Stray Jewels with Susan Rumfitt: Christmas sparkle


Last updated Dec 4, 2020

Stray Jewels is a monthly column written by BBC Antiques Roadshow jewellery specialist, Susan Rumfitt. Susan started her career working for Christie’s auctioneers in Glasgow before establishing her own jewellery department, The Gallery in Harrogate.

In 2006, she joined the Antiques Roadshow and has since built up an extensive knowledge of and passion for fine jewellery. 

A bit of sparkle is a must at Christmas. Elizabeth Taylor was surprised to find a pair of Georgian diamond ear pendants in her stocking one Christmas morning – a present from Mike Todd. Elizabeth had spotted the earrings in an antique shop but didn’t want them as they were set with paste (a fantastic Georgian invention to imitate diamonds, but not quite sparkly enough for Elizabeth!). Todd bought them, had a jeweller unset the paste and set the mounts with diamonds, and Elizabeth was naturally very happy!

With Christmas stockings in mind, I looked back through various local jewellery auctions this year and considered what I might like to appear in my stocking on Christmas Day. There were lots of pieces, but I have to narrow it down  – so here are my top three…

Enamel Tiger Orchid Brooch

Enamel Tiger Orchid Brooch, by Tiffany & Co.

Without doubt I wouldn’t reject the fantastic Enamel Tiger Orchid Brooch by Tiffany & Co,  which featured in Elstob & Elstob‘s sale back in April. Tiffany is undoubtedly a name that shouts style, elegance and sophistication. They were the first to introduce ‘catalogue shopping’, with their ‘Blue Book’. Today we are used to catalogue and online shopping but back in the C19th century this was a first. Today their ‘Blue Book’ is a show case for exclusive jewellery. So why the Orchid Brooch in my top three? A limited number were produced for Tiffany by the renowned jeweller Paulding Farnham and such brooches were exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, one of the most important exhibitions at the time. The skill of the jeweller to create the amazing detail shown in the flower just cannot be beaten. Enamelling is a specialised skill and this brooch is one to admire.  Only 25 of these brooches were produced and this one made £50,000 – a record breaking price…

Pink Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

Pink Sapphire and Diamond Brooch.

At a Tennants Auctioneers jewellery sale in November I particularly liked a Pink Sapphire and Diamond Brooch circa 1925. The pink sapphires have a great liveliness to them and as a stone that represents devotion, this is a brooch that I would adore to have in my collection. The 1920’s is Art Deco era – a time of fun, contrasts of colour in fashion and jewellery design. This was a period to express new ideas but at times the style still drew on the elegance of the Edwardian Period. This can be really appreciated in this brooch. Many say brooches are out of fashion – I say definitely not!  The hammer came down at £3,200 on this beautiful brooch and I think worth every penny.

Enamel Owl Brooch

Enamel Owl Brooch, by David Anderson.

Last week Elstob & Elstob had a lovely sale of jewellery and amongst many great pieces the one I would like to make an appearance in my Christmas stocking is the enamel owl brooch by David Anderson, a renowned jeweller from Norway. Early 20th Century Scandinavian jewellery appeals to many. George Jensen is perhaps a more popular name, but David Anderson is becoming highly collectible. His enamel work is fun and exciting. His work is a must in any jewellery collection and a wise owl as part of a collection is a winner. Although big in character the hammer price for the owl brooch was modest £130.

My next column will be on 2 January when I will look forward to sharing my top tips for jewellery collecting and what to look out for in 2021.



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