Lucie Rie vase commands spotlight in November 1 auction

On Tuesday, November 1, starting at 4 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale titled Exclusive Art Pottery and More, featuring 257 lots of head-turning pieces, many by name artists. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Among the works on offer are a Suzanne Ramie large stoneware vase for Atelier Madoura, with the colors of a dusky orange sunset; a kidney-shape, gold-colored dish by Hans Hedberg; a sculptural stoneware vase by Christina Muff which, for all the world, looks like a puffy cloud has floated down from the sky and taken a firmer, more solid form; a stoneware vase by Svend Hammershoi in an absolutely striking and slightly menacing shade of black; and a few Zsolnay vases, both with spellbinding yellow-green luster glazes.

Lucie Rie, circa-1970 unique Modernist stoneware vase with fluted body, estimated at $20,000-$24,000

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 presents its next Luxury Fashion Auction, Nov. 2

An I. Mangin black mini evening dress, a Gucci Lady Lock black leather shoulder bag, and a vintage Leonard of Paris vivid blue midi dress will likely earn top lot status at Jasper52’s Luxury Fashion Auction, which will be held on Wednesday, November 2 beginning at 5 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

With fall in full effect, it’s no surprise that several lots in the 368-lot sale showcase jackets and outerwear. Offerings include a Gianfranco Ferre long black wool coat with belt; a vintage Hermes blue suede jacket; a Valentino silver-tone black leather jacket festooned with turquoise studs; a Dolce & Gabbana mini trench coat in gray; a quilted brown leather Moto jacket with the word GUCCI emblazoned across the upper back in pink velvet and pearls; and a navy blazer jacket by Ralph Lauren.

Leonard of Paris blue midi dress with belt, estimated at $1,500-$2,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

How to spot a genuine Hermes Birkin bag

An Hermes Birkin shiny porosus crocodile handbag in Jade Green achieved $105,000 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The top 10 list of most expensive handbags offered at auction is perennially dominated by the Birkin bag. Introduced in 1984 by the famed French luxury goods company Hermes and since produced in an endless array of colors and patterns, the Birkin is an unparalleled status symbol. Collected by celebrities, political leaders, internet influencers and corporate executives as well as those who cherish craftsmanship, rare Birkin bags routinely sell for six figures on the secondary market. Yet its creation came about by chance, arising from an encounter on an airplane.

According to Jane Birkin, the acclaimed British-French actor and award-winning recording artist for whom the bag is named, she had attempted to load a large straw tote bag into the overhead compartment before a flight from Paris to London in 1984, only to watch its contents spill onto the deck of the aircraft. She complained to her seatmate that she couldn’t find a leather tote bag that worked well. Birkin picked the right person to hear her grievance – he happened to be Jean-Louis Dumas, then-CEO of Hermes. Embracing the challenge, Dumas created a supple black leather bag based on an earlier company design. Christened the “Birkin” in honor of its inspiration, it became a runaway hit. In 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Hermes Birkin and the Hermes Kelly handbags together accounted for between 25% and 30% of the company’s sales.

This Himalayan Niloticus crocodile leather Hermes Birkin earned $130,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

What makes a Birkin bag exclusive is the quality of its manufacture. Each bag is made by hand, requiring between 18 to 40 hours of labor by artisans who apprentice for a minimum of five years. They work with the finest cowhides as well as exotic leathers such as ostrich, crocodile and alligator, and accent them with hardware fashioned from silver, gold, platinum or palladium. Before Hermes reportedly abolished the waiting list around 2010, would-be buyers sometimes had to wait patiently for up to six years before taking possession of a Birkin.

A Blaze Red Hermes Birkin in shiny polosus crocodile leather and with diamond-festooned hardware sold for $160,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2022. Image courtesy of Bidhaus and LiveAuctioneers

Unfortunately, the Birkin bag’s cachet and exclusivity makes it an easy target for counterfeiters. Indeed, the market for knockoffs is shockingly robust. In 2012 Patrick Thomas, who was Hermes’ CEO at the time, estimated that 80 percent of all products sold on the Internet bearing the French firm’s name were counterfeit, and called the state of affairs “an absolute disgrace.” Few doubt that percentage has changed much since.

So, you want to acquire a new Birkin bag? Well, you can go to the Hermes website or visit a brick-and-mortar Hermes boutique. Unlike in the past, an already-estblished relationship is no longer needed to secure a Birkin and, as noted above, the waiting list is long gone. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you will find the precise Birkin you want,

A limited-edition Hermes Birkin Faubourg Sellier bag realized HK$1,350,000 (about $172,000) plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong and LiveAuctioneers

To ensure you get the bag of your dreams in the color, leather and hardware you want, it might be advisable to turn to the secondary market. Dedicated Hermes resellers will affirm the authenticity of their goods with a written guarantee, something Hermes does not provide with its brand-new ones. Be aware that resellers who don’t guarantee their Birkins may not be stocking original product. Just be prepared to pay a premium above the point-of-sale retail value, even if the bag is in well-circulated condition, as most Birkins increase in value.

Let’s say you’ve found a lovely Hermes Birkin that isn’t new or advertised at a legitimate reseller. How do you know if it’s authentic? According to experts, genuine Birkins share at least seven distinct features that have never been compromised by Hermes during its corporate lifetime.

An Hermes Birkin shiny porosus crocodile leather handbag in a Rose Mexico hue attained $75,000 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Mynt Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

First, understand that each new Birkin has a distinctive smell. A freshly unboxed example has what can be described as a “new bag smell” emanating from its smooth and supple leather. Bogus renditions have a mass-produced, chemical, “plasticky” odor.

Next, measure it. Each Hermes leather item is advertised by its length in centimeters, from 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) for a small leather change purse to the 55-centimeter (21.6 inches) large travel bag, and those measurements are exact. If the numbers you record are anything less than precise, the bag might be fake.

A shiny-finish Electric Blue Hermes Birkin in porosus crocodile leather, sporting 18K white gold hardware decorated with white diamonds, achieved $150,000 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2018. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Look closely at the stitching. If the stitches appear straight and evenly separated from each other, that signals the use of a sewing machine, and suggests the bag might be a counterfeit. Every Birkin, regardless of size, is hand-stitched using two needles. Each stitch is finished at an angle and, while perfectly symmetrical, any given stitch might show some minor imperfections. It’s supposed to be that way, and it’s part of what makes each Birkin one of a kind. There should be no frayed edges, and no glue is used to secure any leather piece.

Now examine the heat-stamped words “Hermes, Paris, Made in Paris,” located above the locking mechanism. The legend should be rendered in sans-serif block lettering and should be perfectly centered and crisp and clean, with no flaking. In addition, those words should be stamped in the same color as the bag’s hardware, which is usually gold or silver. A symbol next to the lettering represents a code indicating which type of leather was used and if it was custom made.

Another mark of an authentic Birkin bag is its internal zipper. When not in use, the leather pull strap should remain horizontal, as seen on this custom-made Hermes Birkin gray Togo leather handbag that realized $40,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2019. Image courtesy of Diamond N Jewelry Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Check inside the bag and try the zipper. It should glide, without any stops or stutters. A metal “H” should appear at the end of the zipper signifying it is an official Hermes product (although beware; fraudsters have reproduced this detail). The zipper should be free of tarnish, with the company name stamped on the zipper handle. Also, the handle should have a one-piece attached leather strap that lies completely flat horizontally when not in use. If it rests vertically, it could be a counterfeit.

One way to identify a genuine Birkin is through its clochette, a single sewn leather piece that holds the keys to the bag’s lock, pictured here on a Hermes Birkin Rose Pourpre handbag that sold for $18,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2020. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

All Birkins are fitted with a lock that is specially constructed to be heavier; counterfeit locks usually lack heft and come with standard commercial keys. Authentic locks sport either one or two numbers under the stamped Hermes company name, depending on when it was made. Turning the key in the lock should feel smooth, not difficult to open or close. In addition, a true Birkin key is secured with leather straps and is not on a ring. When the bag’s keys are enclosed within its one-piece, sewn leather clochette, they lie evenly flat. If the clochette is sewn from two pieces of leather, that’s a sign your bag is fake.

Also, know that Hermes Birkins come with their own dust bags. Initially orange, the dust bag was changed to a beige herringbone-patterned heavy cotton material sometime in 2007. Vintage dust bags feature an image of a well-defined 19th-century Le Duc carriage and horse enclosed in a circle, plus an “H’ for Hermes. If the dust bag is newer, there should be two circles surrounding the logo and two lines under the carriage, and it should be crisp and unbroken, never blurred. Also, Birkin dust bags are woven from a heavier cloth; counterfeits have bags composed of less-substantial material. Another telling detail is the stitching for the drawstring sleeve, which should be folded over by exactly two centimeters, or about three-quarters of an inch. If you spot any deviation, your Birkin may be bogus.

Still another characteristic of a true Birkin handbag is its blind embossed date code, which appeared on the reverse of the front locking strap until 2015, when it was moved inside. This orange Veau Grain Lisse Birkin, which earned $26,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2019, shows an ‘X’ at the beginning of its date code, identifying it as having been made in 2016. Image courtesy of Diamond N Jewelry Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Using these seven key identifiers can help you identify a legitimate Hermes Birkin, but it is always advisable to have an expert verify it, just to be sure. Those schooled in the ways of Hermes can tell you when a Birkin was made, and by whom, from the die-stamped number emblazoned either on the reverse of the closing strap or, for those bags made in 2016 and later, on the right side of the interior – but keep in mind that skilled counterfeiters are aware of this fact. Consulting a reference guide to all Hermes symbols and stamps – there are many such resources online – can aid in attempts to assess and authenticate your Birkin.

Owning a genuine Birkin bag is more than just owning a functional status symbol; many have come to view it as an investment. According to a 2021 Art Market Research study, the value of a Hermes Birkin increased 42% at auction during the previous year within the luxury goods market. That represents a much better return than even stock market gains for the same period. To reap the full value of a Birkin, though, be sure to keep everything that was issued with the bag when it was new. That includes the orange store shopping bag, dust bags, the wrappings, its box, the care instructions and any stuffing that might have been tucked inside. The more complete it is, the higher its price will be when offered on the secondary market at auction.

This Potiron orange-colored Hermes Birkin in shiny niloticus crocodile leather with palladium hardware sold for $57,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Although it is fundamentally an item of fashion, the Hermes Birkin has survived nearly 40 years of fads, a truly staggering onslaught of counterfeiting, and Jane Birkin’s own mixed signals about her namesake.

After relying on Hermes Birkins for years, Birkin told the BBC in 2017, “Now I fill my pockets like a man, because then you don’t actually have to carry anything.” Two years earlier, she had asked Hermes to remove her name from Birkins made from crocodile leather until the harvesting process could be made more humane. The brand subsequently investigated the matter and addressed her concerns. But Birkin bags endure because Hermes backs, and places its full faith in, its artisans. Birkins are heirloom-quality and regarded far and wide as being of investment quality. There can be no greater status symbol than that.

Jasper52 musters treasures from NHADA, Oct. 27

On Thursday, October 27, starting at 6 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will hold a sale titled New Hampshire Antiques Dealers: Americana, featuring 355 lots sourced from dealers who belong to the respected organization. As always, the auction is curated by Clifford Wallach, an expert in tramp art, folk art and Americana. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Packed with riches, the October 27 lineup includes an antique folk art game board table, with a checker board on one side and a Parcheesi board on the other, dated May 27, 1873; a half-gallon stoneware jar painted with a cobalt flower; several cast iron doorstops, including one in the shape of a red squirrel; a circa-1910 brass elevator cover plate, decorated with a red jewel and an opalescent jewel; a license plate topper from the 1950s, touting ‘FLORIDA, LAND OF SUNSHINE’; and a 19th-century tin cider pot, boasting an American shield detail and a Masonic design.

Detail of circa 1910-1920 red, white, blue and orange eagle-motif quilt, estimated at $1,000-$1,500

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Exclusive Estate and Designer Jewelry commands spotlight, Oct. 25

A circa-1980s Marina B 18K gold, topaz, citrine and diamond ring; a pair of Suzanne Belperron Dents de Loup gold, platinum and diamond clip brooches; and a charming set of gold, diamond and onyx poodle-form pins by Cartier will likely earn top lot status at Jasper52’s Exclusive Estate and Designer Jewelry auction, which will take place on Tuesday, October 25, starting at 3 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Cartier is well-represented in the October 25 sale. Aside from the poodle pins, there is a Cartier New York 1931 gold, amethyst and horn necklace; a convertible 18K yellow and white gold and diamond chain necklace from the 1980s; an 18K gold cocktail ring featuring a scarce Chameleon diamond; and a pair of 18K gold cufflinks with invisibly set sapphires.

Marina B 18K gold, diamond, topaz and citrine ring, estimated at $9,000-$11,000

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Japanese tea services create a ritual that renews

Japanese tea ceremony utensils usually feature the Five Elements in Taoism – water, earth, wood, fire and metal – as does this nine-piece metal set from the 19th-century Meiji period. The set achieved $13,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2020. Image courtesy of Mosaic Art & Antique and LiveAuctioneers

Our day-to-day world demands so much attention. Family, friends, work and community take all the time and energy we can give, and beyond. Focusing on ourselves and appreciating the natural world is less of a priority – at least that’s what we sometimes think. But what if taking time for ourselves involves nothing more than a ritual revolving around a cup of green tea? Can a simple brewing ceremony provide a revitalizing respite? A 400-year-old Japanese tea ceremony might be exactly what we need.

A Japanese reflow iron kettle earned $2,400 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Eastern Art Auction House and LiveAuctioneers

Japan was a warring nation through most of its early history. Emperors, shoguns and samurai kept the politics of war as state policy for centuries. Then in the 12th century, matcha tea arrived in Japan via China along trade routes. At first, the powdered green tea was used by Buddhist monks in training; its relatively high caffeine content kept them invigorated and alert through long days of meditation and reflection. Once the powerful and the influential embraced the beverage, they mounted increasingly elaborate and costly tea ceremonies to demonstrate their wealth and status. A gift of handmade tea utensils became the prize of choice for elites to bestow on favored retainers, and these pieces were cherished, collected and proudly displayed.

A handmade pottery Japanese tea ceremony set by Rokkaku Ayako, decorated with simple designs and colors, realized NT$250,000 (about $7,800) in August 2020. Image courtesy of Mu Chun Tang Auction Co, Ltd. and LiveAuctioneers

By the 15th century, the elaborate ceremonies were draining both economically and spiritually, and the Japanese were ready for an alternative. Sen no Rikyu, a Buddhist adherent well-versed in ancient tea rituals, created a simpler, more inward-looking tea ceremony called wabi-cha, which he thought could help lead almost anyone to the Zen state of enlightenment. It shouldn’t be just for the elite anymore, he reasoned. As time passed, the spare, sedate tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu developed became the center of Japanese culture, politics and religion.

To achieve a more complete Zen vision, however, the wabi-cha ceremony can be replaced by a fuller, highly-ritualized tea ceremony known as chado. This ceremony, performed by tea masters, takes about four hours, can accommodate up to 1,000 guests and involves no less than 19 separate tea utensils made from bamboo, clay, metal and ceramics. Each step of the tea ceremony can require decades for a master to learn, and every movement is anchored in the Four Philosophies of the tea ceremony: Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility, with the most important being Harmony.

A circa-1960 travel poster from Northwest Orient Airlines showing the simplicity of the tea room sold in August 2020 for £130 (about $144) plus the buyer’s premium. Image courtesy of Antikbar Original Vintage Posters and LiveAuctioneers

The smaller wabi-cha tea ceremony is centered on achieving a sense of balance, beginning with the overall setting. Walking to the teahouse past flowered gardens, koi ponds and streams emphasizes the harmony of the natural world that each visitor should contemplate and absorb.

A calligraphy scroll by Master Hongyi, painted in vermilion ink on paper damask, achieved $1,800 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Japan-Miyako-Collection-Art Auction Co. and LiveAuctioneers

Entering the tearoom without speaking, a guest first notices a kakejiku, a hand-painted hanging scroll, which sets the reverent tone for the ceremony to come. The scroll usually features calligraphy of a poem written specifically for the season, time of day or theme by a Buddhist monk or a tea master. Scenes of Japanese life or a nature scene are also featured and are always hung vertically on cloth or heavy paper that can be rolled and easily transported. Relevant decorative painted scrolls appearing at auction are typically works by prominent Japanese artists such as the 19th-century painter Kinsen Kishi or the early 20th-century artist Tomoyo Jinbo. Within the same foyer a small ceramic vase is set with a branch of flowers posed in its natural state, not formally arranged, to acknowledge the spiritual simplicity of nature each guest is encouraged to recognize.

‘Rain, Beauty and Hydrangea,’ a 1938 Tomoyo Jinbo woodblock print, sold for $600 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2021. Image courtesy of Ukiyoe Gallery Japanese Woodblock Prints and LiveAuctioneers

Once the scroll and the vase are admired, the guests enter the tearoom, which is just as minimalist and stark as the alcove entrance, with only a tatami mat of rice straw for each guest and the utensils for the tea ceremony arrayed in the middle of the room. During the ceremony, the host sits in the center of the room, surrounded by the tea utensils, and performs the ritual without assistance.

This traveling tea ceremony set from the middle of the 18th century, aka the Edo period, attained $600 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2019. Image courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

Once each guest has greeted the host with a bow, they in turn greet the other guests in the same way, without conversation, to demonstrate Respect, the second philosophy of the tea ceremony. Throughout the proceedings, the guests only converse about the beauty and craftsmanship of the tea, the utensils used in the ceremony and the scroll and flowers in the alcove. No other topics are considered in the interest of maintaining the respect of each guest. Everyone samples tea from the same vessel to show communion with each other and the host.

Purity is the third element of the tea ceremony, which is exemplified by the preparation of the beverage and the tools used for the purpose. The charcoal that heats the brazier and by extension the iron kettle for brewing the matcha tea is of a certain grade and is arranged in a very precise manner. Each cup is ritualistically cleansed with separate woven cloths – one to wash and one to dry – to reflect the purity of nature itself.

The main feature of a chado tea ceremony is the iron tea kettle known as a chagama. This example sold for €200 (about $213) plus the buyer’s premium in September 2019. Image courtesy of Carlo Bonte Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

All tea ceremony utensils are made from organic materials to represent the Five Elements in Taoism — water, earth, wood, fire and metal. Most pieces feature little or no flourishes, but those that are decorated speak to the idea of adding a pleasant reinforcement rather than to impress. Auctions tend to feature vintage pieces such as iron and bronze kettles in calligraphed wooden boxes to be presented as gifts as they once were during the Shogun period. Sometimes, individual utensils appear at auction, as such pieces are still given as gifts.

An eight-piece Japanese silver tea service realized $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2020. Image courtesy of Bohemia Auction & Appraisal and LiveAuctioneers

The overall experience of the tea ceremony is intended to imbue the guests with Tranquility, the fourth philosophy. The modern world should seemingly disappear while the ritual plays out. During the ceremony, guests may briefly step outside the tea house to appreciate the color, vibrancy and solitude of the natural surroundings that should also be appreciated in everyday life. Once they return to the tea house, the proceedings begin again. 

An eight-piece Japanese silver tea service realized $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2020. Image courtesy of Bohemia Auction & Appraisal and LiveAuctioneers

The Four Philosophies of the Japanese tea ceremony are inherent in the deliberate simplicity of its utensils and the minimalist setting that guests enjoy. You can opt for a four-hour chado ceremony, but if you prefer a wabi-cha with fewer than five guests, or perhaps something just for yourself, that works, too. The Four Philosophies of the tea ceremony can be honored and expressed in many ways, delivering a fulfilling ritual that heightens and renews personal well-being. 

Stephanie Seymour-worn Versace gown headlines Jasper52 Oct. 19 sale

On Wednesday, October 19, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will hold an Exclusive Versace Collection sale featuring 700 lots of clothing and accessories from the Italian design house founded by the late Gianni Versace. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

If you want to fill your closet with garments that will do their jobs with modesty and restraint and help you blend in to the crowd, this auction is not for you. Versace, then and now, designs bold, daring clothes for bold, daring people who love being the center of attention.

Versace embraces this philosophy from the ground up, literally, as evidenced by its shoe selections, which include a pair of 2019 black satin over-knee boots decorated with crystals and colored pearls; men’s orange perforated leather high-top sneakers showcasing the brand’s Medusa-head logo on the tongues; black leather thigh-high stiletto-heel boots embroidered with red flowers; plexiglass platform sandals festooned with pink crystals and sporting five-inch heels; and knee-high black suede gladiator sandal boots with four-inch stiletto heels.

1990s Gianni Versace-designed black evening dress worn by Stephanie Seymour, estimated at $126,000-$151,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau jewelry abounds in Oct. 19 sale

A pair of SeidenGang 18K gold, amethyst and pearl ear clips; a 14K gold and diamond brooch festooned with 112 seed pearls; and an 18K gold and enamel brooch with an antique scarab will compete for top lot status at Jasper52’s Antique Art Deco and Art Nouveau Jewelry auction, which will be presented on Wednesday, October 19 starting at 3 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Other lots in the sale include a circa-1920 Tiffany & Co. 18K gold letter opener, decorated with plique-a-jour enamel; a Victorian 14K gold pin centered on a huge, oval-shape piece of moss agate; a 14K gold, diamond and sapphire wedding set; a vintage 14K white gold ring featuring a carved 8.82-carat moonstone surrounded by diamonds, sapphires and rubies; a Victorian-era frog brooch decorated with 50 diamonds and two rubies for eyes; and a charming 18K gold and platinum fan-form brooch studded with 13 diamonds, which might be an early example of a bat mitzvah gift.

14K gold, diamond and seed pearl brooch, estimated at $900-$1,100

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.


A set of 18K gold cufflinks set with carved labradorites flanked by diamonds achieved $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021. Image courtesy of Auctions at Showplace and LiveAuctioneers

Moravian missionaries first discovered semi-precious labradorite in the vast wilderness of Labrador, Canada in the late 1700s, but the gemstone’s mysterious radiance had long inspired legends among the Innus, an indigenous nomadic people native to that region. Subsequently, labradorite has been found around the world, notably in Australia, Madagascar, Mexico, the United States and Scandinavia. 

This 18K gold Van Cleef & Arpels bombe-style ring set with an oval cabochon labradorite earned $2,400 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2020. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers

Though a member of the humble feldspar family, labradorite, against a greenish-gray background, boasts some of the most dazzling yellow, blue, orange and purple gemstone effects known. This unique natural phenomenon, described as “labradorescence,” features an iridescent optical interplay of colorful internal crystals. In addition to its pearly sheen, some specimens also demonstrate a shimmery effect known as schiller — rainbow-like lights reflecting off tiny mineral inclusions when turned this way or that. 

A stick pin crowned with a labradorite carved to resemble the head of a gorilla with diamond eyes achieved £1,900 (about $2,118) plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Auction Zero and LiveAuctioneers

During the 19th century, these unusual gemstones adorned European rings, necklaces, brooches and lavish, gold-mounted trinket boxes. Skillfully carved labradorite cameo clasps, rings, brooches and pendants, depicting busts of Roman rulers or other classic images, also became fashionable. Delicate stick pins tipped with cunningly carved labradorite monkeys, caterpillars or glowering gorillas, such as the one Auction Zero sold for $2,118 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022, were particularly desirable. A gold and diamond bracelet depicting a diamond-eyed great horned owl, which realized $2,453 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2015 through Zero Etrusca, is also a charmer. 

A gold and diamond bracelet set with a carved labradorite cameo of an owl’s head earned £2,200 (about $2,453) plus the buyer’s premium in May 2015. Image courtesy of Auction Zero Etrusca and LiveAuctioneers

Georg Jensen’s artisans, famed for their elegant sculptural designs and fine craftsmanship, continue to showcase labradorites in their rings, earrings, pins, pendants, stick pins and jewelry suites. In February 2021, Elmwood’s auction house, located in London, offered a graceful Jensen bracelet featuring foliate sterling silver links set with cabochon labradorites and a matching cabochon set to the clasp. It attained £800 (about $892) plus the buyer’s premium.

A Georg Jensen silver bracelet featuring six foliate links set with oval cabochon labradorites and a labradorite cabochon on the clasp sold for £800 (about $892) plus the buyer’s premium in February 2021. Image courtesy of Elmwood’s and LiveAuctioneers

A 1920s Georg Jensen silver brooch, which realized $948 plus the buyer’s premium at Elmwood’s in the same sale that contained the Jensen bracelet, subtly matches labradorites with a single, similar-looking moonstone. Though moonstones come from the same family as labradorites and have similar internal flash and visible crystals, they can be differentiated by their grounds. Moonstones appear milky or transparent, while labradorites appear earthy, opaque or translucent brown, black or gray. In addition, labradorites may depict a broader range of internal shades. 

This Irene Neuwirth 18K rose gold ring featuring a rose-cut labradorite amid round brilliant-cut diamonds attained $2,250 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2022. Image courtesy of Fortuna and LiveAuctioneers

Because labradorites remain affordable and readily available, contemporary jewelry designers are drawn to them. In March 2022, Fortuna Auction presented a signed, stamped Irene Neuwirth 18K rose gold ring centered on a gorgeous round rose cut labradorite amid round brilliant cut diamonds. It ultimately realized $2,250 plus the buyer’s premium. Labradorite also lends itself to being converted into multitudes of minuscule beads. In February 2021, Hindman auctioned Angela Pintaldi’s dramatic, coiled 74-strand labradorite bead necklace, accented with one round brilliant cut brown diamond, for $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium. 

An Angela Pintaldi necklace graced with 74 strands of round labradorite beads and a matte gold clasp containing one round brilliant cut brown diamond realized $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium in February 2021. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers

Simpler labradorite-studded pieces such as tennis bracelets, cuffs, cocktail rings, and chunky charms are also trendy, especially among those who attribute spiritual meaning to them. Many, as did the Innus of old, believe that this so-called “fire stone” provides mystic healing and protective powers, including inner peace, clarity of mind and the strength to endure life’s challenges. 

This 24K gold, labradorite and diamond necklace earned $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2019. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers

Moreover, because labradorite’s hues reflect the lights of the magnificent Aurora Borealis that paints the night sky over Labrador, many believe this gemstone links the physical world with the metaphysical world. According to legend, when an Innu warrior came across the wondrous, other-worldly display of color within the rocks of Labrador, he perceived them as stars trapped within. When he speared them free, scattering them toward the heavens, those falling back to the ground formed glowing labradorites. 

A Georg Jensen silver brooch set with cabochon moonstones and labradorites and fitted with three suspending drops set with labradorites realized £850 (about $948) plus the buyer’s premium in February 2021. Image courtesy of Elmwood’s and LiveAuctioneers

As seen in the Aurora Borealis, the largest lightshow on earth, labradorite gemstones refract from red and copper to bright blue, gleaming with green, gold and every color in between. They are truly unique gifts of nature that hold their own in the finest of precious-metal settings.

Jasper52 to auction Americana, folk art and outsider art, Oct. 13

A circa-1839 New England needlework sampler, a Colina ceramic vessel, and a tulip applique quilt dating to circa 1910 will clamor for top lot status at Jasper52’s next Americana, Folk Art, and Outsider Art auction, which will be held on Thursday, October 13, starting at 6 pm Eastern time. As always, the sale is curated by the impeccable Clifford Wallach, an expert on tramp art, folk art and Americana. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

A Jasper52 Americana, Folk Art, and Outsider Art sale isn’t worthy of its title without a strong selection of needlework samplers, and the October 13 sale contains a real winner. The silk-on-linen piece, created circa 1839 in Shelburne, New Hampshire, is probably the work of Caroline H. Ingalls, the oldest daughter of Robert and Rowena (Hills) Ingalls. It is a family record sampler that gives the birth dates and marriage date for her parents, followed by the birth dates of her older brother, Russell; herself; and four younger siblings. It sports a border of stitched flowers and leaves and carries an estimate of $2,000-$2,500.

Detail of circa-1910 tulip applique quilt, estimated at $1,500-$2,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.