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Collector's edition: Everything you need to know about Sotheby's jewellery app

The Dh75 app is based on the definitive book 'Understanding Jewellery', by David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti

A Cartier flamingo brooch from 1940 that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Courtesy Sotheby's
A Cartier flamingo brooch from 1940 that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Courtesy Sotheby's

Dubbed the Bible of jewels and gemstones, the coffee-table book Understanding Jewellery was published in 1989 and has been updated several times over the years. The 500-page tome by auction house Sotheby's forms the basis of an eponymous app that was released this month, 30 years after the paperback edition made its debut.

The first-of-its-kind app is an interactive and dynamic version of the book, and covers the history of gems and important jewels from the 18th century to the present day. The app also includes new images and highlights of jewellery auctions over the years, and is available on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Below, we uncover what users will be able to use it for.

Precious pictures

If you find it hard to allocate enough space in your home or office to all the grand-looking, picture-heavy coffee-table books on your wishlist, this app allows you to access a breadth of stunning images curated by world experts, without taking up any room at all (it all fits neatly on your tablet).

Some of our favourites include: a gold bracelet set with miniature portraits and locks of hair, circa 1850; a pearl tiara created for Napoleon III's wedding (pictured below); Bvlgari's Parentesi watch-bracelet; Cartier's famed flamingo brooch (pictured above); and a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace made from large Burmese rubies.

A tiara from Empress Eugénie's collection. Courtesy Sotheby's
A tiara made for Empress Eugenie. Courtesy Sotheby's

Jewels aside, the images also include portraits of the women who owned some of the most important gems of their time, including a 1948 Cecil Beaton portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (back when she was still Princess Elizabeth) wearing a simple strand of pearls.

The app even references Middle East motifs, by way of Algerian knots, Egyptian scarabs and Islamic ogive scrolls, as well as noting that the regional preference for yellow gold strongly influenced global brands in the 1970s (before which diamonds were mainly set in white metals).

Expert voices

Talented photographers aside, the co-authors of the book - and the app - are two of the jewellery world's foremost experts: David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti.

As the chairman of the international jewellery division at Sotheby's, Bennett has sought, sourced and sold some of the world's most exquisite gemstones. Known as the "100-carat man", he has overseen the sales of the 110.03-carat Sun-Drop Diamond; the 100.10-carat Star of the Season; and the 100.09-carat Graff Vivid Yellow; and the $30-million Sunrise Ruby, as well as handling the jewellery collections of Ava Gardner, Begum Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan and Maria Callas, among others.

David Bennett oversees the sale of the Blue Moon of Josephine diamond at Sotheby's Geneva in November 2015. Courtesy Sotheby's
David Bennett oversees the sale of the Blue Moon of Josephine diamond at Sotheby's Geneva in November 2015

Jewellery and auctions specialist Mascetti, meanwhile, has handed the collections of Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka, actress Gina Lollobrigida and Wallis Simpson, the former Duchess of Windsor, who was a prominent jewellery collector.

Together, the authors have a formidable wealth of knowledge, which they share through this app.

Valuable knowledge

You may be familiar with zircons, but did you know that white sapphires and white topaz can look exactly like diamonds to the untrained eye, and have been sold by nefarious jewellers to many an unsuspecting customer? Or that not all rubies from Burma are valuable?

Understanding Jewellery is full of these precious tidbits, which you can use to build your knowledge of gems and jewels, and make an informed purchase the next time around.

Armed for auction

With a number of auction houses opening up their jewellery sales to online bidders, use the auction highlights section of this app to know more about what jewels are being bought and sold around the world, and what they are currently valued at. Bidding at auction can be both fun and rewarding, and you can end up with a one-off piece that is historically significant, or has a rare provenance or an uncommon design.

In a joint statement released by the authors, they note: “In three weeks' time, we will be offering in Geneva an emerald and diamond necklace from the 1930s, which features a row of 11 Colombian emeralds – the finest row of cabochon emeralds we have ever seen - in an Art Deco setting. This piece is an old friend since we sold it first in Geneva in 1994 as part of the collection of jewels of Helene Beaumont.

"We believe that the app will throw a great deal of light on why this jewel is so important. It will enable the user to access a rich comparison of jewels of this period, as well as a detailed text that explains why Art Deco jewels are so sought after. There is also the opportunity of exploring emeralds as gemstones, and why Colombian emeralds are so special.”

Emerald and diamond necklace, circa 1935. Courtesy Sotheby's
Emerald and diamond necklace, circa 1935. Courtesy Sotheby's

Updated: April 29, 2019 01:50 PM



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