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Foster Family Heirloom Comes to Auction

The Foster family built a great legacy as founders of one of the most successful retail lumber enterprises in the United States, and we are thrilled to share part of that legacy with you in our November Jewels & Watches auction. John McCullough Foster established his first retail lumberyard in Randolph, Kansas in 1879, the first of what blossomed into an empire of over 70 lumber yards across 5 Midwestern states.

John McCullough Foster and one of his sons, Benjamin, who succeeded him as President of Foster Lumber Company.

In 1880, the Kansas Central Railway was extending its line, in an area formerly known as Clinesburg, Texas. The Fosters established a mill there, and what began as tenant housing quickly grew into a flourishing town known as Fostoria. The Fosters brought a progressive, idyllic existence, making sure to give back to the community. Schools, churches, a store, a hotel, and more were all run by the family. The only thing not run by the mill was the post office. Today, the Fosters are remembered as progressive employers creating a fulfilling living experience for all lucky enough to live in a Foster-held community.

The Fosters learned to enjoy their vast wealth, investing in fine jewelry as well. In 1945, one of Foster’s grandsons, also named John, spotted this luminous Art Deco Cat’s Eye Chrysoberyl and Diamond Ring at William Schmidt & Sons, right here by Rockefeller Center half a century ago. This exquisite piece has remained with his family as an heirloom ever since.

Original 1940s advertisement material from Wm. V. Schmidt Co., Inc. about Cat’s Eye gemstones.

What are Cat’s Eye Gemstones?

Art Deco Cat’s Eye Chrysoberyl and Diamond Ring, an exquisite Foster family heirloom (Lot 2250, November Jewels & Watches)

Cat’s eye, or chatoyancy, occurs in gemstones when a band of light is reflected from a series of thin crystals in a stone that are parallel to each other. The eye of a chrysoberyl is the sharpest of any cat’s eye gemstone, but the optical effect can be found in moonstones, aquamarines, and tourmalines. In chrysoberyl gems, fine silk crystal inclusions create this effect. When light obliquely strikes such a stone, it usually creates a shadow effect within the gem. The side opposite the light is a rich brown, while the side facing the light is yellowish-white. This so-called “milk and honey” look is characteristic of the finest cat’s eyes and makes them so desired.

This exquisite example of a cat’s eye chrysoberyl was offered in FORTUNA®’s November Jewels & Watches auction for an estimated $6,000–$8,000, and achieved a final price of $11,250. For more details on this lot, click here.

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

Belperron Blue Cambodian Chalcedony Cuff

Suzanne Belperron

With her unapologetically bold style and sensually carved designs, Suzanne Belperron would distinguish herself among the first female master jewelers of the early 20th century, and as a designer whose aesthetic was so unique, it would serve as her signature.

 

Belperron’s creative genius quickly drew the attention of esteemed clientele including: the Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Diana Vreeland, and countless more high-profile figures; yet, she never sought public recognition. When asked why she never signed her pieces, as was customary of all haute joaillerie maisons, Belperron famously said, “my style is my signature.”

Writing in the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle in 1961, journalist Cécile Sandoz, expressed that the creations of Belperron possessed an instantly recognizable “abstract fluidity of form, a Pharaonic or Aztec sheen that gives a centuries-old patina and a highly personal technique of setting precious gems in larger semiprecious stones.”

 

“My style is my signature.” – Suzanne Belperron

 

From humble beginning, Suzanne Vuillerme Belperron grew up in a small town in eastern France. In 1916, she enrolled at the Écoles Municipales de Musique et des Beaux-Arts, located in Besançon, a city that would be known as the birthplace of France’s watch industry. It was here that she began her formal study of jewelry design. Knowing that versatility would give her the competitive advantage she sought, Belperron immersed herself and excelled in a variety of studies. Her early productions revealed an intuition of style and form, as well as a wealth of talent.

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