Fine Jewellery at Toovey’s

A fine Ceylon sapphire and diamond set cluster ring
A fine Ceylon sapphire and diamond set cluster ring

There is some excitement in Toovey’s jewellery department as entries for their specialist auctions of Fine Jewellery on 2nd November 2022 continue to be received.

Amongst the star lots entered so far is a late 19th century necklace in the garland style set with emeralds, and old mine cut and rose cut diamonds.

As the 20th century approached the influence of Victorian tastes would continue but were reinterpreted in lighter more delicate styles.

France’s Belle Époque spanned from the late 19th century up until the start of the Great War in 1914. It was characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, scientific and technological advances and an era where the arts flourished influencing the tastes of other nations including our own.

Jewellery from the period combines opulence with graceful lines set with a variety of gems, often in the garland style which influenced the production of almost all jewellery houses in the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century. Louis Cartier was considered the master of the garland style. In the early years of the 20th century Cartier opened his shop in London. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries England’s wealth was at its height and demand for fine jewellery had never been higher.

These influences and the fashion for the garland style is clearly recognisable in the acanthus leaf scroll and floral garlands of this exceptional necklace. The fluidity of design embraces both the classical and rococo and the necklace caries a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

An early 20th century fine emerald and diamond and diamond set necklace in the garland style
An early 20th century fine emerald and diamond and diamond set necklace in the garland style

The Ceylon (Sri Lankan) sapphire and diamond set gold ring is another highlight of the sale. The ring is thought to have been acquired by the current owner’s mother in the 1930s when it seems likely it would have been made. The sapphire is described as transparent blue within a double border of circular cut diamonds. Sapphires from Sri Lanka are often still fondly referred to as Ceylon sapphires. These stones are celebrated for their luminosity and lively vivid blue colour which gifts them with such life and light. This beautiful ring carries a pre-sale estimate of £6000-£9000.

Sarah Harwood, of Toovey’s specialist jewellery department, is always pleased to offer advice whether you are interested in selling or acquiring jewellery, and entries are still being accepted for the Fine Jewellery auction on 2nd November 2022 and the Christmas Jewellery auction on 30th November 2022. Sarah can be contacted on 01903 891955 or at

Dame Vera Lynn Jewellery to be Sold in Aid of Charity

A number of pieces of Dame Vera Lynn’s jewellery are to be sold by auction in aid of charity at Toovey’s Washington salerooms in West Sussex on Wednesday 16th March 2022.

Over many years I have admired and supported Dame Vera Lynn and the the work of her Charitable Trust.

During the Second World War Dame Vera was known as the Forces Sweetheart, a singer of undoubtable talent she became an icon of hope in the face of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of the Second World War.

In recent days there has been an almost tangible, sharp, intake of breath across a world shocked by Vladimir Putin’s actions. Against the backdrop of courageous protests in his own country Putin has brought his will and the Russian military machine to bear on Ukraine and her people waging war in Europe.

Dame Vera Lynn was always outward facing and generous using her gifts to make a difference to people’s lives, especially in the communities she was passionate about – those who served their country bravely in our Armed Forces, children with disabilities, and of course more recently those she described as ‘the silent soldiers’ in our marvellous NHS. It was a generous example.

It is that ability to press on, to do what is right in the service of others where we stand that gives dignity and purpose to our lives whether our inspiration is sacred or secular. And the more of us who actively choose this path the more evil is pushed back and hope is restored.

Dame Vera Lynn’s large diamond set heart shaped pendant locket being sold to benefit the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust

The heart remains one of the definitive symbols of love and amongst the items entered for sale from the collection is a large late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket pavé set with old cut diamonds. It was during the Victorian period that the popularity of heart shaped jewellery really reached its heights influenced by the tastes of Queen Victoria. Dame Vera’s locket is a fine example. The smaller diamonds accentuate the principle stone at its centre within a shimmering field. The back is glazed and hinged with a locket compartment. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £7000-£10000.

Alongside the pendant locket are a number of rings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches from her collection.

Dame Vera Lynn and her husband Harry Lewis

Speaking to Vera Lynn’s daughter, Ginny, about the sale she said “Mummy’s jewellery reflected points of love in her life. Her charitable work was very precious to her too, so it is very fitting that the pieces of jewellery we have entered for auction at Toovey’s will benefit the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust.” Through her life, work and the legacy of the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust Vera Lynn remains an icon of hope.

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Jewellery: A Valentine’s Expression of Love

This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day and thoughts will have turned to jewellery as an expression of love.

Amongst current must have jewels are brooches. Over many years brooches fell from fashion but in recent times they have enjoyed a remarkable revival with rising demand and prices.

All the brooches here were sold at Toovey’s and entries are still being accepted for the next sale of fine jewellery on 16th March 2022.

My favourite of all the brooches I have seen in recent times was the beautifully contrived varicoloured, naturalistic pearl and diamond vine leaf spray brooch which made £4200. Pearls and half pearls became highly prized for their delicate sheen which perfectly suited the pale colours and the soft silks of the dresses of the 1890s. The fashion for pearls was widespread across Europe and women wore brooches with pearls and sprays of diamonds in various designs.

In the second half of the 19th century the jewellery industry flourished in England. Queen Victoria became an important influence on fashion. Her jewels, in particular, were carefully copied by the Court and broader Victorian society. Intimate, sentimental jewellery was greatly favoured and worn in abundance.

From the 1860s through to the 1880s the fashion for Greek, Etruscan, and Egyptian art influenced jewellery production not only in shape but also in design. Engraving and tracing disappeared in favour of contrasts between shiny and matt surfaces encrusted with filigree and granulation as can be seen in the decoration of the oval, gold brooch with its central scarab beetle motif in the Egyptian taste. It realised £1300.

From the 1860s stars were amongst the most common decorative motifs. Many lockets, brooches and bracelets had a pearl, diamond or enamel star at their centre as can be seen in the classical revival turquoise enamel and diamond set brooch which fetched £2400.

In the 1890s ladies’ fashion changed and sought to enhance rather than alter a woman’s natural figure. This new fashion brought with it yards of flimsy materials such as laces and tulle, draped and ruched on the bodice. Jewellery, and brooches in particular, had to adapt to the new fashion and became lighter and smaller as a result. Small, light, diamond set star brooches appeared in large numbers to decorate the bodices of fashionable women like the one seen here which sold for £2400.

Brooches are again at the height of fashion and jewellery is a booming area for collectors, and of course remains an expression of love at Valentines.

The Art of Victorian Jewellery

A Victorian gold, diamond set brooch of floral and foliate spray design, circa 1880

From the mid-19th century an increasingly affluent middle class combined with a growing supply of gold and precious metals from California and Australia creating an explosion in demand for jewellery.

From the 1840s the classical world, Renaissance and the natural world continued to inspire jewellery designs which evolved to adorn the fashion of the times.

A mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo, circa 1860

The small mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch is by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo. Melillo trained in the workshop of Alessandro Castellani. The Castellani workshop was famous for its copies of ancient jewellery. An inch in diameter this brooch was modelled on a typically classical design and realised £2200 at Toovey’s.

A Victorian gold and coral pendant brooch, circa 1860

From the 1860s, influenced by the fashion for décolletage neck lines, many brooches changed from horizontal to vertical axis designs. Coral was particularly fashionable between 1845 and 1865. The Victorian gold and pendant brooch measures some 3 ¼ inches. It, too, is classically inspired with its vertical design, classical amphora pendant drop and delicate applied wire work.

In contrast to the earlier corsets and crinolines from the late 19th century women’s fashion sought to enhance rather than alter the wearer’s figure employing softer materials. As a consequence brooches became smaller and lighter.

The Romantic Movement of the 1840s had stimulated designs in the forms of flowers and foliage. These designs remained popular throughout the second half of the 19th century. The late Victorian diamond set brooch is a typical example with its beautifully conceived scrolls. You can imagine it moving in a spring breeze as the light moves across the diamonds. It measured 2 ¼ inches.

Late 19th century Fin de siècle brooches of smaller, delicate design became popular. They were worn pinned to the lace and tulle draped around the décolletage. It did not matter whether the brooches matched, the fashion was for wearing numerous brooches at the same time.

A Victorian diamond and half pearl set pendant star brooch, circa 188

The late Victorian gold, diamond and half pearl set pendant brooch with its detachable brooch fitting measured just 1 ¾ inches. Its delicate design and scale is characteristic of the late 19th century.

Jewellery at its best adds to the beauty of the wearer and speaks across generations of love and precious moments in our human lives. These examples sold for £700, £1000 and £550 respectively. The appeal of jewellery is timeless.

Online has been an incredible blessing in these times with strong interest and prices for jewellery and across all the specialist auctions throughout lockdown. But nothing beats real life human encounters and we are now excitedly making preparations so that, ‘R’ number willing, we will be able to welcome you once again at the salerooms for valuations and auctions from the 12th April by appointment. Until then I look forward to seeing you for valuations online and at your homes.

The Timeless Appeal of Jewellery

An Art Deco platinum, collet set diamond ring, circa 1925

Over millennia jewellery has held a fascination for humankind bringing together timeless gems, the skill of the craftsman and the beauty of the jewel. Jewellery often marks important moments in our lives and the procession of history. It evolves to the delight of successive generations.

Jewellery designs from earlier periods have always been reinterpreted and adapted over the centuries with collectors prepared to pay a premium for original pieces. Alongside date and the quality of the stones the essential ingredients are the eye of the designer and the skill of the maker.

In the first decades of the 21st century mainstream taste has gravitated towards restrained clean lines.

These same qualities can be found in the Art Deco. Art Deco was a fashionable style in the inter-war years of the 20th century. It co-existed with machine age styles and modernism with clean lines and geometric designs in contrast to the Art Nouveau which preceded it.

The platinum ring you see here is a beautiful example of period, Art Deco jewellery. It dates from around 1925. It is collet set with a 3.5 carat old cut cushioned shaped principal diamond within a surround of smaller cushion shaped diamonds. It was sold at Toovey’s for £10,000.

A delicate, gold, diamond and ruby brooch, circa 1900, designed as a basket of flowers, with variously cut vari-coloured diamond flowers

Today there is also an interest in older antique styles like the delicate, gold, diamond and ruby brooch illustrated. The brooch dates from the late 19th century. Designed as a flower filled basket it is set with variously cut, vari-coloured diamond flowers and a band of calibre cut rubies. Just over 2 inches wide it made £3000 at Toovey’s.

The late Victorian period was characterized by fashionable women reacting against the technical progress in the mechanised production of jewellery for the masses, and the excess decoration of high Victorian designs. Their tastes favoured delicate jewels with understated fine gems and diamonds. Naturalistic designs like this remained popular from the 1840s onwards. Bees, insects and flowers were popular motifs.

In contrast to the earlier corsets and crinolines from the 1890s women’s fashion sought to enhance rather than alter the wearer’s figure employing softer materials. As a consequence brooches, like the flower filled basket, became smaller and lighter.

As these two contrasting pieces demonstrate it is not always just the stones that make a piece valuable. The setting, date and design can be as important. Provenance too influences price. If a jewel has been owned by a respected collector or celebrity it will often add value.

Jewellery at its best adds to the beauty of the wearer and speaks across generations of love and precious moments in our human lives. The appeal of jewellery is timeless.