This Art Deco Egyptian Revival Bracelet, offered by Diamond & Estate Trust, Los Angeles, is described as an authentic 1920s vintage piece that is the epitome of the Egyptian aesthetic that jewelers adopted following the discovery of King Tut's tomb in the early 1920s.
Deco Jewelers Find Inspiration In King Tut’s Tomb
By Anup Jogani
Founder & CEO, Diamond & Estate Trust
When British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb in 1922, fashion was likely the last thing on his mind. But the unearthing of the Egyptian boy king’s burial site was squarely on the minds of the world’s premier jewelry designers: Swept away by the allure of the Nile, artists adopted an Egypt-inspired jewelry aesthetic that nine decades later still defines the highly coveted Art Deco style.
During the 1920s and 30s, design reflected the exuberance of a society returning from war. The Women’s Suffrage Movement gave new confidence to women, and their jewelry mimicked that new outlook: The design of the day was decadent. Sleek stone inlaying, architectural lines and geometric patterns accented by colorful stones are signatures of jewelry from this era.
After the discovery of King Tutenkhamen’s tomb, designers gave Art Deco aesthetic an Egyptian flair.
“By the time the burial chamber was opened, King Tut and his world had already influenced fashion and design,” writes fashion historian Jeaneanne Bell in Answers To Questions About Old Jewelry. “Stones used in King Tut’s jewelry, lapis lazuli, cornelian and chalcedony, became popular. Egyptan motifs such as the falcon, vulture and scarab were seen on everything from belt buckles to pendants. … It was not long before they were assimilated into the Art Deco style.”
And that style is still valued today. A notable Art Deco piece to feature Egyptian motifs, actress Elizabeth Taylor’s0 at a Christie’s auction. That bracelet epitomizes the Art Deco jewelry world’s fascination with Egypt: A falcon, sphinx and ox shaped out of emeralds, rubies and sapphires shine bright on each diamond-studded platinum link.
The designer behind Taylor’s iconic Egyptian revival bracelet wasn’t the only one enthralled with Egypt. Cartier, a French luxury jeweler with designs highly coveted then and now, was also quick to fall under the spell of Egyptomania. Recalls The New York Times in 2007, “Some of Cartier’s most beautiful jewels were created in the wake of King Tut.”
The Times describes the 1920s as Cartier’s period of “Egyptian opulence.” In wake of the tomb discovery, the designer to the stars crafted intricate images of the sphinx, obelisk and Pharaoh using the popular Art Deco technique of placing bright accent stones. Among the lavish accents that shaped Cartier’s Egyptian motifs: Carnelian, lapis lazuli, onyx and turquoise, all prized stones during the 1920s and 1930s.
Equally smitten with the “exoticism” movement was fellow French designer Van Cleef and Arpels, who in the early 1920s crafted a diamond bracelet in which colored stones recreated the motifs found in King Tut’s tomb with striking accuracy, according to The Times.
Nearly a century later, Art Deco Egyptian pieces such as Van Cleef and Arpels’ King Tut bracelet are still the stars of the jewelry world. For an Art Deco enthusiast looking to capture the same Egyptian essence as that iconic Van Cleef and Arpels piece, thirom the Diamond & Estate Trust Collection is the embodiment of the time. Handcrafted in the 1920s, this sleek bracelet features 11 carats of diamonds across strongly geometric links.
But the diamonds aren’t the true focal point of this exotic piece: It’s the pyramid-inspired Ziggurats shaped from custom-cut onyx, rubies and emeralds that steal the show. With all the signatures of Art Deco design and 1920s Egyptomania, this bracelet is a living piece of history from an era that still captivates the world. Its most subtle hallmark is its excellent craftsmanship, which gives it a silky feel as it glides along the wrist.
Los Angeles-based Diamond & Estate Trust offers this vintage piece of historic significance at $30,000. Diamond & Estate Trust may be contacted at 213-622-9700 or visifor more information.
Anup Jogani, 29, founder and CEO of Diamond & Estate Trust, hails from several generations of esteemed jewelers who have played a central role in the jewelry industries of Rangoon (Burma), Madras, Bombay and Delhi. A graduate of USC’s Marshall School of Business, Jogani spent hundreds of hours learning from master jewelers and diamond cutters before launching Diamond & Estate Trust. Although he started the business by importing from Lebanon and selling to friends and family, Jogani soon began seeking higher-quality, higher-value stones, leading him to acquire only the finest gems from around the world. He has developed master capabilities for recognizing, acquiring, and cutting the finest stones, with an expert ability to three-dimensionally visualize a stone’s characteristics. His passion for jewelry has led him to treasure hunt for jewels around the world, including saving forgotten estate pieces from pawnshops, estates, and other secondary sources.
How To Buy Best Vintage Jewelry
Purchasing a piece of stunning estate jewelry can overwhelm even the most discerning buyer. The key to choosing the perfect piece is to understand its history. Here are a few tips to ensure your vintage jewelry will embody high quality stone and design work.
1. Know what was vogue when the piece was created. If the piece displays the design trends of the time, it will likely hold higher value. But following the trend isn’t enough: Does the piece employ the trends of the time in a tasteful way? A good-quality design will never go out of style.
2. Determine the quality of the stones. If the stones are custom cut for the piece, how clean are the lines of the stone, and how well does the stone fit into the setting? In a quality setting, the stone will fit securely without wiggle room. When judging the outward appearance of a stone, keep in mind that a quality cut means light will pass through the top of the stone and back out through the top. Try to obtain documentation from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) for the larger single diamonds, which grades a stone or gem on cut, clarity, color and carat. The better the marks in each category, the more valuable the stone.
3. Check for signs of wear. Estate pieces are prized for their patina, or delicate wear that gives the item a sense of character. Well made estate pieces age very well, while all their workings will feel silky smooth and a joy to wear. Also look for signs of repair, especially poorly done work with heavy or improper carat solder. Broken stones, badly replaced stones and improper cleaning all greatly detract from the value.
4. Pay attention to signatures. If the piece bears a signature or is a certified designer piece, it likely will retain a higher value. Tiffany, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Cartier are all names to watch for in Art Deco jewelry.
5. Pick something with the wow factor. Unique pieces or ones with stunning stonework won’t just catch the eye of people around you. They will also help set your piece apart should you choose to sell it later. Also consider the feel of the piece. The silkier it feels in its movement, the better its craftsmanship.
Photos: Diamond & Estate Trust