Leonard Joel

Focus on Bangles at the Fine Jewellery Auction

Jewels 24 Jun 2013

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It would be too easy to rattle off the top ten, inevitably, diamond results that always dominate the sales in fine jewellery auctions – there is no doubt that they’re a girl’s best friend and they are timeless! But this time we’ll focus on something a little different and that is the bangle or that item of jewellery that is fixed in its construction rather than loosely connected like a bracelet. My late father, the jeweller Kurt Albrecht, once taught me that if one opened a hinged bangle and held it on right angles and both the hinge and bangle did not sag that this was the first sign of a quality bangle – one of my first little jewellery lessons. An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry (American spelling!) by Harold Newman, in my opinion the best short reference book on jewellery every produced (get a copy!), notes that the bangle (like so many simply designed items of jewellery) found its origins literally thousands of years ago and in its simplest “single-piece carved form” lent itself beautifully to the materials of glass, coral, amber, jade and the various precious metals of gold and silver.

57The hinged bangle was the natural technical extension of the earliest bangles and often their exquisite construction is a delight to observe. I don’t believe either that it is a coincidence that in early Australia, commissions and sales for the finest, more valuable bangles were few and far between and the quality of their construction was superb. Put simply, this was clearly a time (Victorian/Edwardian Australia) when jewellers were not rushed but the expectations were high. This culture of high quality craftsmanship is evident in lot 43 from our auction.

This beautifully constructed piece, complete with no less than three fixed but  separated gold lines, polished or concealed hinges and safety catch is in every aspect a precision piece of jewellery. With its hallmark “D. Bros” it is the tell tale sign that it is an Australian version of an English classic. Not surprising that it realised almost $5500 IBP. The bangle is also an interesting piece of design because by its very nature it often demands simplicity of design. It is after all often a simple thin or delicate design that can only take so much embellishment.

This is not to say that the Victorians (that period of jewellers) didn’t give it their best shot at extravagance but so often the bangle brings design back to basics. In my opinion this is why the appetite for antique and period bangles has not waned as they still work with the modern look. Another less valuable but no less lavish example is lot 49, the Australian seed pearl and opal bangle. And fast-forward to a “lavish modern” look with lot 84 and you will see how impactful diamonds, pave, white gold and fine construction can look.

This piece realised $6710 IBP and represented exceptionally good buying. And then there are those pieces that defy exact description. Take for instance lot 132, a delicate pearl and diamond piece that could have easily snuck its way on to The Great Gatsby set and never got noticed, that has the form of a bangle but the flexibility of a bracelet. Decorated with a floral diamond clasp this “little bit of Gatsby” realised the modest sum of just under $1600 (IBP) – a piece that could be worn with confidence at any cocktail event. So the next time you are shopping or searching for a bangle slow yourself down and reflect on its design, its history and its craftsmanship.

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