We are excited to announce that Farrow & Ball has teamed up with Sotheby’s to provide paint and wallpaper to be used as the backdrop of the auction house’s February Fine Jewels Sale in New York. To set the tone for the Valentine’s Day-themed exhibit, Sothebys’ Head of Fine Jewels, Kendall B Reed, chose Farrow & Ball products in shades of pink and red—like Nancy’s Blushes or Uppark wallpaper in crimson and white. These romantic colours make a nod to the upcoming holiday without deviating attention from the opulent jewels of the exhibit.
Here, we caught up with Reed to learn more about the process of curating the Fine Jewels Sale and to chat about her favourite pieces on display. Read her interview below, and if you’re in New York, be sure to take a trip to the Sotheby’s headquarters to see the exhibit for yourself through Tuesday, January 31st. Prepare to be dazzled.
The Chromologist: Tell us about a bit about yourself and your role at Sotheby’s.
Kendall B Reed: I started as a specialist in the Jewellery department at Sotheby’s almost 6 years ago but my career actually began at Sotheby’s almost 11 years ago in the Valuations department. It was through my work in the Valuations department that I fell in love with jewellery as an alternative form of decorative art. Hoping to forge my career path in the jewellery world, I went to the Gemological Institute of American to study gemology and worked in retail for a few years at Verdura and Harry Winston. However, I missed the pace of auction and I ended up coming back to start my “second career” at Sotheby’s in the Jewellery department in early 2011.
TC: Tell us about the process of pairing Fine Jewels with Farrow & Ball paint and wallpaper. Do you pull inspiration from the jewellery first or the background first?
KBR: I wish I could take credit for this partnership because I think Sotheby’s Jewels and Farrow & Ball paints and wallpaper complement each other beautifully. Truthfully, the idea for the pairing came from one of my colleagues who was inspired by the ribbons and feminine colours that we used in our February catalogue photography. Farrow & Ball offered us so many beautiful options for wallpaper and that we had trouble deciding which ones to use! We ended up with some beautiful options that evoke the playful femininity of our catalogue photography. The colours and patterns enhance the jewellery but don’t overpower it.
TC: What sets Fine Jewels apart from other sales at Sotheby’s? How is it different?
KBR: The Fine Jewels sale was launched in 2007 as a way to engage a different type of client than is typically transacting in our Magnificent Jewels sale. Many people think of Sotheby’s jewellery as only selling million dollar diamonds, but we are so much more than that. You do not have to be an established jewellery collector to buy jewellery at auction and the Fine Jewels sale is curated especially for a new generation of collectors looking for fashion forward jewels at accessible price points. These auctions focus on jewels with estimates between $2,000 and $50,000 with options that are perfect for gifting or for the casual self- purchaser. The sale dates are often closely associated with a holiday and we are hoping that the February 1st Fine Jewels auction will appeal to clients looking for Valentine’s Day gifts. We even have some dress sets and beautiful men’s watches for sale, so there are options for the guys as well! Our specialist team is incredibly knowledgeable and approachable and we can help walk you through the process of buying jewellery at auction.
TC: For the upcoming auction, what are your favourite three pieces and why?
It is always hard to choose my favourite lots in any given auction. As a jewellery enthusiast, I seem to fall in love with different jewels on different days! This auction has a lot of necklaces (95 out of 352 lots) and I picked my favourite necklace options for the Sotheby’s website in this slideshow.
In addition to those necklaces, my three favourites (today) are:
Lot 300: Pair of Platinum, Emerald and Diamond Earclips, Van Cleef & Arpels
Estimate: 15,000 — 20,000 USD
I first saw these earclips at a client’s home about three years ago and I fell in love with the clover motifs and the vibrant green of the emerald cabochons. I wasn’t sure if they would ever be agreed for sale but the client called us a few months ago about offering them in our February 1st auction. Van Cleef & Arpels is known for their superlative workmanship and imaginative designs and these earclips are fun, wearable art. I expect them to sell above their estimate.
Lot 119: 18 Karat Gold and Diamond Ring, Andrew Grima
Estimate: 5,000 — 7,000 USD
I love the bold, sculptural design of this ring and how evocative it is of 1970s fashion. Triangle-shaped diamonds are usually relegated to sidestone status, meant to complement a solitaire diamond or coloured stone in a ring. This ring uses the triangle shapes to inform the design of the ring as a whole, creating a bold, geometric jewel that seems as modern today as it was when it was made in the 1970s. Andrew Grima is not a jeweler that is particularly well-known today, but in the 1960s and 70s, his jewels were worn by glamorous, global jetsetters. When I wear this ring it makes me feel as though I should throw on some Pucci and catch the next flight to Italy.
Lot 234: Gold, Citrine and Diamond ‘Reflection’ Brooch, Trabert & Hoeffer – Mauboussin
Estimate 5,000 — 7,000 USD
My colleague, our Sales Director Frank Everett, has been trying to start a whisper campaign to bring the brooch back. (#thebroochisback) I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but I have come around and I am now a brooch supporter. Many of us think that brooches are only worn by grandmothers on their lapels, but there are so many other ways to wear them. You can wear brooches in your hair, at the waist, or high up on your shoulder. They really are as chic when they are paired with a t shirt as they are with a little black dress. This particular brooch is one of my favourites because it is so quintessentially retro and 1940s. During the 1940s, platinum was rationed and therefore, jewelers used yellow and white gold to create big, bold, designs. Diamonds too, were expensive and hard to come by (especially in larger sizes), so most retro jewels feature “semi-precious” stones like citrines or amethysts as the main design element. This brooch has all of the characteristics of a retro jewel and I look forward to finding new and interesting ways to wear it over the course of our exhibition.
TC: Do you think the jewellery in the exhibit is best for special occasions or are there pieces that can be worn on a day-to-day basis?
KBR: When we put together our jewellery auctions, we try to curate them with a mix of daytime wearable jewels and special occasion/red carpet jewellery. Since we have 352 lots in the auction, there are jewels for all tastes and styles. You can find jewels to go from desk to dinner to gala!
TC: What was the most extravagant piece of jewellery you have ever seen in your career?
KBR: In April 2015, Sotheby’s New York had the privilege of selling an emerald-cut diamond weighing 100.20 carats. The low estimate for this diamond was $19 million and it ended up selling for $22,090,000. To make the diamond even more impressive, it was D colour (absolutely colourless) and Internally Flawless. Only six perfect diamonds weighing over 100 carats have sold at auction in the last 25 years and Sotheby’s has sold five out of six. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with this diamond and I will never forget what it felt like to wear a 100 carat diamond on my finger, even if it was only for a very short time.
TC: Both Sotheby’s and Farrow & Ball are strongly rooted in design and culture. Is there a specific time period or place that this collection speaks to?
KBR: The February 1st Fine Jewels auction is comprised of jewels spanning from 1890 to today. We try not to focus too much on any one time period because many of our collectors have eclectic taste. Even if they might focus on Art Deco jewels, they might also be interested in a big, modern, diamond ring. We try to be as inclusive as possible.
TC: Should we be on the lookout for any Sotheby’s pieces at the Oscars this year?
KBR: Sotheby’s doesn’t lend jewels for the red carpet but you can definitely find some Oscar inspired jewellery in our auctions. We have big, beautiful, diamond earrings, statement necklaces, vintage jewels and bold bracelets, all of which have been trends on recent red carpets. For some jewels that were inspired by recent Golden Globes picks, check out our slideshow here.