René Lalique (1860-1945) is known for his famous Art Deco glassware but he started out as a jeweller and is equally highly regarded for the distinctive Art Nouveau jewels he produced in his earlier career.
His inventive creations made use of motifs and materials that are now closely associated with jewellery from this artistic movement: plants, insects and other elements of the natural world rendered in semi-precious, stones, enamelwork and horn. These eye-catching pieces are sought after and command substantial prices.
The latest sale of Jewellery held by Doyle (26% buyer’s premium) in New York on October 21 included examples of Lalique’s signed Art Nouveau pieces that epitomised the characteristics of these creations and generated interest from bidders on both sides of the Atlantic.
One of these was an 8in (20cm) long bracelet from c.1902 composed of five openwork rectangular panels framing dragonflies set on budding foliage.
Set in gold with several of the panels featuring translucent plique à jour enamel backgrounds, the insects’ wings are composed of translucent carved opal or blue and green enamel while the foliate stems carry buds of coloured enamel and oval aquamarines.
The bracelet, which has minor enamel loss and had some cracks to the opals, is signed Lalique twice and has the original signed case. It came from the estate of Estate of Dora Jane Janson, author of From Slave to Siren, the Victorian woman and her jewelery, in which this piece is described. It sold for a mid-estimate $270,000 (£197,080).
Two other pieces were both described as “property from an important jewel collector”. They had lower estimates than the bracelet but made sums that outstripped their guides in both instances.
One was another variant on the dragonfly motif, this time in the form of a pendant measuring 2¾ x 4½in (7 x 11.5cm) fashioned as a pair of insects with plique à jour enamel wings accented by rose cut diamonds grasping a large oval framed by opalescent glass berries and suspending green plique à jour enamel leaves.
The pendant, which has some enamel loss, is dated to c.1904 and signed with a maker’s mark while the pendant loop has an obscured signature and a French assay mark. It sold for $180,000 (£131,385), more than double its $60,000-80,000 estimate.
The third piece was a necklace, also dated to c.1904, made from gold, carved horn, enamel and moonstones. This comprises an enamelled necklace set with round moonstone spacers from which is suspended a series of graduated horn plaques each carved with a pair of horned beetles grasping round moonstones.
It is signed Lalique, has a maker’s and French assay mark, measures 16½in (42cm) in length and sold for $200,000 (£145,985) against an estimate of $75,000-150,000.
£1 = $1.37