The Story Behind the Stone: Art of the Auction

Jarrett sapphireJewelry at auction is always more than just the selling of beautiful baubles. Often the pieces are original one-offs crafted by skilled artisans of a bygone era. The gemstones can be rare, sizable and almost unheard of today. And loyal auction devotees know a thing or two about the exquisite world of jewelry sales too. Where else can one get up close and personal with such a jaw-dropping array of important jewels made by designers of every era? High jewelry at auction often carries an intriguing provenance which adds to its charisma and value.

Why It’s Good

Buying at auction also means each item has been carefully vetted - a value added detail not lost on serious jewelry collectors. A leading auction house, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers has offices strategically placed around the US. We recently spoke with LHA director of Fine Jewelry and Timepieces Alexander Eblen. “Auctions are especially good for both discerning and serious collectors as well as for the casual jewelry wearer,” Eblen says. Clients with refined tastes can acquire signed works by top houses and especially rare gems free of any kind of treatment. Another niche, Eblen points out is antique and vintage jewelry with wonderful top-condition period aesthetics.

Jarrett emeraldUnexpected Finds

But not all those who are star struck are bidders. Spectacular pieces can quicken the heartbeat of the experts as well. “There are a great many, wonderful surprises I have had the privilege of seeing in my seven years with LHA,” Eblen recalls. “Certainly one of the most unexpected, rare and delightful was the Cartier pendant watch we represented last year. It was an extraordinary and unique Art Deco creation in platinum, onyx, diamonds and exquisite Colombian emeralds including the 30 carat+ carved emerald at the base of the pendant; just breathtaking.”

Art directors at auction houses examine loads of property each year in preparation for sale. And surprises still turn up today. “I will never forget when I first saw it, going through the jewelry collection it came from. I had removed an unassuming rectangular cardboard box from the large container everything had been stored in. The box looked like the sort of thing your grandmother has 50 of stuffed into her bureau or closet. I opened it to find a wad of tissue paper yellowed with age and something heavy within.

“As I unwrapped, I got a flash of that intense green color from the largest emerald. Turning it in my hand, I then noticed that a tiny watch encased in diamonds and platinum had been affixed to the underside of the emerald, completely invisible when worn. I think I sat in awe of that piece for a good 10 minutes and kept glancing at it for the next couple of hours to make sure it was real. I honestly did that for the next several months until we sold it, enjoying the thrill of opening its box and sharing it with others time and time again. It was one of the great experiences in my career.” It is such spectacular finds as the Art Deco hidden watch pendant that keep the auction world one of great expectations. The next find may just possibly eclipse the last treasure.

Best Place to Learn

Attending auctions can widen a collector’s knowledge base too. “For clients that know the value of their money and want to acquire fun and wearable jewelry at very fair prices, our auctions provide a transparent marketplace that often shocks first-time buyers with how reasonable lovely items can be had,” Eblen tells us. So auctions are especially good for both discerning and serious collectors as well as for the casual jewelry wearer. “Our auctions provide a meticulously curated environment where collectors can buy with confidence.”

Jarrett rubyAward winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).