Aline Sylla-Walbaum

During the Dubai Watch Week 2019, the WATCHESPEDIA team had the amazing opportunity to interview Aline Sylla-Walbaum, Global Managing Director of Luxury at Christie’s.

Aline Sylla-Walbaum is Global Managing Director of Luxury at Christie’s, overseeing the international Wine, Jewellery, Watch and Handbag teams. Auction and private sales in these categories are held in New York, London, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, Dubai and online.

Full interview with Aline Sylla-Walbaum:

Previously she had worked as Managing Director of Christie’s France from 2012 and 2014, and as Director of External Affairs and Strategy at Unibail-Rodamco SE, where she sat on the Management Board. She served as cultural and communications advisor to the office of the French Prime Minister from 2007 to 2008 and from 2002-2007 was Director of Cultural Development at the Louvre Museum. Away from work Aline is a Director of Lagardère Group.

Aline Sylla-Walbaum was a speaker at Dubai Watch Week’s Horology Forum:

  1. Luxury Time Travel (Nov. 21, 2019)
  2. Six ways from certified and the wisdom to know your place (Nov. 21, 2019)
LOT 111 _ DRAGON Five

Moritz Grossmann auctions twelve special models with Christie’s.
Dresden artists combine Schönstes deutsches Handwerk with the ancient culture of Chinese astrology.

• The independent watch manufactory Moritz Grossmann is pleased to announce a partnership with Christie’s
• A selection of handmade special models in the form of one-off pieces will be auctioned together with Christie’s in an online auction from 18 November – 2 December 2019
• The collection is aimed at lovers of independent brands who want to experience Schönstes deutsches Handwerk in conjunction with ancient culture of Chinese astrology
• Regional artists from Dresden have put their personal interpretations of Chinese zodiac signs onto canvas. Their works have been painted onto the fine dials by a miniaturist using the finest drawing techniques. These works of art will be auctioned together with the watches.
• As an expression of its links to the Saxony region, Grossmann Uhren GmbH will donate a portion of the proceeds to a regional aid organisation from Dresden

The upscale Glashütte watch manufactory Moritz Grossmann was founded by Christine Hutter using the name of the famous Glashütte watch pioneer in 2008. The watches by the Saxon watch genius and initiator of the German School of Watchmaking (1878), Moritz Grossmann, are reflections of modern thinking in the form of classic, yet contemporary design and perfect mechanics. Moritz Grossmann manufactures timepieces to the highest standard of craftsmanship. The watches are unique in their beautiful finish and manual hand production. The manufactory represents Schönstes deutsches Handwerk combined with great history and Saxon watchmaking tradition.

Inspired by the ancient Chinese art of reading the stars, Moritz Grossmann will auction twelve one-off pieces this year, each of which artistically showcases one of the Chinese zodiac signs. The manufactory, which is located near Dresden, thus creates the perfect link between Schönstes deutsches Handwerk – made in Germany – and traditional Chinese culture.

As a homage to the Saxon watchmaking tradition in Glashütte and to celebrate free art, the fine timepieces will be auctioned together with the paintings by Dresden artists. The artists put their own personal interpretations of Chinese zodiac signs onto canvas. Their works of art were then painted onto the fine dials of the Moritz Grossmann timepieces by a miniaturist with the finest attention to detail.

Collection and highlight piece

A selected unique piece in a fine case made from 750/000 rose gold was manufactured as the highlight piece of the collection. RAT One is all about the year 2020, the year of the rat in Chinese astrology. The one-off piece celebrates the rat, which is the first of the Chinese zodiac signs. In Chinese astrology, the rat is seen as highly intelligent with foresight and a keen sense of its environment.
All other models are presented in fine stainless steel cases.

The whole collection was manufactured in High Artistic Finish with the calibre 100.1. The movement is visible though the generous transparent back made of sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on one side. The pillar movement with well-proportioned components made of untreated German silver with various finishes forms different levels. On the characteristic 2/3 plate with broad horizontal ribbing, the signet is engraved by hand. The Grossmann balance is visible in the curved plate cut-out and is borne by the cantelevered, hand-engraved balance cock with the typical fine micrometer screw.

LOT 107 _ RAT One

One-off piece made from rose gold, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Laura Heyne. Including original painting of the artist.

Intelligent, beautiful and faithful – the artist sees these qualities in the rat. Thanks to her personal love of rats, the choice of motif was not too difficult. She herself used to keep a rat as a pet and learned to love these qualities. By arranging several rats in a circle, the artist symbolises the good social behaviour of the animals and expresses their beauty through the flowers.

In Chinese mythology, the rat symbolises intelligence and foresight as well as exaggerated passion and unscrupulousness. In the emotional realm, rats are characterised above all by sensitivity and keen intuition, but they often hide their feelings and show their feelings only in a very restrained way.

The hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, are annealed over an open flame in the typical Moritz Grossmann brown-violet colour and harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 108 _ OX Two

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Tony Käseberg. Including original painting of the artist.

The side view of the ox shows off the animal in all its glory. With his sketch style, the artist breaks up the familiar grid of a detailed drawing and gives the motif a ‘wild’ touch. The increasingly intense colour gradient shows the tonicity of the ox, which increases from the legs to the horns.

In line with its second position in the Chinese zodiac, the ox’s self-confident gaze is directed towards 2 o’clock.

The ox is very hard-working, reliable, ambitious and determined. Oxes are extremely honest and sincere. Oxes work tenaciously and with a lot of patience until they reach their goal. But first they have to draw up an exact plan.

The polished stainless steel hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 109 _ TIGER Three

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Jaroslava Werstler. Including original painting of the artist.

The artist chose the tiger as her motif because it is a very strong, lively and energetic animal. It has the strength and courage of a predator on the one hand and the exotic beauty of a wildcat on the other. The tiger does not sit around and wait – it searches, looks ahead, communicates.

The artist painted the tiger as a moving entity and chose strong colours for her picture. Instead of a simple graphic, the artist opted for a detailed painting with acrylic paints on canvas in order to honour the upmarket appearance of Grossmann’s timepieces.

People under the sign of the tiger are considered passionate, daring and combative. They are full of energy and accept the challenge to achieve their goals with enthusiasm and a large portion of optimism. They love variety and adventure.

The polished stainless steel hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, form a calm contrast to the colourfully painted dial in solid silver.

LOT 110 _ RABBIT Four

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Julie Pietschmann. Including original painting of the artist.

Rabbits enjoy calmness and represent a peaceful life. But rabbits also love luxury. The artist has tried to bring the grace, the friendly nature and the longevity of the rabbit to the canvas using acrylic colours. Delicate gold leaf paper on the dial rim symbolises the rabbit’s penchant for luxury.

Rabbits tend to be gentle and calm as well as elegant and vigilant, friendly, patient and particularly responsible. Generally speaking, people who are born under the zodiac sign of the rabbit have a very kind character. The rabbit embodies grace, feeling and longevity. It is a tactful master of life and a sensitive lover of beauty.

The hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, are annealed over an open flame in the brown-violet hue typical for Moritz Grossmann and harmonise with the mother-of-pearl dial in a white grey shade.

LOT 111 _ DRAGON Five

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Christiane Schneider. Including original painting of the artist.

The dragon is a mystical and imaginative animal and triggers fear and fascination at the same time. This is exactly what the artist finds exciting and impressive about them. The status of the dragon in the dragon world is determined by the colour of its skin. The yellow dragon is the most important of all and radiates power and strength. The luminosity of the yellow hue is emphasised even more by the acrylic colours.

The dragon of the Chinese zodiac stands for luck and authority. People who were born in the year of the dragon are often natural leaders who sweep others in their environment away on a tide of enthusiasm. They are full of energy and zest for action. The dragon firmly believes in happiness and does not shy away from any challenge.

The polished stainless steel hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, form a calm contrast to the expressive dial in solid silver.

LOT 112 _ SNAKE Six

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Tony Käseberg. Including original painting of the artist.

In a graceful wave movement the snake meanders through flowering orchids and green plants. In the Chinese horoscope, the orchid is considered a ‘lucky flower’. The snake fascinates the artist as it enjoys the reputation of being mysterious, unfathomable and very wise. With the connection to nature, the artist wants to express inner peace and relaxation as well as liveliness and freshness at the same time.

The snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese zodiac. Accordingly, its gaze is directed towards 6 o’clock in the painting. Using acrylic colours as well as a sponge and a dab technique, the artist was able to realise the colour gradients well.

People born under the sign of the snake seem puzzling and mysterious. They are difficult to read, do not like to show their feelings and prefer to act in secret. Even if they are emotionally agitated, they still appear calm and cool to the viewer. Snakes are also considered very sensitive, thoughtful and like to pursue philosophical questions. And what you might not have suspected: they actually have a good sense of humour.

The hands, which were handcrafted in the manufactory and annealed over an open flame in a brown-violet hue, harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 113 _ HORSE Seven

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Caroline Kortrijk. Including original painting of the artist.

Even as a child, the artist loved to draw horses most of all as she loved their grace and beauty. For her, horses are elegant and powerful, yet good-natured and peaceful.

With the wild, smooth application of colour, the artist aims to express the activity and liveliness of the horse. The green colour in the picture and the calla lily in the horse’s mouth are intended to bring happiness to this sign of the zodiac.

People born under the sign of the horse are exceptionally agile, mentally as well as physically. They love to be on the move, are usually sporty and never miss a chance to travel. Everything new and unknown must be seen and experienced. At the same time, the horse is compassionate and likes to help others.

The polished stainless steel hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 114 _ GOAT Eight

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Svetlana Hantusch. Including original painting of the artist.

Home and family are important components of life. The artist is originally from Russia, where her family still lives. In order to feel a little closer to her loved ones, she decided to paint her father’s zodiac sign – the goat. The colour blue particularly stands out in the picture. With this, the artist wants to express the introversion as well as the strength and wisdom of the goat.

Gentle, profound, patient – the goat is one of the most empathetic and sensitive signs of the zodiac. They have a deep and sincere need to listen to their fellow human beings and give them a feeling of security and understanding. But they also have passion and intelligence.

The hands, which were handcrafted in the manufactory and annealed over an open flame in a brown-violet hue, harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 115 _ MONKEY Nine

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Martina Hanzsch. Including original painting of the artist.

Spontaneity and creativity go very well together. The artist behind this picture spontaneously came up with an idea for the monkey zodiac sign in her head and immediately started to realise it. She was inspired by an artist who shapes pressed blossoms into faces. They are intended to express the calm and clarity, but also the curiosity of the monkey. For a few days she dried and pressed leaves from the delicate fern plant in her own garden, which she then arranged and glued onto the canvas to form an imaginative silhouette.

Monkeys have a large circle of friends in the Chinese zodiac. In the animal kingdom the monkey stands out thanks to exceptional intelligence and astuteness. Its spiritual alertness and curiosity bring it much admiration. People born under the zodiac sign of the monkey appear self-confident and at peace with themselves.

The hands, which were handcrafted in the manufactory and annealed over an open flame in a brown-violet hue, harmonise with the solid silver dial.


One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Caroline Kortrijk. Including original painting of the artist.

The proud rooster wants to be radiant and stride ahead self-confidently. The deep blue and the bright orange as complementary colours give the rooster a lively and expressive look. The artist was inspired to produce the curved lines and shapes by traditional rustic-style farmers’ paintings. She was introduced to these by her grandmother.

People born under the sign of the rooster are supposed to be very attentive. They are characterised by diligence, ingenuity, courage and talent as well as a certain self-confidence. They love being the centre of attention, are always active, cheerful and popular with other people.

The polished stainless steel hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, harmonise with the solid silver dial.

LOT 117 _ DOG Eleven

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Timo Miura. Including original painting of the artist.

The dog fascinated the artist right from the beginning because of its positive qualities and charming character. In his artistic design, the joyful and happy dog forgets time as he swims across the thundering river at dusk. Only his head and tail protrude from the water.

The irony of the story of the dog, which reaches the finish line in eleventh place due to its playfulness despite the fact that it is a very good swimmer, moved the artist.

People born under the sign of the dog are considered friendly and lovable. They prefer to move in a familiar circle and with people who mean something to them. The dog is a good listener and vigilant but also closed and can be very stubborn at the same time. The dog prefers to rely on loyal friends and family. If it can help other people, that makes it happy.

The hands, manually crafted in the manufactory, are annealed by hand in a brown-violet shade.

LOT 118 _ PIG Twelve

One-off piece made from stainless steel, hand-painted as a miniature drawing according to the artistic design of Laura Heyne. Including original painting of the artist.

2019 is the year of the pig. For the artist, the pig is her personal symbol of happiness and so she was quick to choose which motif she wanted to draw. With an artistic idea in her head, she immediately set about realising it. The artist worked with a stencil and spray technique. With targeted splashes of paint she gives the picture movement and depth.

The pig is a symbol of happiness and wealth. It is the optimist among all the signs of the zodiac. The pig makes the most of the conditions and sees a ray of hope even in the darkest storm. But despite all its frugality, the pig also knows what is good and enjoys its life to the full.

The hands, handcrafted in the manufactory, are annealed over an open flame in the typical Moritz Grossmann brown-violet colour and harmonise with the colours of the solid silver dial.

The Pink Legacy

American jeweller Harry Winston (1896-1978) founded Harry Winston Inc.  in 1932 in New York City. Over the course of his dazzling career, Winston handled some of the world’s most famous diamonds, coloured gemstones and pieces of fine jewellery, earning himself a reputation as ‘The King of Diamonds’.

From the 1950s through to the 1970s, his boutiques were the destination of choice for royalty, Hollywood stars and business moguls alike. Acknowledged as a visionary in the field for his pursuit of excellence, Harry Winston’s combination of passion, discretion, intuition and knowledge was greatly appreciated by his high-profile and discerning clientele.

Jeweller to the Stars

Harry Winston started dressing celebrities as early as 1935, the year that he purchased the 726-carat diamond, The Jonker. Winston took the rough gem on a tour of the USA and had it photographed with famous actresses, including Claudette Colbert and Shirley Temple. The Jonker was subsequently cut into 13 very important stones, numbered I to XIII. The Jonker V (below) was sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2019 for £3,015,000.

Winston was also the first jeweller to dress a celebrity for an Academy Awards show. In 1944 he loaned diamond jewellery to actress Jennifer Jones, who had been nominated for her role in The Song of Bernadette. Harry Winston jewellery has graced the red carpet ever since.

In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sang Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, which includes the lyric: ‘Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it.’

The Court of Jewels tour (1949-1953)

While Winston acquired many notable private collections, diamonds and gemstones, perhaps the most recognisable was the Hope Diamond, the largest-known deep blue diamond in the world. Winston acquired the jewel, which weighed 45.52 carats, in 1949 from the estate of the American socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean.

From 1949 to 1953, Winston toured the gem around the United States as part of his Court of Jewels exhibition, with proceeds benefitting charitable organisations. The tour was a defining moment in the jewellery industry, with Harry Winston presenting famous jewels as an art collection, telling the story of their historic provenance. In 1958 Winston donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., where it remains today.

A number of the exceptional gems and jewels from the Court of Jewels  tour are now considered historic pieces, with a majority entering important private collections or museums. These include the Indore Pears that Harry Winston bought from the Maharajah of Indore, and which were sold at Christie’s in November 1987 for $2.7 million.

As well as show-stopping diamonds, the tour made Harry Winston’s name synonymous with coloured gemstones of exceptional quality. One such is the 22.86-carat Burmese ruby featured in the above diamond and ruby ring, which sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2019 for CHF 7,198,500 — more than double its high estimate.

Cluster design

The concept of the ‘cluster’ or ‘clustering’, now regarded as Harry Winston’s signature technique, was formulated in the 1940s. Comprising pear-shaped and marquise-cut diamonds set with minimal metal and at varying angles, the idea revolutionised jewellery design to create clusters of remarkable brilliance.

One of the most iconic and sought-after Harry Winston ‘cluster’ designs is the ‘Wreath’ necklace, inspired by a holly wreath the jeweller had hung on his front door. He was immediately inspired to recreate the design using different cuts of diamonds.

In a wreath necklace, the stones are held in place by very fine prong settings, which allow the diamonds to appear to float on top of the wearer.

Among the celebrities known to have once owned a ‘Wreath’ necklace is socialite Betsy Bloomingdale. Her necklace, made in 1961, was the pièce de résistance of her collection.

The ‘cluster’ remains a trademark of the firm and a sign of the finest quality of setting, which only a true Harry Winston jewel can possess.

An enduring legacy

Nayla Hayek, the present CEO of Harry Winston, has continued Winston’s legacy, adding one-of-a-kind diamonds to the Winston collection.

Brilliant examples include the Winston Blue, an exceptional 13.22-carat flawless vivid blue diamond; the Winston Pink Legacy, an extraordinary 18.96-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, which was once in the collection of the Oppenheimer family; and the Winston Legacy, a formidable 101.73 carat D flawless pear-shaped diamond.

Two Gem-Set and Diamond Panther Brooches, by Cartier

An expert overview of the illustrious maison, the jeweller of choice for kings and queens, celebrities and tycoons. Illustrated with historic and beautiful Cartier necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches and clocks sold at Christie’s.

The history of Cartier

The House of Cartier was founded in 1847 when the 28-year-old Louis-François Cartier took over a shop at 29 rue Montorgueil in Paris. His son Alfred took control of the company in 1874, by which time it already had an excellent reputation. However, it was Alfred’s three sons — Louis, Pierre and Jacques — who would go on to establish Cartier as a world-famous jewellery brand.

While Louis retained the responsibility for Paris, in 1902 Jacques went to London and only two years later received the Royal Warrant, thereby supplying jewellery to King Edward VII and his court. Pierre travelled to New York where, in 1917, he famously acquired 653 Fifth Avenue for two strands of the very finest pearls. This piece of prime real estate remains a flagship store to this day.

Since then the Maison has expanded globally, becoming what many consider to be the finest jewellery house in the world. Its clientele has encompassed royalty, film stars and business tycoons. King Farouk of Egypt, The Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Clark Gable all made their way to Cartier to buy or have their jewellery made.

An Exquisite and Very Rare Multigem and Diamond Art Déco Fob Watch, Cartier

Important pieces and collections

Masterpieces and great Cartier collectors

King Edward VII of England used to refer to Cartier as ‘the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers’. This reputation was such that at the coronation of King George V in June 1911, 19 of the tiaras worn at the ceremony were by Cartier. From Spain to England, Belgium to Russia, India to Siam, Kings and Queens around the world made Cartier their official supplier of royal jewellery.

Socialites and movie stars followed suit and Merle Oberon, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Gloria Swanson were all great collectors of Cartier jewellery.

Even the most discerning of diamond collectors would go to Cartier to have them mounted. Such was the case of Salomon Barnato Joel, who had made his fortune in the South African diamond mines, being the director of Barnato Brothers as well as De Beers Consolidated. In 1912, he asked Cartier to mount four of his best diamonds. Cartier created an outstanding stomacher or devant-de-corsage brooch, so fashionable during the Belle Epoque.

A Belle éPoque Diamond Devant-De-Corsage Brooch, by Cartier

Designed around a central pear-shaped diamond of more than 34 carats, two navette-shaped diamonds and a heart-shaped diamond, this devant-de- corsage is a great example of the subtle and delicate ‘Lily-of-the-Valley’ setting used by Cartier around 1910 and mastered by their famous workshop ‘Atelier Henri Picq’ in Paris.

Up to this day, Cartier remains a favourite amongst great jewellery collectors and royal families. As an example Catherine Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, chose to wear the Cartier Halo diamond tiara for her wedding to Prince William in 2011.

Ballerina Brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels

Jewellery specialist Raymond Sancroft-Baker describes the history of the French jewellery house favoured by film stars and royalty for more than a century. Illustrated with pieces previously sold at Christie’s, plus upcoming lots at the bottom of the story.


The history of Van Cleef & Arpels

Alfred Van Cleef (1872-1938), the son of a diamond cutter, married Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a dealer in precious stones, in 1895. The following year Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels, formed Van Cleef & Arpels.

After Salomon died in 1903, Alfred and two of his brothers-in-law, Charles (1880-1951) and Julien (1884-1964), officially founded Van Cleef & Arpels with the opening of their shop in 1906 at 22 Place Vendôme, where the firm remains today. The third Arpels brother, Louis (1886-1976), joined the firm in 1912, no doubt to cope with their expansion, as branches had been opened in Nice, Deauville, Vichy, Lyon and Cannes, all between 1910 and 1920.

Alfred’s daughter, Renée Puissant (1897-1942), took control of the company’s artistic direction in 1926, and for the next 12 years worked closely with the talented designer René-Sim Lacaze.

It was in 1930 that the firm invented the ‘minaudière’, reportedly inspired by the opera singer Florence Jay Gould (née Florence La Caze), after she had met Claude Arpels with her belongings contained in a Lucky Strike cigarette case. Claude set to work creating a case that could contain all of a woman’s ‘necessities’ such as a comb, lipstick, watch, cigarette holder, lighter, mirror and compact.

Mystery Set Ruby Emerald and Diamond Brooch

Always at the forefront of innovation, Van Cleef & Arpels patented its ‘Mystery Set’ — a technique that allows for the setting of stones so that no prongs are visible — in 1933. Originally used for adorning minaudières, the Mystery Set allowed for swathes of colour unbroken by the flash of metal.

In 1935, the three sons of Julien Arpels — Charles, Jacques and Pierre — joined the firm. At the end of the 1930s, for a time, Van Cleef & Arpels transferred most of its business to the United States — it had opened a branch in Palm Beach in 1940, and a shop in New York was acquired in 1942 at 744 Fifth Avenue, where the jeweller still trades today.

Following the Second World War the firm continued to expand, creating jewels for royalty, film stars and wealthy entrepreneurs. A growing emphasis on a more relaxed type of jewellery, however, led Van Cleef & Arpels to introduce an accessible range in 1954 that became well-known for its naturalistic forms and light-hearted themes. Diamonds were still used, but only as highlights. These attractive and wearable jewels were very popular in the 1950s, as confidence returned to a world that had been ravaged by war.

Van Cleef & Arpels has for almost the past 20 years been owned by the Richemont Group.

Important pieces and collections

Ear Pendants

Worn by film stars, heiresses and royalty

Van Cleef & Arpels has been associated with the wealthy and the famous since its inception. From Gloria Swanson to Greta Garbo, films stars have never been far from the Maison’s front door. In 1938 the jeweller created a ruby and diamond Jarretière bracelet, one of the most spectacular pieces it had ever made, for Marlene Dietrich. Princess Faiza of Egypt, one of the five sisters of King Farouk, had the Art Deco emerald and diamond necklace shown below made for her in 1929. When it was sold at Christie’s in 2013, for $4 million, it was acquired by Van Cleef & Arpels for its own collection.

One of the House’s most famous clients was the Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986), who was born Bessie Wallis Warfield. In March 1936 the Duke of Windsor bought his future wife a bracelet of faceted rubies and diamonds; further purchases were made the following year, both before and after their marriage on 3 June 1937 at the Château de Candé in France.

When Christie’s sold Eva Perón’s Flag brooch (above) in 1998, which she had commissioned from Van Cleef & Arpels in the late 1940s, we did not realise that its heady mix of fame and quality would prove so potent. The brooch was estimated at $80,000-120,000, and sold for a staggering $992,500 after a bidding battle of more than 10 minutes.

When Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels were sold for $115 million in December 2011 at Christie’s in New York, she had 22 pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels in the evening session. They included the Lamartine bracelet and the Puertas ruby, both pictured above, given to her by Richard Burton. The latter, presented as a gift for Christmas 1968, sold for $4,226,500.

Diamond Ring
From rubies and emeralds to rare coloured diamonds — specialist David Warren provides an in-depth expert guide for buyers seeking a bright addition to their collection.

Fancy or Vivid? Get to know your terminology

A highlight in the coloured stones category — often setting world-record prices — coloured diamonds come with their own specific colour categories. A blue diamond, for example, could be classified as Faint Blue, Very Light Blue, Fancy Light Blue, Fancy Blue, Fancy Intense Blue, Fancy Dark Blue, Fancy Deep Blue or Fancy Vivid Blue. The same principle of categorisation applies to coloured diamonds of virtually all hues.

Exceptional Coloured Diamond and Diamond Ring

Word order is important

Coloured diamonds aren’t always a single colour. You may sometimes see a diamond described as ‘Vivid Orange Yellow’ — or even ‘Vivid Yellow Orange’. But what’s the difference? The key here is to look at the last word, which will be the principal colour. You can also have an ‘Orangey Yellow’. Here, yellow remains the dominant colour, with just a touch of orange; it’s not as orange as an ‘Orange Yellow’.

Are some colours more valuable than others?

The rarest of the rare is a red diamond — there aren’t many, and they’re generally not very big. It would be exceptionally unusual to find a red diamond above 2 carats.

How are coloured diamonds graded?

Christie’s sends diamonds to the GIA laboratory (the Gemological Institute of America), which provides the world’s most trusted colour grading service. It’s often worth doing, even if you have a stone with a weak colour — particularly if the colour is faint pink, green or blue, for example, which could still be significantly valuable.

A weak yellow diamond, however, might not be, as it is not uncommon to find stones with a yellow tinge. Other colours that may still be attractive and collectable but far less expensive include brown, yellowish brown, greenish yellowish brown, brownish yellow, yellowish brownish green. There are many colour combinations — even black.

Where do coloured diamonds come from?

Mining coloured diamonds is really a matter of chance. The only exception is the Argyle mine in Australia, owned by Rio Tinto, which is the only mine in the world to consistently produce pink diamonds, and is also the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds.

Diamonds in their purest form are white — as are all other gemstones, except three: opal, turquoise and peridot. What turns them a particular colour is the presence of an accidental colouring agent. A blue diamond, for example, will contain a tiny amount of boron in the composition of the stone. Green diamonds acquire their colour from radiation in the ground, while yellow diamonds are created when nitrogen enter their chemical composition. Pink diamonds result from a ‘slip’ in the stone’s lattice structure.

What about other coloured stones? Is there such a thing as a perfect emerald?

When it comes to emeralds, the most coveted are a darkish green. It’s important the stone isn’t too dark, however: the highest-quality emeralds combine good colour with clarity. Imagine if you were to take an empty wine bottle made from green glass and hold it up to sunlight — that’s a good indication of the perfect shade.

The proportions of an emerald (or any gemstone) are also important. If they’re poor, light will diffract and go through the stone, rather than bouncing around within it, coming out, and hitting the eye — a phenomenon known as total internal refraction. While fissures, known as ‘inclusions’, are common, too many will affect the beauty of the stone and lower its value.

Although highly rare, it is theoretically possible to get an emerald so perfect in terms of colour, clarity and brightness that it comes close to resembling the brilliance and ‘fire’ of a diamond (I have only ever seen a handful of emeralds that fall into this rare category).

What about rubies and sapphires?

The same concerns apply — as with emeralds, buyers of rubies and sapphires should look for stones with an appealing colour, good clarity, and attractive proportions.

A small percentage of the top rubies have a colour referred to as ‘pigeon’s blood’ — a dark red — though must not be too dark. Aim for a rich, warm burgundy that makes you joyful when you look at it.

Diamond Ring

Is origin relevant?

For coloured gemstones, this is a point to be considered, with the top emeralds mined in Colombia, the finest rubies coming from Burma and, for sapphires, the cream of the crop hail from Kashmir. However, it is important to remember that attractive gemstones do come from many different localities, and it is all about the beauty of the colour and the budget available.

How important is carat?

It’s a common misconception to think that stones with a higher carat weight are always more valuable. They often are, but you could have a 50-carat emerald that’s worth say $500 per carat — or a five-carat emerald worth $30,000 per carat. The same is true for all stones. It’s a combination of the ‘four c’s’: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.

Should I be wary of treated stones?

Man has a long history of tampering with coloured stones. Emeralds, for example, often have fissures that break the surface, which can be filled with oil or plastic resin. The oil or resin is designed to have the same refractive index as the stone and, once absorbed into the fissures, the inclusions become less apparent. This practice is one that goes back 4,000 years to Ancient Egypt, when natural oils were used.

The degree to which an emerald has been improved with an enhancement agent is graded from none to insignificant, minor, moderate or significant. Oil, though considered to be gentler, can have the disadvantage of leaking from the stone over time, unlike resin, which is permanent. There’s nothing wrong with buying an enhanced stone, as long as the degree of enhancement is reflected in the price — though a beautiful untreated emerald will be worth far more than a beautiful treated emerald.

What about coloured diamonds?

Buyers should ensure that the diamond’s colour is natural. Concerning green diamonds, it’s important to verify that the radiation that gave the stone its colour occurred in the ground, and not in a laboratory — one of the hardest tests for the GIA to determine. Blue diamonds can also be created through artificial irradiation, but mostly look obviously wrong.

Pink diamonds gain their highly desirable colour as a result of a rare, naturally occurring slippage of the crystal lattice in the stone while it is forming deep within the Earth’s crust. Similarly, the colour of yellow stones can be enhanced, with the most famous example of an enhanced stone being the Deepdene Diamond, weighing 104.52 carats.

Diamond Ring

How should I care for coloured stones?

One golden rule is: never carry gemstones in a pouch. Sadly, it’s something I’ve seen too often, and results in badly damaged stones. The resistance of minerals is assessed using ‘Mohs scale of hardness’. If stored with other stones, a diamond will scratch another diamond, and any stone softer than it. Sapphires will scratch everything that is softer than them, and so on, down the scale.

It’s a mistake, however, to think that diamonds are indestructible. Although they are the hardest substance known to man, they do have a certain brittleness. A diamond can chip, for example, if it hits a hard surface like marble. Here, weight becomes critical: if a diamond is damaged, it can be re-cut to remove any chips, but in doing this there will be a loss of weight. If a stone weighing 10.05 carats drops to 9.95 carats, the impact on value can be significant, because it has dipped below 10.00 carats. A loss of half a carat in a 15.75 carat stone, on the other hand, may do little to alter value.

David Warren is Christie’s Senior International Jewellery Director. Follow David on Instagram for regular jewel updates.

Pascal Grenacher: Dear John, it’s great to see you again, this time in London. Can you tell us something about this Dubai Watch Week Forum in London?

John Reardon: When it comes to London, you could say that it is a hotbed of horology. Although we do not have many watch sales here, many of our clients have come to live and work here. That is why we often spend time in London – one of the central hubs of horology. Not to mention that purchasing power and craftsmanship are at a very high level in London, especially when it comes to the watch industry. It is exactly why we are here. It is all about tradition here in the UK. That is why we think this is the perfect place for Dubai Watch Week.


Pascal Grenacher: Before we delve deeper into the subject, I would like to thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome; here in your lovely London Headquarters. Now, could you please tell us more about Christie’s and it’s early days, before we move on to your watch business?

John Reardon: Of course. For Christie’s, it all began in the 18th century. Back then, it was only a small house. Today, we are proud to say that Christie’s Auction House is one of the leaders in art business around the globe. The progress made throughout all these decades and centuries is truly something special. Quite an extraordinary story, really. I would say that all the people involved are at the core of its amazing development. From our department and management to the administrators and people who work here at Christie’s, every single person contributes with their heart and soul to help reach success. It is all about fine art, luxury items, and creating something beautiful – which is what makes working at Christie’s a unique and enjoyable experience.

If you compare our world, the watch industry, to other branches, like jewellery making, you can see that we are still very young. Timepieces have always been my passion, and even though we have created something extraordinary with Christie’s in our field of expertise, we have to keep in mind that there are masters of similar craft who have been around for much longer than us. You could say that watch collecting did not really hit the stride until the late 1980s. Look at the 1989 Patek Philippe auction – it was then that the traditional auction houses truly began to grow. In other words, that was when things became interesting for watch enthusiasts and, of course, for Christie’s.

We embraced various sales channels, mainly those regarding watches, of course, and our business expanded beyond auctions. Today, we have numerous clients and our online business is consistently thriving. At the moment we have a few live sales online, with up to 200 pieces being uploaded monthly, bringing in new clients, and new price points.

We are at a point where we are successfully attracting buyers who possibly never even thought of buying a watch at an auction house in their life; at least not until they became familiar with Christie’s.


Pascal Grenacher: When did the online business really took off for you, what do you think? Two, three years ago?

John Reardon: From day one, my drive, my passion was directed towards selling watches, and doing it online was a very interesting proposal. But it didn’t really launch up until, let’s say, about four years ago. Luckily, since then, we have managed to create a valid business method, with clients that trust us. Out of nowhere it really exploded and started becoming bigger and bigger. In the past, having a million-dollar sale online was unheard of. For us, today, it is no big deal. As of now, we are working on our first potential two-million-dollar sale online, with other sales planned for October, and December. The best thing about it is, it is a completely independent business and in no way does it affect the rest of our plans and projects. The same team is working on both ends.


Pascal Grenacher: Are the people who buy from you online the same clients you encounter at auction houses or private sales?

John Reardon: At the end of the day, when I look at the list, where we have hundreds of names of the people that bought from us, there will always be many, many people I do not know. Then again, if we take a look at specific live sales where we can see who the buyers and underbidders are, there will definitely be names that we are already familiar with. Sometimes, these people are Christie’s art clients, sometimes it is a completely new audience – which is what makes this type of business extremely profitable. They might have simply seen an advertisement on social media and chose to trust us in helping them buy their first $10,000 watch. Another thing that is incredible, we are able to track people’s journeys through these online sales. They would start by buying a watch and possibly end up shopping for some new jewellery, painting, etc. Thus, our clients can explore our whole world of luxury brands from the comfort of their own home.


Pascal Grenacher: Do you use this data as part of a marketing strategy, with the purpose of perhaps finding new solutions and ideas for future customers?

John Reardon: That all depends on the opt-in; what the customer chooses to do. If they are looking for more information and suggestions from us, the platform is intended to provide it. Let’s say that someone is interested in Patek Philippe. They will, of course, receive appropriate suggestions of watches that appear automatically, but also via our team. We are always focused on providing clients with the pieces they find interesting. It is also possible to help clients find new pieces they never heard of before, by combining all the necessary information, from our platform, private sales and traditional auctions.


Pascal Grenacher: How many people work at Christie’s for the timepieces department?

John Reardon: Our team consists of twenty-seven people, from all around the world. When I started doing business in the watch industry, or watch auctions, to be more precise, in the late 1990s, it was hard finding reliable and valid information. Back then, there were no watch communities, at least not like today. You had books and people who were watches specialists and knew everything there is to know about this line of work. Luckily, today, Christie’s watch department is a global network, consisting of specialists, ready to give clients the right information right away. Whatever a client needs, whether it is information about vintage Rolex pieces or Vacheron Constantin, we have someone focused on that particular branch that will provide all the necessary information.


Pascal Grenacher: Talking about specialists, you mentioned Patek Philippe. Could you tell us more about your collaboration and how it all started?

John Reardon: Yes, I came across Patek Philippe while working for another auction house in the late 1990s, right after graduating college. At first, I was quite fascinated with Rolex, which people who know me today might find really funny. It did not take long for Patek Philippe to become my main ’obsession’ and after spending four years in the auction world, I got the dream phone call. Patek Philippe offered me a job, and for a decade I worked for Patek Philippe USA. I had the most amazing experience working with them.

While working there, my only exposure to professional vintage pieces was when they were coming in for service. Incredible pieces passed down from generation to generation, that would never be sold at an auction. I felt the need to further satisfy my passion, and so I wrote three books on the history of the company while working for them. It was a kind of a love letter, a way to show my gratitude to the brand and the manufacturer. Ten years have passed so quickly, and it was these books that helped me realize how much I had missed watches. That is why coming to Christie’s remains one of the best decision I have ever made. A wonderful opportunity to work with the greatest Patek Philippe collectors on a daily basis yet again, constantly travelling and meeting them. I do not actually see them as my clients now; I consider them my lifelong friends. Our work together is nothing short of a wonderful and thrilling journey – one that I hope will last many years to come.


Pascal Grenacher: Well said, it is clear how much this means to you and how much passion you have for this business.

John Reardon: Indeed, it is a great company. So many beautiful, innovating timepieces, so much intelligent people working hard, and pleasant surprises along the way.


Pascal Grenacher: Speaking of Dubai Watch Week, we talked about the connection with the event taking place in Dubai for the first three editions. Now, for the first time, it does not actually take place in Dubai – how did this opportunity for you arise?

John Reardon: Actually, Christie’s has had the pleasure to be part of Dubai Watch Week from the very beginning. I, personally, was part of the first and third edition. Christie’s has been involved in all three. The idea of bringing it here to London appeared shocking to me at first. But, when you think about it, what the vision of Dubai Watch Week presents; it is unlike any other event. Normally, politics and similar nonsense tend to find their way into these things.

Dubai Watch Week is different because it is so pure and positive. It is about the exchange of ideas, an event from which people walk away feeling good and happy. You have all the brands, auction houses and collectors in one place, which is fantastic. We all have the same vision and a common goal, which is to share knowledge and grow together in this business that we so dearly love. When all is said and done, bringing Dubai Watch Week to London undoubtedly makes sense; and not just London – this wonderful concept should be spread around the world for people to take part in and enjoy.