We are thrilled to welcome Hamish Sharma to the team as the Head of Important Jewels, an exciting new department at Leonard Joel. Based in our Sydney saleroom, Hamish will curate and present three Important Jewels auctions annually, focusing on exceptional diamonds and coloured gemstones, along with signed jewels from iconic international design houses.

We sit down with Australia’s most credentialed auction jewellery expert to find out more about where his fascination and passion for jewellery began and learn about his plans for this new category at Leonard Joel.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in auctions and jewels.
My love of jewellery began at a very early age, whilst rummaging through my mother’s trinket box and as a child following her around countless jewellery stores in Delhi. My career in jewels began in retail sales in New Zealand following on from which I studied gemmology, leading me into jewellery design. I would travel frequently to the gemstone cutting centres of Mumbai, Jaipur and Bangkok, sourcing diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. As a trader in antique jewellery through leading international auction houses in Geneva, London, and New York, I developed a thorough understanding of the auction industry and was appointed Head of Jewels of Sotheby’s Australia in 2010. My personal journey has evolved from looking at jewels solely from a value centric perspective to an admiration and appreciation for design led jewels as works of precious, wearable art.

Could you tell us about what you are looking for as you consign for Leonard Joel’s new Important Jewels auctions?
As a jeweller, as I am feeling the jewel and turning it around, I am looking at value; that is, how rare and exceptional the gemstones are. Then I’m looking at the design, the quality of the workmanship and the finish. As an auctioneer, I then turn to the jewel’s provenance and the story the jewel is concealing. Since jewellery is associated with love and the celebration of milestones along the journey of life, I try to flesh out this context, to find the human-interest story. At a commercial level, I am looking for jewels that are fresh to market and have not been seen before in an auction setting.

Is there one especially memorable piece of jewellery that has passed through your hands over the years?
I have been involved in the curation and auction of many exceptional jewels, however, one of my most memorable experiences relates to the discovery in March 2019 of a unique and rare Cartier Egyptian inspired jewel from the 1920s. Sifting through the client’s jewellery box, nestled at the bottom I spotted an open work white metal plaque centring an Egyptian lotus vase motif decorated  with pear-shaped, rose-cut and old mine-cut diamonds between calibré-cut onyx, framed by a similarly set architectural surround, centred on a later Van Cleef & Arpels three strand pearl collar. On louping the centrepiece, I identified the pendant/brooch as a rare work by Jacques Cartier from the London workshop. Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922 ushered in a wave of Egyptomania in Europe and across the Atlantic, and the motifs informed the fashion, parties, and theatre of the day. In his timeless designs, Jacques Cartier maintained the integrity of the ancient styles whilst updating the motifs for modern audiences. I auctioned this piece in May 2019. It attracted a lot of international bidding and sold for $95,000, triple the lower estimate.

Is there any advice you would give to a person looking for their next investment piece?
Practically, it is very important that a buyer seeks out an auctioneer that they can relate to and trust, with experience across the fields of diamond and gemstone buying, a familiarity of jewellery manufacturing for evaluating quality and condition, and the ability to determine the integrity and authenticity of an item.
More personally, I encourage buyers to explore their own style. Today’s fashion frames antique jewellery perfectly; you only need one piece as a wonderful spotlight to define your style and individuality.

Hamish is now consigning for Important Jewels, and will present his first auction at Leonard Joel Sydney on 26 August.