Bonhams Los Angeles’ Once in a Lifetime Jewellery Sale

by Reema Farooqui

 On July 20th, some exceptional jewellery pieces will be going under the hammer at Bonhams Los Angeles, and I’m not using the word “exceptional” lightly at all. On offer at this mid-July sale are a selection of jewels that were formerly in the collection of Sammy Davis Jr. as well as some very rare pieces made by 20th Century modernist jewellery great, Art Smith.

The headline pieces of this sale are undoubtedly the five 1970s jewels that were once in the collection of Sammy Davis Jr. One of the most recognised stars of the entertainment world, with a career spanning 60 years, Sammy Davis Jr. wasn’t just called “the world’s greatest entertainer,” he was! To see and to bid on these pieces is a special treat for his scores of fans and for jewellery lovers alike. In a way, these jewels also showcase a small but bright sliver of the jewellery trends of the 1970s. As expected, all five jewels are very striking! But the two diamond rings (Lot 457 and Lot 460) are extraordinary and speak volumes about the jewellery taste of the late star. Lot 457 is an 18k gold, fancy brown diamond and diamond ring and it has presence. The 10.75 carat yellow-brown diamond is extraordinary. Set in yellow gold, the diamond dazzles. The other diamond ring from this selection, Lot 460, is an octagonal-shaped modified brilliant solitaire, flush set in a wide-shanked ring. Both rings ooze style and tons of character. (Lot 457, 18-Karat Gold, Fancy Brown Diamond and Diamond Ring, Estimate: $7,000-9,000 USD; )

Sammy Davis Jr. was a huge talent and an icon of style. We are thrilled to be offering a selection of jewels that were worn and enjoyed by this groundbreaking entertainer.”

Emily Waterfall, Head of Jewellery, Bonhams Los Angeles

On a completely different aesthetic plane are the five pieces by Art Smith (and one attributed to him), also coming up for sale at this auction. While Art Smith was known for his surrealist jewellery designs, the pieces in this curation have a dynamism and sculptural quality that hints at immense emotional depth. This could very well be because they come from the private collection of a family who knew Art very closely, having lived in the same Greenwich Village neighbourhood as him, in the late 1940s, early 1950s. While all the pieces from this collection are worth looking into, there are two jewels that stood out. Lot 82, is a sterling silver and moonstone necklace that really moved me. This piece transcends description, it has to be seen to be understood. What it emotes is elegant sensuality, so difficult to capture and done almost effortlessly in this piece. The other piece is Lot 81, an opal bead and 18k gold ring, which to my eyes is fluidity captured in gems and precious metal. This piece is not signed but attributed to Art Smith. What’s fascinating about this ring is how it captures movement and flow (in precious metal) in a heartbreakingly lovely way. Set with a single opal bead which looks like an iridescent drop of water suspended between the curves of gold, this ring again defies description. As unique as this ring is in its own right, the fact that it’s an Art Smith piece made in 18k gold makes it doubly interesting. Art worked mainly in copper, brass and sterling silver. He rarely worked with gold. To find a gold ring made by Art Smith is like coming upon an incredible treasure. While both the pieces reflect the aesthetic preferences of the private collector, they are incredible examples of the brilliance and creativity of Art Smith. (Lot 82, Sterling Silver and Moonstone Necklace, Circa 1950, Art Smith, Estimate $4,000-$6,000 USD ; Lot 81, 18K Gold and Opal Bead Ring, Circa 1950, Attributed to Art Smith, Estimate $2,000-$3,000USD)

No auction browse is complete for me without looking into the pearl jewellery lots and this sale promises both variety and excellent quality in this regard. There is a panoply of pearl rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets, each lovelier than the other, but there are two pearl jewellery lots that I found myself really drawn towards. Lot 111 is a freshwater pearl, diamond, 18k gold and platinum ring signed by Ruser, while Lot 110 consists of a pair of freshwater pearl, diamond and 18k gold earrings, attributed to Ruser, but not signed by him. William Ruser was another great 20th century jeweller. His use of oddly shaped American freshwater pearls in highly figural and sculptural jewellery pieces made him the favourite of so many Hollywood stars in the 1950s and 1960s. Lots 110 and 111 are quintessentially Ruser and the stamp of his work can clearly be seen in the brilliant use of baroque freshwater pearls here. (Lot 110, A Pair of Baroque Pearls and Diamond Ear Clips, Attributed to Ruser, Estimate $500-$600 ; Lot 111, 18K Gold, Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Ring, Ruser, Estimate $800-$1,200)

While it is always a treat to browse Bonhams’ California Jewels sale catalogues, this mid-July sale is particularly special. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I urge you to book an appointment for an in person preview (which is open through Monday July 19th). If, not, please do visit their website and have fun looking at the beautiful jewels in this curation. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Also, you can contact Emily Waterfall, head of Jewellery at Bonhams Los Angeles @waterfallatauction to get more information about the jewellery pieces you are interested in. The auction starts on Tuesday, July 20th at 10 am PST.

Featured Image: 18K Gold, Cultured Pearl and Star Ruby Cuff Bracelet and Earrings, Estimate $ 3,000-$4,000 USD

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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