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Historic works by Tiffany topped the inaugural sale of period jewellery at Toomey & Co (26/20% buyer’s premium) in Chicago on April 16.

A group of late 19th and early 20th century jewels by the New York firm included a spectacular coiling snake bracelet that hammered well above expectations at $32,000 (£25,500).

Dated to the period 1878-93, this gold and ruby bracelet in the archaeological revivalist style was similar to others shown by Tiffany at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The firm’s 1880 sale catalogue suggests wearing these jewels “either on the wrist, at the top of a glove, or on the arm above the elbow”.

Sold with recent certification and in the original Tiffany & Co signed box, the estimate was $6000-8000.

Defining Art Nouveau


Louis Comfort Tiffany opal pendant necklace, $24,000 (£19,100) at Toomey.

An Arts & Crafts pendant necklace designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for Tiffany & Co c.1908-12 got away at $24,000 (£19,100). The gold, cabochon opal, demantoid garnet and plique-a-jour enamel jewel dating to c.1908-12 was estimated at $12,000-18,000.

Much like René Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s successful career as a glassmaker overshadowed his genius as a goldsmith.

However, at the Louisiana Purchase Expo in 1904, he displayed the first 27 pieces from an oeuvre that has come to define the Art Nouveau in North America.


Tiffany & Co. Art Nouveau enamel, diamond, and ruby floral pendant brooch, $12,000 (£9600) at Toomey.

In contrast to the platinum, diamonds and natural pearls that had made ‘white’ the dominant colour of his father’s era, Louis Comfort Tiffany favoured the ‘hand-wrought’ style, the exoticism he encountered travelling in North Africa and chose gems for their painterly effects rather than intrinsic value.

George Frederick Kunz, head of gemmology at Tiffany at the time, supplied the ‘homegrown’ materials that included tourmalines from the state of Maine, North Carolina moonstones, black opals from Virgin Valley in Nevada, Mississippi freshwater pearls and sapphires from Montana.

Pieces made in LC Tiffany’s workshop from the period 1903-07 carry the signature Louis C. Tiffany, Artist. This necklace is marked Tiffany & Co. indicating it was made after 1907, when all jewellery production had been brought in-house.

A second Louis Comfort Tiffany jewel, a pearl, platinum, and gold brooch dating to the 1910s, hammered for $13,000 (£10,400) against a guide of $4000-6000.


Louis Comfort Tiffany for Tiffany & Co pearl, platinum, and gold brooch c.1910, $13,000 (£10,400) at Toomey.

Estimated at $4000-6000 and sold at $4800 (£3800) was an enamel and yellow gold brooch in the form of a tiger-lily orchid that is signed by the little-recorded maker John Mason. Dated to c.1890, it was contemporary with the hyper-realistic orchid brooches that were displayed by Tiffany at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. They were made - often by electroforming the flower from life - under the aegis of artistic director George Paulding Farnham.


John Mason gold and enamel orchid brooch c.1890, $4800 (£3800) at Toomey.

At the time the subject matter was very topical. Orchid brooches paralleled a contemporary fashion for orchid cultivation that had begun in the UK and spread to the US by the end of the 19th century. They called it orchidomania.

Wide range


Arts & Crafts enamel and gem-set peacock necklace, $4500 (£3600) at Toomey.

The Toomey sale, titled Jewelry: Antique to Art Deco, featured pieces from the early 19th century to the early 20th century, covering a range of fashions, movements and styles.


Egyptian revival enamel, gem-set, and diamond necklace, $7000 (£5600) at Toomey.

An impressive Egyptian Revival gold enamel, gem-set, and diamond necklace sold at $7000 (£5600) was made during one of the many waves of Egyptomania that arrived with spectacular discoveries in Thebes and the Valley of the Kings throughout the early part of the 20th century.

It was thought to date from c.1910, a decade before the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun that proved the apex of the style.


Silver ‘engine’ bangle by Jean Després, $6500 (£5200) at Toomey.

A more radical Art Deco jewel was a textbook silver ‘engine’ bangle by the ultimate artist-jeweller Jean Després (1889-1980).

Després socialised with key figures from the Cubist and Futurist movements, but these works from the 1930s work were also influenced by his time as a draughtsman and industrial designer for an aircraft factory during the First World War. He gave his silver ‘engine jewellery’ names such as, ‘Connecting Rod’ and ‘Crankshaft’.

This piece, signed J Despres, also had maker’s marks and a French assay mark. It was expected to bring $8000-12,000 but fell a little short at $6500 (£5200).