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Dover Street Market curates Sotheby's jewellery sale, bringing vintage treasures to its contemporary hall of fame

Sarah Royce-Greensill

It’s long been known among magpies that Dover Street Market has the best contemporary jewellery edit in town. The store’s buyer has a knack of spotting the next big thing, having championed over the years the likes of Scandinavian queen of minimalism Sophie Bille Brahe, cult signet-ring engraver Castro and New York-based sculptor-jeweller Ana Khouri. But it’s not all about the cutting-edge.

This month, Dover Street Market has partnered with Sotheby’s to curate an edit of antique jewellery from the auction house’s London Fine Jewellery sale on December 11.

Having previously worked with designers Victoria Beckham and Roksanda Ilincic, and rapper Swizz Beatz, to curate its art sales, this is the first time Sotheby’s has invited a guest curator to choose pieces from a fine jewellery sale. The 16 lots are being exhibited within Dover Street Market’s fine jewellery department until December 5.

The vintage pieces are displayed alongside contemporary designers in the store's fine jewellery department

“We are constantly looking for new ways to present our jewellery sales and show how incredibly beautiful and wearable period and vintage jewels can be, so we didn’t hesitate when it came to working with Dover Street Market,” says Lauren Nicolas, global managing director for Sotheby’s Jewellery and Watches division.

“There is a lot in common between our two brands, starting evidently with art and our international clientele,” she continues, adding that the showcase within the Haymarket store will expose Sotheby’s jewellery sales to a new, younger audience.

The lots selected by Dover Street Market’s vice president, Dickon Bowden, and director of jewellery, Mimi Hoppen, are split into two categories: Brutalist bold gold, and fine white diamonds.

Pair of tortoiseshell and diamond haircombs, Chaumet, circa 1900 (estimate £6,000 - £8,000)

Among the latter are a sensational 6.10-carat diamond Cartier ring from the 1940s, a pair of tortoiseshell and diamond Chaumet hair combs circa 1900, and a pair of gently furling diamond feather brooches by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The gold selection includes a brushed-gold and diamond Buccellati bangle, a hammered gold 1970s Cartier necklace that could also be worn as a belt, and a striking tourmaline and diamond stag beetle brooch, which echoes contemporary creepie-crawlies created by Delfina Delettrez, the bug’s temporary stablemate within DSM.

“We were actually quite surprised at the synergy between the pieces in their sale and the jewellery that we have at Dover Street Market,” says Hoppen.

Tourmaline and diamond brooch (estimate £4,000 — £6,000)

When curating the Sotheby’s sale, she and Bowden selected pieces “in the same way that we do from contemporary designers and collections. We look for unique, beautifully designed jewellery with something to say. Craftsmanship is always important, and each piece has a strong identity.”

The big difference is provenance, and two of the lots within the Dover Street edit have fascinating histories that are likely to push prices well above their £5,000 - £7,000 estimates.

The first is an early 20th-century toi et moi ring featuring a white diamond and a brown diamond, which originally came from the collection of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the socialite immortalised by Gustav Klimt in his portrait The Woman in Gold.

Enamel travel watch by Paul Flato, 1940s (estimate £5,000 — £7,000)  

The second is a tiny gold envelope with enamel wax seal which opens to reveal a watch dial. Created by Paul Flato in the 1940s, its reverse is engraved with the message ‘By hand, To Feathers, All the best love - Fred’.

‘Feathers’ was the nickname given to Ginger Rogers by her Top Hat co-star Fred Astaire, on account of the ostrich feather dress she wore as they danced to ‘Cheek to Cheek’. The watch was a gift from Astaire to Rogers, a memento of Hollywood history that’s sure to appeal to collectors.

The standout piece from the sale for Bowden and Hoppen, though, is a chunky gold ring made by George Braque in the 1960s, featuring an abstract profile of a woman’s face in polished gold.

'Iophassa' ring by George Braque for Heber de Lowenfeld, 1960s (estimate £3,000 — £5,000)

“If I could take home one piece from the sale it would be this,” says Hoppen. “Not because of who it is by, but for the design. The open band contrasting with the heavy face is so unique.”

This isn’t the first time Dover Street Market has welcomed antiques into its jewellery department. It previously stocked an edit of vintage rings from Bentley & Skinner, the Piccadilly antique jewellery specialist, as well as reimagined vintage watches by Bamford.

More recently, it relaunched the almost-forgotten 1960s jeweller Griegst, whose textured gold pieces are made using casts from the archive. So the cutting-edge department store and the world’s oldest fine art auctioneer aren’t as unlikely bedfellows as they at first seemed.

A Buccellati gold and diamond bangle, part of the 'Brutalist bold gold' edit

“We have worked with a number of the jewellers featured in the Sotheby’s sale; for example Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany, so seeing these pieces in store alongside our contemporary designs is not too alien for us,” says Bowden. And in this latest guest edit, there’s plenty for the DSM customer to covet.

“The Chaumet hair clips are interesting as it’s something our clients are buying more and more. Even though they are classic in style, they could easily be worn with a beautiful Molly Goddard party dress,” says Hoppen. And they come with the guarantee that you’ll be the only one rocking them at the Christmas party.

The DSM x Sotheby’s Fine Jewels curation is on display at Dover Street Market until December 5 and will then be on display at Sotheby’s New Bond Street until the sale on December 11; sothebys.com

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