Vanessa Cron is an independent jewellery historian, consultant and lecturer at Christie’s Education. Working for four years for one of the most important expert dealers in antique jewellery and exceptional gemstones, and 15 years at Christie’s, the market leader in the jewellery category, she has researched major jewels such as the Peregrina pearl, the Empress Eugenie ‘Feuille de Groseillier’ brooch, the ‘Blue Belle of Asia’ sapphire and the ‘Grand Mazarin’ diamond.
Leading a two-day jewellery course Hidden Gems: Jewelry Behind the Scenes to complement the upcoming Magnificent Jewels sale on 16 April in New York, can you share with us your top picks from the auction and the pieces you aim to highlight in the course?
There are some of the finest jewels being featured in the upcoming sale at Christie’s and I am excited to show our students a selection of pieces from this magnificent range and share the story behind them. We will look at the necklaces designed by Aldo Cipullo, who is known to have created the famous ‘Love’ bangle for Cartier. The very distinctive work of Jean Schlumberger, such as the multi-gem bracelet (in the picture), or the ‘Dolphin’ brooch is a must see. The pair of coloured sapphire and copper earrings by German jewellery house Hemmerle, as well as the multi-gem earrings by Carnet are essential to see up close - both houses are amongst the best of the contemporary jewellers. Lastly, I will not resist showing the Zip necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, simply because it is one of the most spectacular of the transformable jewels that has ever been made.
As a specialist in the history of jewellery from the Belle Époque to the present day, tell us what the different materials and gems reveal about history.
My favourite story is to begin with the white and pink gold jewels as an example. At the end of the 19th century, the diamond mines of South Africa were discovered and the use of platinum in jewellery was mastered by Houses like Fabergé and Cartier. These two events alone dictated the style that is known as the Belle Époque style in jewellery, which were made mainly using platinum, diamonds and pearls. During World War II in Europe, the shortage of platinum for jewellers forced them to turn to other materials. As a result, yellow gold came back in action, and to make it even more affordable, the alloy was made of gold and copper. This technique gave a very distinctive pink gold that is an iconic representative of the Retro period of jewels.
What is your favourite piece of jewellery?
That is a difficult question. I feel it is a privilege to not have to choose! But on a very personal level, my favourite jewellery house is René Boivin.
Is there still a strong influence of muses and fashion icons used today as there was in the early twentieth century?
It might be in a different way but it is still relevant. I would say that fashion icons are now more influential than ever before and the perfect ambassadors for jewellery rather than inspirational muses.
What are the current trends in high jewellery?
There is now a substantial difference between the classic high jewellery houses, like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels or Bulgari, and the independent jewellers, such as JAR, Bhagat or Hemmerle. There is a current trend of revival, meaning a lot of inspiration and ‘revisiting’ from the past century for modern designers, however treated in a very contemporary way.
Vanessa Cron leads the The Essential Guide to Fine Jewellery on 4-5 April in London, Hidden Gems: Jewelry Behind the Scenes on 15-16 April in New York and History of Jewellery Design: 1880 to Now online course starting on 16 April.