Full report by Olivier Dupon for The Eye of Jewelry on the extraodinary pieces seen during the show.
Olivier Dupon is the author of The New Artisans (2011), The New Jewelers (2012), The New Pâtissiers (2013), Floral Contemporary (2014) and Encore! The New Artisans (2015), all published by Thames & Hudson. Awaiting the publication of his new book on luxury jewelry that will be published in 2016, Dupon attended the Masterpiece London Fair early July and sent his report to the Eye of Jewelry for exclusive insider’s feedback.
LONDON- On the long list of Antique fairs that populate the luxury circuit calendar, Masterpiece London is simply unmissable. The 2015 edition did not disappoint with a sensational line-up of dealers, who each made great efforts to present their precious wares in inspiringly designed booths. Spanning over 4 days, this is a fair where one could spend much time discovering ever more unique works of art, and that includes fascinating jewelry pieces, which will be covered separately.
Philip Hewat-Jaboor (Chairman of the Board, also overseeing the vetting committee) answered a few questions that will help shed light on Masterpiece from an organizer’s perspective.
Is it possible to know what the attendance of this 2015 Masterpiece Fair has been? How does it compare with previous years?
Philip Hewat-Jaboor – This year’s Masterpiece London saw record visitor numbers of 40,000 for 158 exhibitors (in which 10% offered jewelry)- a significant increase on 2014 when the fair welcomed 35,000 visitors. In our first year, back in 2010, we welcomed 18,000 people.
Is it possible to know what is the share of jewelry sales made at this 2015 edition (in ￡)? And within that figure, what is the breakdown between antique versus contemporary jewelry?
PHJ- Sales at Masterpiece London take place across collecting categories and the jewelry exhibitors have a share in these sales. Due to the particularly personal nature of jewelry we are unable to give an accurate overview for the sales this year, although strong sales were made across the board in both contemporary and antique jewelry. We do know however that this category was very strong and for example Symbolic & Chase sold a ruby and diamond cuff by Boucheron for a seven-figure sum.
Some pieces this year have a phenomenal backstory (Siegelson’s Eugenie de Montijo pearls, Verdura’s emerald scarf necklace etc.). Are they exclusively shown at Masterpiece?
PHJ – The Fair plays host to the highest caliber of artworks across the disciplines, and often exhibitors choose Masterpiece as the ideal platform from which to unveil unique and exciting works of art. Due in part to the Fair’s prominent position in the heart of London’s cultural and artistic calendar, which coincides with important summer auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and Phillips, exhibitors can be certain that Masterpiece will attract the best international buyers, collectors and curators, and act as the perfect setting to introduce exciting pieces to the art market. This year, Symbolic & Chase unveiled their extraordinary old-cut fancy vivid yellow diamond, one of the largest ever recorded, weighing a staggering 114 carats. Another unveiling included Van Cleef & Arpels, who offered for the first time five new ballerina pins, one of their most iconic designs. Reinforcing the link between jewelry and art, Didier offered jewelry designed by post-war painters and sculptors, and Wartski offered a stunning Lalique pendant.
Who typically buys the contemporary jewelry presented at the Fair?
PHJ- The Fair attracts visitors from across the world, welcoming interested members of the public alongside serious collectors and curators. Exhibitors invite their clients, but the beauty of the inter-disciplinary ethos of the Fair is that exhibitors encounter new buyers, and visitors arrive with open-minds, happy in the expectation that they will be exposed to artworks and items that they may not already be familiar with. The Fair also hosts a series of insightful talks led by experts in their fields, which helps inform potential buyers and enthusiasts alike wishing to build or expand their collections. For example, Van Cleef & Arpels hosted a heritage tour and talk of their stand, and Vanity Fair & Intelligence Square held ‘The Bling Ring’, a panel discussion led by Carol Woolton with jewelry experts Theo Fennell, Stephen Webster, Shaun Leane and Solange Azagury-Partridge.
What is the decision process behind the selection of the jewelry names in attendance?
PHJ – We have a selection committee, which ‘vets’ potential exhibitors to ensure that the works they bring are of a suitable caliber. The process also ensures that the exhibitors themselves understand the ethos of the fair, whilst maintaining the overall balance of the fair.
Do you have a say in the selection of the jewelry pieces presented at the Masterpiece Fair?
PHJ – Our specialist committee of international experts, which ensures that everything is genuine and of sufficient quality vets everything at the fair. By our choice of exhibitors we are aware overall of what they might be bringing but we do not ourselves select individual pieces.
What is your personal highlight amongst the entire jewelry selection this year? And why?
PHJ – The Lalique pendant offered for sale by Wartski, entitled ‘The Fall of the Damned’. It is a piece of great beauty and rarity by one of the greatest jewelry and artistic masters. I personally liked it because of its strong relationship with Rodin – this extraordinary cast gold pendant was inspired by the great artist’s monumental work ‘La Porte de l’Enfer’. It is a piece of jewelry, which is also a beautiful work of sculpture.
About the Contemporary jewelry section in particular?
PHJ- Our contemporary jewelry offering is two-fold. On the one hand we have exceptional contemporary craftsmen who take traditional and more unusual stones and settings to create eye-catching pieces of jewelry. On the other hand, we work with craftsmen who use precious materials, which you would expect to see in jewelry, to create ‘objets d’art’, some of which could be worn but are not expressly created to be so. Those producing jewelry now are the master craftsmen of the future and we are keen to explore how we can showcase their works alongside the great names of jewelry history.- OD