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Exceptional Jewels: The Wolf Family Collection 20 Apr 2023 • New York

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With the upcoming aution to take place at Sotheby’s New York, here’s everything you need to know about The Wolf Family Collection.

The collection reflects a lifetime of connoisseurship and an appreciation for rare, often one-of-a-kind designs. From inventive creations by René Boivin, Jean Schlumberger, and JAR to classic styles by Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, and Harry Winston. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the Collection is the extensive selection of Van Cleef & Arpels mystery-set jewels — one of the most impressive of its kind ever to appear at auction – with nine stunning examples from a variety of periods in sapphires and rubies.

Erving and Joy Wolf approached jewellery in just about the same way they did every category in their landmark collection. Acquiring it was something they enjoyed doing together, thoughtfully and with a sense of purpose. The Wolfs gravitated towards exquisite and iconic mid-20th century designs.

Erving and Joy focused their attention on signed pieces from important Houses. Top American jewelers—Harry Winston, David Webb and Tiffany & Co.—were among their favourites. A couple of JAR jewels, conceived by the American designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal who lives and works in Paris, are in the collection. There are many Van Cleef & Arpels jewels made in New York as well as pieces manufactured by the French firm in the City of Lights. Legendary Italian and French establishments including Bulgari, Cartier and René Boivin are represented. And French talent Jean Schlumberger, who became a byline designer at Tiffany in 1956, was a designer Erving and Joy admired and collected.

Nine mystery-set jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels form the centerpiece of the Wolf’s collection. Patented by the French firm in 1933, the mystery setting involves a masterful technique that makes it appear as though there is no metal holding the gems blanketing the surface of the jewel. In order to achieve the effect, not only does each gem have to be specially cut to size to fit in the design, they also have to be carefully grooved on the sides in order to slide on the hidden tracks in the setting. The most impressive mystery-set jewels have naturalistic curves like the two flower brooches in The Wolf Family Collection.

The small handful of all-diamond pieces in the collection reveal the essence of the design flair Erving and Joy sought. The boldness in the Dusausoy diamond and onyx clip brooch makes it easy to understand how the French jeweler walked off with a Grand Prix at the 1925 International Exposition in Paris that launched the Art Deco movement. The way various shapes of diamonds swing around the semi-circular Van Cleef & Arpels double clip brooch made in the mid-1930s infuse the statement piece with a sense of movement. A marvel of engineering, the over 35-carat diamond René Boivin fish-scale bracelet transforms into a dazzling openwork pattern when it is wrapped around the wrist. A superlative pair of Harry Winston marquise and pear shape diamond cluster earrings are in the selection as well as an exquisite almost 40-carat Van Cleef & Arpels diamond bracelet with emerald, marquise, bullet and baguette cuts forming a tapered ladder silhouette.

Among all her jewels, Joy’s favorite was a ruby and diamond strawberry brooch by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany. Sculptural and jubilant, the fruit brooch exemplifies the designer’s work. Round rubies give the strawberry texture. The 49-marquise shaped diamonds set in the long leaves curl and twist in a natural way. “I try to make everything look as if it were growing, uneven, at random, organic, in motion,” the designer once explained.

To find out more about the collection and the auction  Visit Sotheby’s



Source and images: Sotheby’s

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