An interview with Carole Gordon, Head of the Jewellery Department at Bonhams Knightsbridge

by Reema Farooqui

The Knightsbridge Jewels Online auction is currently live at Bonhams International Auction House, featuring beautiful jewelry pieces from Cartier, Graff, Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari to name a few.

Located in London’s fashionable Knightsbridge area, right across from Harrods, Bonhams Knightsbridge saleroom holds nine jewelry auctions every year, making it the UK leader in mid-market jewelry sales.

Carole Gordon is the Head of the Jewellery Department at Bonham Knightsbridge. Carole previously worked at the British Gemmological Association (Gem-A) as a laboratory diamond grader and gemmology tutor, before joining Bonhams in 2011.

Recently, I got a chance to interview Carole and ask her a few questions about the appeal of acquiring jewelry at auctions, which jewelry houses and brands to look out for at auctions and of course, what her favourite jewelry pieces among those which had come up for auction at Bonhams in.

Pearls have been the favourite gemstone of monarchs, society figures and jewellery collectors.  What, in your opinion, underlies the enduring appeal of pearls?

Pearls are timeless,  beautiful and elegant. Prior to the 1920s all pearls were natural and historically rarer and more valuable than diamonds. The addition  of a piece of pearl jewellery will enhance any outfit. Jackie Kennedy once  summed it up when she said “pearls are always appropriate”.

Why should a buyer consider buying a pearl jewellery piece crafted by one of the big jewellery houses, such as Cartier, Tiffany &Co. or Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few, at auction?

These global “heritage” brands are famous for producing some of the most innovative, and  beautifully crafted jewels featuring both natural and cultured pearls. Vintage pieces from the 20th century  are particularly collectable and regularly offered in our auctions.

A Pair of Fancy Coloured Diamond, Diamond and Cultured Pearl Earrings By Cartier
Fancy intense pink cushion shaped diamonds, each suspending a drop-shaped cultured pearl and a brilliant-cut diamond, mounted in 18K white gold, signed Cartier. Image Courtesy Bonhams 1793

Jewellery with natural pearls, very rare and usually antique pieces, often come up for auction. For a novice buyer at auctions, what recommendations would you make as far as buying natural pearl jewellery is concerned?

If you are considering buying a piece of natural pearl jewellery, make sure that the piece you are  interested in is accompanied by a certificate from a recognised laboratory confirming that the pearl/pearls are natural, and also whether the pearls are saltwater or freshwater. This is important because there may be a substantial difference in price. Then it’s a case of assessing quality. There are generally six things to  consider when assessing pearls, these are colour, size, shape, lustre, surface quality and, if a necklace or a piece of jewellery with multiple pearls, how well the pearls match. A Bonhams specialist will always be able to help buyers with this, but we recommend that buyers always do their own assessment and trust their instincts. I think the main thing is that you want to really love and wear the pearls you purchase.

A Multi-Coloured Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace.
The necklace is designed as a graduated series of bouton-shaped natural pearls of various body colours, interspersed with old brilliant-cut diamonds. Image Courtesy Bonhams 1793

Do you have a favourite pearl jewellery piece that has come up for auction at Bonhams? If so, what was it and why is it your favourite?

A favourite was a pair of South Sea Pearl and Fancy Intense Purplish pink diamond earrings by Cartier which sold at Bonhams in 2017 for £156,250 incl premium . Pearl and diamond is a classic combination,  but the use of purplish pink diamonds by Cartier in these earrings  made them extra special.

Another favourite is a multi-coloured natural pearl necklace which Bonhams  sold in Dec 2019 for £35,062 incl premium. This piece demonstrated  beautifully,  the wide variety of hues and  colours to be found in natural pearls.

Thank you Carole for answering my questions. I really appreciate it. Wishing you all the best for the current Knightsbridge Jewels Auction in London.

To access the auction, please follow the link: Bonhams Knightsbridge Jewels Online

Featured Image: Lot 4, Cultured Pearl Necklace with Diamond and Sapphire Clasp, Bonhams Knightsbridge Jewels Auction, June 10th to June 23rd, 2020.

All images used in this post are the property of Bonhams 1793. Any person or organization not affiliated with Bonhams 1793 may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of Bonhams 1793.

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