Two Pairs of Pearl and Diamond Earclips that appeared at the Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale, at Geneva, in May 2010

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Origin of Name

As the name implies this webpage is dedicated to two pairs of pearl and diamond earclips that appeared at the Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels" sale held in Geneva, on May 11, 2010, and made a significant impact at the auctions, by registering prices much higher than the upper presale estimates. Despite the fact that both pieces were of contemporary origin, and one was set with cultured black/grey pearls, the two pieces were able to record enhanced prices at the auctions. The two pairs of pearl and diamond earclips referred to above are :-

1) Lot 222 - A Pair of Pearl And Diamond Earclips - 1960s

2) Lot 239 - A Pair of Cultured Pearl And Diamond Earclips, "Orchis" Van Cleef & Arpels

1) Lot 222 - A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips

Design features of the pair of pearl and diamond earclips

The "Omega" shaped pair of earclips executed in platinum metal is a contemporary piece of jewelry, probably designed in France in the 1960s. The centerpiece of each earclip is a spherical-shaped, natural grayish pearl, that appear to be mounted on top of a H-shaped, biconcave stem, arising from a hemisphere and mounted with 5 baguette cut diamonds on each arm of the stem. An inverted V-shaped claw like structure between the two biconcave arms, appears to be mounted with a circular-cut diamond, and also serves as a claw to the pearl mounting. The outer edge of  each earclip is mounted with a single row of 22 baguette cut diamonds, broader at the top and narrower towards the base. The space between the outer row of baguette cut diamonds and the central pearl and its H-shaped stem, is filled with brilliant, circular and single-cut diamonds. Three rows of diamonds can be identified in this zone. A row immediately surrounding the spherical pearl and the H-shaped stem, consisting of 17 smaller round brilliant-cut diamonds. The outermost row of diamonds immediately inside of the outer row of baguette cut diamonds, consist of 24 intermediate size round brilliant-cut diamonds. The largest round brilliant-cut diamonds, 19 in number, are situated in the intermediate row, between the outermost and innermost rows of diamonds.

 

A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips

A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips

© Sotheby's

 

The pair of pearl and diamond ear clips was accompanied by a SSEF report certifying the natural origins of the pearls

The Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips was accompanied by a Swiss Gemstone Research Foundation (SSEF) report bearing no.56079, certifying that the two black/grey pearls incorporated on the earclips were natural saltwater pearls, with no indication of artificial color modification.

 

The possible source of the pearls

The earliest source of natural black pearls in the world was the Persian Gulf, followed by Baja California, in Mexico from the early 16th-century to the mid 19th-century

The most ancient source of natural black pearls in the world was the Persian Gulf, where black pearls were harvested from the oyster species, Pinctada margaritifera (black-lipped pearl oyster) that co-existed with the more dominant species Pinctada radiata, the source of oriental pearls. However, after the Spanish discovery of black pearls in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) in the early 16th-century, Baja California, in Mexico became the main source of black pearls in the world, a position which it maintained for the next 300 years until around 1850. Most of the black pearls that entered Europe, from the 16th century to the mid-19th century came from Baja California. Black pearls in Baja California, were harvested from two species of pearl oysters, Pinctada mazatlantica, closely related to Pinctada margaritifera (black-lipped pearl oyster), and believed by some authorities to be a variety or sub-species of Pinctada margaritifera, and Pteria sterna (rainbow-lipped pearl oyster). Pinctada mazatlantica had wide geographic range, extending from Sonora, Baja California, Mexico, southwards along the Pacific coast of Panama to Peru, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. The species was harvested in its entire geographical range, but any pearls discovered eventually found its way to Baja California, from where they were exported to Europe.

 

In the 19th-century Mexico and Tahiti became the main suppliers of mother-of-pearl shells to feed the shell button industry of Europe, and black pearls were a by-product of this industry

In the 19th-century Mexican pearl oyster species such as Pinctada mazatlantica, were mainly exploited for their mother-of-pearl shells to feed Europe's thriving shell-button industry, and any black pearls discovered became a by-product of this industry. Even in the South Pacific after the arrival of the Europeans in the French Polynesian Islands, large scale exploitation of Pinctada margaritifera (black-lipped pearl oyster) was carried out in the Tuamotu archipelago from around 1802 to 1880, mainly for the mother-of-pearl shells to feed the shell-button industry of Europe, and natural black Tahitian pearls were a by-product of this industry. Large quantities of natural black Tahitian pearls entered the pearl markets of the world from around the mid-19th century until the end of that century. In Mexico as well as in Tahiti, overexploitation of the pearl oyster beds, led to the depletion of resources, and the oyster beds were totally abandoned by the turn of the century, and the countries ceased to be a source of natural black pearls.

 

The natural black pearls in the pair of pearl and diamond earclips undoubtedly came from an older piece of jewelry

The natural black pearls incorporated in the pair of pearl and diamond earclips, designed in the 1960s, undoubtedly came from an older piece of jewelry, as there were no sources of natural black pearls in the world that was being exploited around this time. Only cultured black pearls originating from Japan was available during this period, and cultured black pearls from Tahiti was still at an experimental stage. Since, the natural pearls came from an older piece of jewelry, its source could have been any one of the main black pearl producing areas of the world in the past, such as the Persian Gulf, Baja California in Mexico or the Tuamotu archipelago in the French Polynesia.

 

The pair of natural pearl and diamond earclips register enhanced prices at the Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels" sale held in Geneva, on May 11, 2010.

The pair of natural pearl and diamond earclips that appeared at the Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels" Sale, held in Geneva, on May 11, 2010, was allocated Lot No.222, and a pre-sale estimate of 16,000-22,000 CHF was placed on it. However, the performance of the piece of contemporary jewelry, went beyond expectations, registering a final price of 31,250 CHF, which was almost twice the lower estimate and one-and-half times the upper estimate.

 

2) Lot 239 - A Pair of Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear-clips

The design of the ear-clips is a floral and foliage motif consisting of a spray of flowers, leaves and fruits

This is another contemporary piece designed by the master craftsmen of the renowned jewelers of France, Van Cleef & Arpels. The ear-clips designed as a floral and foliage motif consists of a spray of flowers, leaves and fruits. The flower is an "Orchis" flower, a genus belonging to the orchid family. The flower and leaves are set with brilliant-cut diamonds, and the fruits are represented by oval-shaped  silver grey/black cultured pearls. The sheer artistry of the piece is a hallmark of its renowned designers Van Cleef & Arpels.

 

Design features of the pair of cultured pearl and diamond ear-clips

The "Orchis" flower has an outer perianth of three segments (sepals), and an inner perianth, also of three segments (petals), but one segment of the inner perianth is modified to form a lip or labellum, which is not represented. The combined male (stamens) and female (pistil) organs known as the column is also not represented. Instead a central flower head with a centerpiece and six segments have been added for artistic purposes. The  five segments of the perianth and the flower head are closely set with brilliant-cut diamonds.

The entire piece is made of white gold. Strips of white gold below the orchid flower, represent the stem, the stalk (petiole) of the leaves and fruit. There are four leaves and two fruits below the flower. The leaves are closely set with brilliant-cut diamonds like in the flower. The two fruits represented by silver grey/black, oval-shaped, cultured pearls with excellent luster and smooth surface qualities, are suspended from a white-gold stalk, by a bell-cap arrangement also studded with diamonds; the bell-cap serving as a persistent sepal (calyx) of the flower. The design of the two ear-clips are so perfect and symmetrical, that one appears to be the mirror image of the other.

A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips

A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Earclips

© Sotheby's

 

Features of the silver grey/black cultured pearls

The most striking feature of the pair of pearl and diamond ear-clips is the luster and brilliance of the silver grey/black cultured pearls associated with them. Grey/black is the body color of these pearls, imparted by melanin pigments associated with the conchiolin component of the nacre. Silver, is the overtone color, caused by the refraction of light as it passes through successive layers of  aragonite and conchiolin. The combination of body color and overtone is known as "silver-grey" or "silver," which is only one of a series over 10 beautiful combination of colors found in black cultured pearls, both Tahitian and Japanese. See table below.  Some of the most sought-after colors in black Tahitian and Japanese pearls are Peacock, the combination of black and rainbow; Pistachio, the combination of grey and green and Peacock-green, the combination of black and green.

 

Combination of body color and overtones in black Tahitian pearls

S/N

Basic body color Overtone Combination

Special name

1 gray yellow yellowish-gray Champagne
2 black purple purplish-black Cherry
3 black blue bluish-black Lavender
4 pale gray - pale gray Moon Gray
5 black green greenish-black Peacock-green or black-green
6 black rainbow of colors - Peacock or Rainbow
7 black reddish-purple - Aubergine or Egg plant
8 gray purple purple-gray Pigeon Gray
9 gray green greenish-gray Pistachio
10 gray silver silver-gray Silver
11 black gold golden-black Tahitian Gold

 

The extraordinary luster and brilliance of the cultured pearls is associated with the thick nacre of black Tahitian pearls, which varies from a minimum of 0.8 mm to a maximum of around 2-3 mm after a cultivation period of 2-3 years. It's not only luster that is dependant on the thickness of nacre, but also body color, overtones and orient (iridescence). Luster is caused by the reflection of light from the surface and just below the surface of the pearl, but orient and overtones are caused by refraction of light as it passes through successive layers of aragonite and conchiolin. The pearls are blemish-free and perfectly smooth, enhancing the luster of the pearls.

 

The possible source of the cultured pearls

Black pearls produced by the black-lipped pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera, was first cultured by Kokichi Mikimoto himself in 1931 in a farm on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, and cultured black pearls produced in these farms entered the pearl markets of the world in the late 1930s. After the perfection of the culturing techniques, several pearl farms in Japan specialized in culturing black pearls, which was well received by pearl enthusiasts around the world. In Tahiti black pearls were first cultured on an experimental basis in 1965, on two pearl farms at Hikueru and Bora Bora in the Tuamotu archipelago. However, black Tahitian pearls received international recognition only after 1975, when high quality pearls were produced following the introduction of Japanese technology at a farm belonging to Jean-Claude Brouillet in South Marutea. This farm was subsequently acquired by Robert Wan in 1984, who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of the pearls produced in his farms. Robert Wan who is popularly known as the "Father of the Tahitian Pearls" was subsequently appointed as an adviser to the Tahitian Government, to set the minimum standards to improve the quality of the Tahitian pearls. The minimum depth of nacre laid down for black Tahitian pearls to be exported from the country was 0.8 mm. Pearls that were less than this depth were destroyed and not allowed to leave the country. Regulations were also introduced to control the number of new pearl farms. Thus, the two main produces of black cultured pearls in the world today are Japan and Tahiti, and the pearls incorporated in the pair of cultured pearl and diamond earclips, most probably originated in one of these countries.

 

The Pair of Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear Clips registers a price almost 5 times the lower estimate and more than 3 times the upper estimate

The Pair of Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear Clips, said to be the property of a lady, was assigned Lot No.239, at the Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels" sale, held in Geneva, on May 11, 2010. A pre-sale estimate of 12,000-18,000 CHF was placed on the lot, but surprisingly despite the fact that the pearls incorporated in the piece were cultured pearls, the lot registered a selling price of 57,500 CHF, which was almost 5 times the lower estimate and 3 times the upper estimate.

 

You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

     Back to Famous Pearls

 

Related :-

1) Cultured Pearl and Diamond Necklace and Matching Pair of Earrings

2) Birk's Black Tahitian Double Row Pearl Necklace

 

External Links

1) Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale, Geneva, May 11, 2010. Lot 222, A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Ear-clips, 1960s. www.sothebys.com

2) Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale, Geneva, May 11, 2010. Lot 239, A Pair of Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear-clips, "Orchis," Van Cleef & Arpels. www.sothebys.com

 

References :-

1) Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale, Geneva, May 11, 2010. Lot 222, A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Ear-clips, 1960s. www.sothebys.com

2) Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale, Geneva, May 11, 2010. Lot 239, A Pair of Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear-clips, "Orchis," Van Cleef & Arpels. www.sothebys.com

 


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