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rolex watch origin

Rolex Watch Origin: The Most Recognized Luxury Watch Brand

Rolex is a brand loved by collectors across the globe. It’s known for groundbreaking wristwatch movements, including watches that reached submarine depths of more than 3,000 meters and traveled long distances across the sky. Each watch is made of the best, high-quality materials, built to last a collector a lifetime.

Here, learn more about the origins of Rolex watches, as well as how you can buy or sell your own Rolex.

The Origins of Rolex Watches

Rolex is well-loved for its high-quality watches. Collectors are equally intrigued by the brand’s rich history:

  • 1902: Brother-in-laws Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded the Rolex brand in London, England. The duo specialized in making wristwatches from Hermann Aegler’s movements and high-quality watch cases from reputable companies, like those from Dennison.
  • 1908: Rolex officially became a registered trademark. Now the sole proprietor, Wilsdorf chose the name Rolex because he wanted something people of all origins could pronounce. Plus, he thought the name resembled the sound of a watch being wound.
  • 1910: Rolex becomes the first wristwatch brand to earn an independently ratified certificate of a chronometric performance — essentially a very high degree of excellence in timekeeping.
  • 1914: The Kew Observatory awarded the Rolex watch with a “Class A” precision certificate. This was a monumental award as it is usually given to marine chronometers, and it was the first time a London wristwatch won the award.
  • 1919: Wilsdorf moved his Rolex brand from London to Geneva because of newly imposed taxes that made metals too expensive. He chose Geneva so he could be closer to his Bienne-based suppliers.
  • 1926: The Rolex Oyster was released. This was an exciting release, as the watch was marketed as the world’s first waterproof watch.
  • 1927: A year after the Oyster release date, Wilsdorf gave famous swimmer Mercedes Gleitze the watch. Gleitze wore the watch around her neck as she swam across the English channel — and it performed perfectly afterward.
Mercedes Gleitze, circa 1930. As a professional endurance swimmer, her name was used to market Rolex’s new waterproof case, Oyster. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • 1931: The Rolex Oyster Perpetual model was released. Recognized as the first self-winding watch, the Oyster Perpetual combined the water-resistant power of the Oyster with a revolutionary automatic movement.
  • 1953: The Rolex Submariner was released. Designed for divers, the watch was guaranteed waterproof to 100 meters and featured a rotating bezel to help divers track their dive time.
  • 1955: In collaboration with Pan American Airways, the Rolex GMT-Master was released, introducing the now iconic blue and red “Pepsi” bezel. During this time in history, pilots began traveling longer and farther, now entering different time zones. The GMT-Master helped aviators tell times in different time zones. Now, it’s used by the Aviation Industry to calculate Coordinated Universal Time.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master “Pepsi” Watch, Ref. 1675. Achieved $21,250 at auction.
  • 1960: Rolex’s founder Wilsdorf passed away, leaving behind a hugely successful brand.
  • 1962: Rolex becomes the official timekeeper of the Daytona car races and launches the popular Daytona Dial a year later.
  • 1967: The Rolex Sea-Dweller was released. Rolex experienced huge success with the power of the Submariner — but Rolex wanted to triple the watch’s deep-sea abilities. The Sea-Dweller features a helium escape valve that made this goal possible.
  • 1971: The Rolex Explorer II was released. This watch model was specially crafted for spelunkers, people who explore caves. The watch features an AM and PM feature, as people underground can’t distinguish between day and night. People can also read the features in the dark.

After Wilsdorf’s death in 1960, Rolex continued producing sought-after models like the Yacht-Master, Pearlmaster, Datejust II and the Sky-Dweller. You can still shop modern Rolex watches today and find sought-after vintage designs.

famous rolex pieces

What Are the Most Famous Rolex Pieces?

Currently, Rolex offers many wristwatch styles. Some of their most famous and foundational pieces, however, are:

1. Oyster

Made in 1926, the Oyster revolutionized watchmaking. It’s recognized as the first waterproof case, strategically designed with 10 parts and sealed zones, protected against water and dust. The design enabled watch-wearers to wear their watches during various activities, including swimming.

Like other styles, the Oyster is currently available in many colors and sizes. It has two original dial colors, however — black with white gold and silver with gold accents. The watches are signed with “superlative chronometer official certified,” a tribute to Rolex’s 1910 recognition.

2. Daytona

Rolex introduced the Daytona in 1962. It’s named after the famous Florida city, home of the Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona allows racers to measure elapsed time and calculate their average speed using three subdials — small seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour counters.

The original Daytona has “Cosmograph” engraved in red under the Rolex logo. In the early 1960s, “Daytona” replaced Cosmograph, and the model continued to advance from there. Original Daytonas don’t have a date window nor engraving on the case backs. But, they do have two engravings on the sides, stating the model and serial numbers.

3. GMT-Master

In the mid-1950s, pilots began traveling longer distances across different time zones. Pan Am requested Rolex to make an aviator watch that could keep track of these different time zones.

Rolex created the GMT-Master that displayed a fourth time — Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), hence the name GMT-Master. Now, the watch displays the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), following the 1972 transition established by the Aviation Industry.

4. Day-Date

In 1956, the luxurious Day-Date Rolex made its debut. This style is the first waterproof watch with a self-winding chronometer. The Day-Date displays the full calendar day along with the date.

The Day-Date is synonymous with luxury and prestige. The watch has been through many different styles and configurations over time—changing dial colors, size and design. This Rolex timepiece has been popularized by celebrities, politicians, CEOs and other high-profile individuals. Most famously, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, an avid watch enthusiast, often wore his Rolex Day-Date during his presidency and gifted them throughout his life, and now the watch is more widely referred to as the “Rolex Presidential.”

5. Submariner

Introduced in 1953, the Submariner is a watch built for divers and others venturing deep below the surface. This Rolex style is famous for its resistance to water and iconic unidirectional rotating bezel.

Both vintage and modern releases of the Submariner are highly sought after.

How Can You Sell or Buy Rolex Watches?

Are you interested in adding a Rolex to your collection or making space in your collection for another collectible? Learn how to do both by considering the following steps:

How to Sell Your Rolex Watch

All Rolex watches are sought-after, especially older collectible models. The best way to sell your Rolex watch is by getting it in front of the right audience. Fine jewelry and watch auctions, like Fortuna, have a wide audience reach of people searching for Rolex pieces.

Sell your Rolex watch at Fortuna in three simple steps:

  1. Get a free valuation: Send pictures and fine details — such as serial and model numbers or original documentation — to Fortuna with our web form or email, valuation@fortunaauction.com.
  2. Sign a consignment agreement: Once our professionals have looked over your piece, they’ll send you a consignment agreement that lists the high and low estimated selling price, as well as other important information regarding the auction process. If you agree to the terms listed, you will sign the agreement, and we will prepare your Rolex watch for auction.
  3. Collect your payment: Your Rolex watch will then go to auction. After it’s sold, Fortuna will contact you regarding which of your pieces sold, at what price and how we will pay you.

Learn more about our selling process by visiting our selling page online.

How to Buy a Collectible Rolex Watch

You can participate in Fortuna’s monthly auctions anywhere around the globe. Once registered, you’ll gain access to our auctions, hosted in-person, online, over the phone or via absentee.

We believe strongly in total transparency. Fortuna holds a reliable reputation, and we want you to make a fully informed decision before adding a piece to your collection. We take great care when evaluating each piece and educating buyers on every detail, from its history to its craftsmanship.

Learn more about how you can buy a collectible Rolex watch from Fortuna by visiting our buying page online.

building your rolex collection

Building Your Rolex Collection? Learn More About Fortuna’s Luxury Auctions Today

Whether you’re ready to part with your Rolex watch or looking to add one to your collection, rely on Fortuna Auction. We’d love to walk you through our buying and selling processes in more detail. Learn more about Fortuna by contacting us online or calling us directly at +1 (212)-389-9040.

Oscar Heyman & Bros.

Since its inception in 1912, Oscar Heyman & Brothers has remained unmatched in their stunning design, attention to detail, superb craftsmanship and quality of gemstones.

Now in its third generation, the haute joaillerie house remains devoted to developing exquisite designs that have been synonymous with impeccable taste for over 100 years. Heyman’s unmistakable flair can be spotted from time to time in Fortuna’s auction offerings, and they are always a delight.

In 1906, after gaining invaluable experience as apprentices in Faberge’ workshop in Latvia, brothers Oscar and Nathan Heyman, immigrated to New York City. Their skills working with platinum, the newest and most in demand metal in the jewelry industry, were in high demand. In 1912, the brothers were joined by their 4 other brothers and 3 sisters and opened a workshop of their own on Maiden Lane in Lower NYC . The firm quickly established itself as the “jeweler’s jeweler,” designing pieces for large jewelry houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. In 1939, the firm won a gold medal for Best in Show at the New York World’s Fair for its extraordinary collection of unique floral brooches. Indeed, as innovators of their time, the Heyman brothers also patented various jewelry manufacturing techniques.

Oscar Heyman Orchid Diamond and Ruby Brooch
Oscar Heyman Diamond and Ruby Orchid Brooch. Achieved $43,750 at auction.

Heyman’s craftsmen proudly devote their time to each component of the manufacturing process, including the creation of their own tools. Pieces signed by Oscar Heyman are kept under their keen eye from inception to completion—an attention to detail that makes them stand out amongst modern jewelry houses.

“Jewelry should never be a candidate for redesign but should transcend time like a fine painting, never losing its appeal.”

—Oscar Heyman

A prime example of the polished elegance created by the jeweler can be seen in Heyman’s classic “entourage” style. The “entourage” ring, pioneered by Heyman in the 1920’s, features an oval-cut center gemstone surrounded by oval-cut diamonds, and is truly a testament to the brand’s understated elegance.

Oscar Heyman Brothers 3.64-Carat Ruby and Diamond Ring, featuring a more elaborate version of the “entourage” style with extra yellow sapphire accents. Achieved $8,750 at auction.

It is this timeless design and unique stylishness that has lead their creations to be so coveted for over a century. The firm’s designs continue to reflect Oscar’s belief that “jewelry should never be a candidate for redesign but should transcend time like a fine painting, never losing its appeal.”

cartier

Cartier—Timeless Jeweler and Watchmaker

You’ve likely heard of Cartier before—especially their well-known pieces like the Cartier Love bracelet or Tank watch. Cartier is a French-based luxury goods company specializing in jewelry and watchmaking. Here, you’ll learn more about the history of Cartier, as well as how to sell and buy coveted Cartier collectibles.

The History Behind Cartier

Cartier’s origin began with Louis-François Cartier, the founder, born in Paris in 1819. He spent most of his early adulthood as an apprentice under a master watchmaker. In 1847, Cartier bought the store from his apprentice—the beginning of Cartier’s successful journey.

Soon, Cartier’s craft extended from watchmaking into jewelry. He bought what he could afford and made the best pieces he could, strengthening his craft with every piece made. Cartier would sell his pieces and invest the profits into buying bigger and better materials, his work building the Cartier business to new levels.

In the late 1800s, Louis-Francois Cartier’s son, Alfred Cartier, took over the business. Around this time, France’s elites were fleeing from France in the heat of a Socialist revolution. They were looking for any way out, including by selling their finest jewelry and watches at a desperately low price. Alfred bought these pieces, and from there, the Cartier business skyrocketed.

With a century of growth throughout the 1900s, Cartier grew to be a well-known jewelry and watchmaking brand. Although Cartier is no longer family-owned, it’s still widely successful, operating more than 200 stores in 125 countries, including London, New York and Paris.

sought after Cartier pieces

Some of Cartier’s Most Sought-After Pieces

All of Cartier’s pieces are highly sought after. Collectors enjoy the exclusivity of the brand, seeking both antique and new pieces to add to their collection. Some of the most sought-after Cartier pieces are:

1. Cartier Love Bracelet

Perhaps one of the most well-known Cartier jewelry is the Cartier Love bracelet. Aldo Cipullo, who is the only man allowed to have his signature on a Cartier piece, originally designed the unique bracelet.

The bracelet’s design is relatively simple, but its symbolism makes it so popular. The Cartier Love bracelet doesn’t slip onto the wrist like most bracelets. Rather, it’s fixed onto a wearer’s wrist by two screw heads, requiring a special screwdriver to apply and remove the bracelet. The idea is to give the tool to your lover so only they can access your bracelet.

The Cartier Love bracelet is available online in various styles and sizes, and it’s widely popular with collectors and jewelry enthusiasts alike.

2. Cartier Tank Watch

The Cartier Tank watch’s design, crafted in the early 1900s, is inspired by the tracks of the French war tank Renault FT-17. The defining characteristics of the Tank watch are its rectangular face and bold hour markers. The original Tank Watch used silver metal and black leather. But, since its creation, you can find over 50 different models online currently.

3. Trinity De Cartier Ring

The Trinity collection contains many models of earrings, necklaces and bracelets, but the most sought-after Trinity style is the original ring. The ring has three intertwining pieces representing the three stages of romance—friendship, fidelity and love. To further symbolize those stages, each piece is its own metal, including pink, yellow and white gold.

4. Panthère De Cartier Ring

One of Cartier’s most recognized symbols is the panther. It began its association with the brand in 1914 when Louis-Francois Cartier commissioned an artist to paint a bejeweled lady posing with the wild cat. The piece was called “Dame a la Panthère” and was featured in one of Cartier’s most famous advertising campaigns. Admirers received the panther so well, it solidified the piece into the Cartier brand.

Over the century, you can find the Cartier panther integrated into many of the brand’s works, including the Panthère de Cartier ring. There are currently over 40 models of the panther ring, which you can find in different metals and with various adorned gemstones and unique interpretations.

5. Cartier Juste Un Clou Bracelet

The name of the Juste un Clou bracelet directly translates to “just a nail”—and that’s exactly what it is. The original design is a simple, long golden nail, wrapped to form the shape of a bracelet. The style is minimalist, proving Cartier can make anything beautiful. Now, you can find varying styles, including different metals and gemstone adornments. 

How to Buy or Sell Cartier Jewelry and Watches

Are you ready to part from your Cartier jewelry to make room for new pieces in your collection? Or are you a collector looking for antique and new Cartier styles to purchase? Consider selling or buying Cartier jewelry at Fortuna — a leading auction house serving sellers and buyers across the globe.

How to Buy Cartier Jewelry

Participate in Fortuna’s monthly sales by registering with us first. Before the bid date, confirm your identity by providing a photo of your ID, as well as your credit card information for billing purposes. Once registered, you’ll be added to Fortuna’s book of trusted bidders.

You can bid on Cartier jewelry online by downloading the Fortuna app or using one of our affiliated third-party sites, Live Auctioneers or Invaluable. Or, you can join Fortuna in-person in New York City. When bidding in-person, our auctioneers will distribute numbers and paddles, which you will use to place bids on items you want, like Cartier jewelry or watches.

How to Sell Cartier Jewelry

Before your piece goes to auction, contact Fortuna for a free valuation. We can evaluate your Cartier piece online or in-person via appointment. Our experts will give you a reliable estimate based on a set of criteria, including the item’s:

  • Aesthetic
  • Materials
  • Craftsmanship
  • Condition
  • Alterations
  • Rarity

Once you receive your estimate, we request an in-person valuation. To complete this evaluation, Fortuna will give you an insured shipping label. Using this label, send us your Cartier piece, which we will keep safe and secure in one of our state-of-the-art vaults. Once at our New York City location, we will give you a low and high auction estimate.

If you agree to sign the consignment agreement — stating everything you need to know about our consignment process — we will prepare your item for auction. After the auction, you’ll receive a settlers agreement outlining how much your piece sold for and what you’ll receive for its selling.

buy or sell Cartier

Buy or Sell Cartier Jewelry and Watches With Fortuna

Do you have any questions about how to sell or buy Cartier pieces? Our experts at Fortuna would love to answer them for you. Learn more about how our process works by contacting us online or giving us a call at 212-389-9040.

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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