of their creator, Lalaounis’s most iconic pieces cannot be defined. Among his most famed work, you’ll find pieces from his timeless animal kingdom collection. These include a gold necklace with lion heads featuring dazzling ruby eyes and an exquisite brooch with interlocked bull horns inlaid with sapphires. His dramatic gold statement pieces — including intricate gold cuff bracelets and 18-karat gold torque necklaces — are also commonly hailed as some of his most striking works.

Ilias Lalaounis Gold Bull Brooch- Fortuna Auction NYC
Ilias Lalaounis Bull Brooch, featuring a mix of textured gold for the fur and horns of the bull—truly representative of the Greek designer’s mastery of goldsmithing.

Collections inspired by Helen of Troy and the Glory of Byzantium now take the place among his most treasured pieces, sought after around the world. From the neolithic era to ancient Greece, Lalaounis’s most iconic pieces reflect how history has shaped us and remains vibrantly alive in our culture today.

Claim Your Own Iconic Jewelry Piece at Our Upcoming Auction

Fortuna Auction is excited to offer a desirable collection of Lalaounis’s iconic and fashionable pieces including a bold brooch featuring bull heads with interlocking horns and pink sapphire-set eyes, as well as a garnet ring with filigree details fit for a Roman empress. Click here to view all the Ilias Lalaounis jewelry offered in Fortuna’s upcoming November Jewels & Watches sale. Our upcoming auction is a rare opportunity to purchase your own larger-than-life Ilias Lalaounis jewelry or sell yours at auction

Reach out to Fortuna today to schedule a valuation, and check out our upcoming auctions to find sought-after items to add to your personal collection.