We are thrilled to welcome Patricia Kontos, formerly of Sotheby’s Melbourne,
to Leonard Joel’s Fine Jewels & Timepieces team. Keep on reading to get to know
our new Senior Specialist…
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in auctions and jewellery.
I have had a lifelong interest in art and design and began in this industry after completing my arts degree at Melbourne University, majoring in Fine Art. I had no particular bent towards jewellery but upon joining Sotheby’s, there was an opportunity to grow a neglected jewellery department. I negotiated that Sotheby’s would pay for my gemmology diploma, but only if I passed, the pressure was on! I did pass, thankfully, and next came the course in jewellery style and work experience at Sotheby’s London. By now, I was hooked on jewellery. It’s hardly surprising as I had never before been exposed to this international level of jewellery collecting, or the magnificent jewels held in London institutions. Keep in mind, this was all pre-internet and completely new to me; it was a visual assault on the senses. I cemented my knowledge of jewellery for the next nine years through hands-on experience at Sotheby’s, but I began to feel restless and although I knew I did not want to leave this industry, I felt all that glittered was no longer gold in my eyes at that time. A position arose with Christie’s, and I moved to take a position in the paintings department. It was a refreshing role, though unfortunately short lived, as Christie’s pulled out of Australia. I was subsequently offered a jewellery role at Bonhams and Butterfileds in San Francisco but declined the offer to stay on as Christie’s representative in Melbourne. It wasn’t long before the lure of jewellery drew me back to a role of Senior Specialist with Sotheby’s Australia, and again after nine years, the time was right to move onto a new chapter and accept a position in jewellery with the vibrant team at Leonard Joel.
Who is your favourite jewellery designer or maker?
It’s a tie between Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels – toss a coin. Cartier’s Tutti Frutti jewels vs Van Cleef’s pièce de résistance of invisibly set jewels, these Parisian jewellers have pushed the craft throughout the 20th Century beyond the bounds of jewellery to produce miniature works of art.
What is a famous piece of jewellery, from any point in history, that you would have loved to handle?
From Cleopatra’s diadem to a natural pearl pendant given to Marie Antoinette, or a necklace possibly belonging to Anne Frank, every piece of jewellery has a story to tell, a mood to evoke, a status to signify, or an occasion to celebrate. All of this offers an insight into the lives of the people who owned these pieces. Seeing as the Royal Family is quite topical at the moment, I would have loved to have handled the collection of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, including the ingenious Cartier panther jewels. Alone, the pieces have inherent beauty and ingenuity, but they are also a product of a romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain, which imbue them with a historical and very personal dimension.
What advice would you give to people when it comes to buying jewellery?
The old adage of buy what you love holds true; ultimately, jewellery is so personal. Keep in mind that as tastes change, lifestyles alter, and trends appear only to vanish months later, err on the side of the well-crafted with an element of design that will go the distance. Wear what you love with confidence because jewellery really does have a transformative and intoxicating power. Jewellery will always hold a role in civilisations across time, and in some diluted way every time we buy a jewel, we invoke the power of jewellery through ages past. And of course, buy at auction.
PATRICIA KONTOS / Senior Jewellery Specialist