TEFAF – a meeting point of epochs, emotions, and beauty

TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is a place where history, beauty, emotions, and craftsmanship have been meeting together since 1988. It is a leading global exhibition of art and antique pieces, which has been gathering annually various collectors, connoisseurs and the best memorabilia from all over the world under its roof for the last 29 years. According to the organizer, this year the exhibition has been visited by 71 000 people from 60 countries.

TEFAF is held in Maastricht, a small Dutch town with its expo center reorganized for 5 days into an elegant space, saturated with noble refinement and aristocracy. Moreover, most visitors can also be considered as objects of art: some women in smart and sophisticated gowns, walking lazily with their respectful companions, or others, hugging and jumping a little bit up, with faces as they’ve just had their first kiss. All of them were in their mid-fifties in the process of choosing valuable pieces. I felt like being among the cream of European aristocratic society, who felt well and were totally in love…either with art, or just with their lives.

This year 270 galleries were exhibited at TEFAF. 20 companies presented their jewellery art and antiques. Van Cleef & Arpels, Hemmerle, Chopard, Wallace Chan, and Alexandre Reza showcased modern pieces of art. Verdura, except for new jewels, also brought some rare pieces by Suzanne Belperron and Fulco di Verdura. The quality, condition and authenticity of all jewellery were thoroughly verified by 150 world-recognized experts. 

In detail: what has been brought?

Hemmerle jewellery house, established in 1893, has been family business for more than 100 years, and a TEFAF exhibitor for more than 20. Every Hemmerle piece is innovative, combining time-honored family craftsmanship and daring youth. Their style is absolutely recognizable, as their key feature lies in materials, used for creating jewellery. It can be wood, cooper, iron, aluminum, and even dinosaur bones, or, as owners often say, whatever comes to hand. All these so to say “simple materials” in combination with rare diamonds and other gems transform into exclusive pieces for “noblemen in jeans”. I would say that today Hemmerle jewellery are rather trendy among collectors.

Hemmerle earrings with diamonds
Hemmerle earrings with moonstones and diamonds
Hemmerle Artichoke earrings in aluminum with amethysts

Wallace Chan is one of the most significant jewellery artists of the present time, the man, who I personally consider a true creator. He is a pioneer in the jewellery world. He creates innovative pieces, combining elements of physics, chemistry, architecture, metallurgy, and mystery. They are truly unparalleled. “When I create, I am not trying to show the beginning of the idea or the end product. I am trying to capture the moment in the middle of this process. It’s like a mixture of reality and imagination. If you take a glass – it is the final product, but it might have started as the glass that went through the process of blowing, heating etc. So, in my jewellery I want to capture that process in the middle, not the very beginning, not the very end, but in the middle, where all these transformations take place, as well as energy inserted into that moves”, the great master shared his artistic approach in a comprehensive interview, which you can already find at www.Jewellerymasterpiece.com. 

Wartski London gallery, founded in 1865 by Morris Wartski, is a family firm of art and antique dealers, specializing in fine jewellery and works of art by Carl Faberg?. Director Kieran McCarthy is a member of the advisory board of the Faberg? Museum in St. Petersburg and has widely published and lectured on the Imperial Russian Goldsmith’s work. In 2005, Wartski made the wedding rings for H.R.H Prince Charles and Camilla, H.R.H Duchess of Cornwall. In 2011, Wartski made the ring for the wedding of H.R.H Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. The ring was fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold given to Prince William by H.M Queen Elizabeth II.

At this exhibition my attention was captured by an extraordinary enamelled gold mounted moulded glass Ren? Lalique necklace in the Egyptian taste, 1900.

Ren? Lalique Necklace, c.1900, Glass, gold and enamel

Brooch, Bapst et Falize, c.1895, Gold and diamond

The Dearest bracelet, 1880, is my pure love. It consists of hearts, each of them formed by a diamond and other gem. Moreover, the first letters of precious stones used make up the word “Dearest”: D iamond – E merald – A methyst – R uby – E merald – S apphire – T ourmaline.

‘DEAREST’ Bracelet, c.1880 in gold with diamonds and precious gems

Fulco di Verdura and Suzanne Belperron are prominent figures in jewellery art, who might have just remained in the past. However, in 1985 Ward Landrigan, the ex-head of jewellery department in American Sotheby’s office, purchased Verdura company and more than 10 000 sketches made by Fulco di Verdura during all his life. He also opened up a New-York studio near Central Park and the place where everything started in 1939. 12 years later Ward Landrigan bought archives of Suzanne Belperron. Today Verdura jewellery house sells old pieces of Fulco di Verdura and Suzanne Belperron, as well as creates new jewels based on Verdura’s sketches and Belperron’s artistic legacy.

Who is Fulco di Verdura?

Fulco di Verdura, the last duke of Verdura and one of the most significant jewelers of the 20th century, was born in 1898. He grew up in a gorgeous mansion called Villa Niscemi, built in 18th century near Palermo, Sicily. Being surrounded by sophisticated pieces of art and antiques, Fulco had leaned towards creativity since childhood. As the time went by, his energy of creation was first translated into water-color drawings, and then into jewellery making.

He was first to use not only gold and gems in his creations, but also wood, corals, and shells as well as to transform such motifs as coins and ropes into casual but elegant jewels.

Coco Chanel made Fulco di Verdura famous. He was the pioneer of Chanel jewellery style formation, and created the main codes, which the house has used until now. In 1930, he created massive bracelets with Maltese crosses embellished with color gems that became signature for both houses.

In 1934, Fulco di Verdura moved to the USA, where he worked as a leading designer of another famous jeweler Paul Flato. After creation of “Verdura for Flato” line, he soon became popular and recognizable among both fashionmongers of the East Coast and Hollywood elite. Already in 1939, he opened a workshop on 712, Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York. In 1941, Fulco presented his jewellery collection made in collaboration with Salvador Dali.

“Fulco’s references to nature and culture keep his work classic. But without question he was a  revolutionary, the one who changed everything. Fulco made it all modern”, wrote Babs Simpson, the former Vogue editor, about Fulco di Verdura, who since the fifties of the last century has gained fame of “high society jeweler”. Princess Grace of Monaco, Countess of Marlboro, Duchess of Windsor, Jackie Kennedy, and Marlene Dietrich were among his clients.

Suzanne Belperron

Suzanne Belperron is one of the most famous female jewelers, a Frenchwoman with innovative gift, and a jewellery trendsetter of the 20th century.

She strongly believed that every person has his own identity and jewellery ought to reflect it. For that reason before Suzanne started carrying out an order, she learned the style of her customer, his face morphology, paid attention to complexion and shape of hands. Similar to Haute Couture designers, she had always measured the circumference of fingers, neck, and wrist very accurately. For example, while creating a ring, she made several try-ins, to be sure that the piece will suit perfectly.

Her style was characterized by using chalcedony, rock crystal, and smoky quartz. “My style is my signature”, she used to repeat, therefore never signing her pieces. Considering her jewellery spoke by themselves, Suzanne hadn’t ever intended to open her own jewellery store. The address of her workshop was only known among her elite customers. It located on the third floor of Rue de Ch?teaudun, 59 in Paris.

Suzanne Belperron was born on September 29, 1900 in Saint-Claude, France. After her parents noticed their daughter’s talent for painting, she attended art school, where in 1918, being the best pupil in her class, Suzanne won the annual contest “Decorative arts”. In March 1919, Jeanne Boivin, the widow of Ren?e Boivin, invited Suzanne Belperron for a designer position in Ren?e Boivin jewellery house.

Ren?e Boivin French jewellery house was established in 1890 by Ren?e Boivin, who passed away in 1917. Since 1920, their collection was completed by jewellery, created on the basis of Suzanne Belperron’s sketches. In 1924, she got married and became a co-director of Ren?e Boivin house. After 13 years of her fruitful work, she left the jewellery house in 1932. Soon Suzanne became “a competent art and technical director” at Herz – the company of her fellow-thinker Bernard Herz. It was the time when she got the total freedom to create. This period turned out to be Suzanne’s moment of glory: her pieces were constantly appearing on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, her unparalleled style was admired by Elsa Schiaparelli, Diana Vreeland, Nina Ricci, Christian Dior.

In the course of time, her name, being so famous before, was partially forgotten. Her oeuvre came again into a spotlight when on April 2nd and 3rd, 1987 the jewellery of Duchess of Windsor were sold at Sotheby’s in Geneva.

Unfortunately, neither Suzanne Belperron, nor Fulco di Verdura, who were true legends of jewellery art of the 20th century, had children, so their heritage was only left through sketches and jewellery.

Today old jewellery of Verdura and Suzanne Belperron are being sold successfully at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and the prices for the pieces of these prominent jewelers are constantly rising.

Suzanne Belperron old ring made of rock crystal with black pearl and diamonds, $47 000
 Verdura Lily-of-the-valley brooch: gold, green enamel and diamonds, $31 000

Verdura vintage brooch-pendant in gold with 57 Ceylon sapphires of 108.62 carats total. Created in 1944 for Mr. J. Cheever Cowdin, President of Universal Pictures, $192 500

Alexandre Reza jewellery house, which possesses one of the most significant collections of gemstones in the world, is located on 21 Place Vendome, next to the Ritz Hotel.

It owes its fame and traditions to the founder Alexandre Reza, who was born in 1922 in Moscow. After his family immigrated to France, Alexandre found his lifelong passion to gems. First he became a supplier of unique precious stones for such jewellery titans like Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier, Chaumet, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels, and in 1981 he established his own company.

 “The Reza house currently possesses one of the world’s largest inventories of unheated and untreated colored gemstones”, states Alexandre’s son Olivier Reza with pride. In 2007, due to desease, Alexandre retired from business, and the jewellery house was closed. However, in 2012, it’s rebirth was announced. In November 2013 in New York, Sotheby’s hold an exhibition called “Alexandre Reza: extraordinary jewellery», where you could see the ring with a massive Burmese sapphire of 52.31 carats, and Bird Clip brooch with Ceylon sapphire of 54.70 carats – the pride of Reza’s house. Besides 20 old pieces, Olivier Reza presented his own 15. “Through that process, I have realized I have a preference for geometric shapes”, says Olivier.

In 2015 at Biennale des Antiquaires, where Alexander Reza participated for the fifth time, its booth could be found between Chanel and Piaget. “We liberated ourselves from retail pressure to concentrate on creation”, told Olivier during his interview for The New York Times. “Now we have the luxury of time and can take eight to 12 months to produce a piece without worrying about the rent”.

And these are my favorite earrings with gorgeous Burmese rubies from Alexandre Reza’s booth at TEFAF 2017 – 34 rubies of 36 carats and diamonds of 11 carats total!

I have also noticed Les Enluminures gallery, specializing in manuscripts and miniatures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It was founded in Paris in 1991 by Dr. Sandra Hindman in association with the Chicago-based business, and it has opened a new gallery in New York in May 2012. Besides manuscripts, Les Enluminures gallery also handles rings and jewellery from the same periods. One of its rings – Gimmel Fede – has won my heart. When you open it, you find a band with engraved inscription “Gage D’Amitie”, symbolizing the eternal bond in marriage.

Gimmel Fede ring with engraved inscription: “Gage D’Amitie” with Burmese ruby and diamonds, $50 000–75 000

Somlo Antiques gallery, set up in 1970, is a family business, dedicated to selling vintage and antique timepieces. Unfortunately, I can’t show you the photo of the watch, that impressed me so much – the watch in form of mandolin and camellia. But I’ll show you something not less beautiful.

The dial depicts the tale of Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob can be seen sleeping beneath a tree, dreaming of the connection between Earth and Heaven which can be seen here in the form of angels climbing a ladder, atop of which rests The Eye of Providence that represents God watching over mankind. When the movement is activated, an angel leaps up from behind the trees to join its comrades and together they can be seen tolling bells – perhaps to wake the sleeping Jacob.

Antique Swiss pocket watch with minute repeater

Meanwhile, the aim of any exhibition, as far as we understand, is not only to demonstrate valuable pieces, but to sell them.

And here I should mention that the most popular collector’s category around the world remains jewellery art, however, thanks to watches. Below I’m going to provide you with some statistic data of art sales according to The Art Market 2017 by Art Basel & UBS annual report, as well as TEFAF report on art market condition, posted on www.artfinex.com. Moreover, I’ll share the results of the research, conducted by UBS bank.

Who buys?

AXA Art company, specialized on art pieces insurance, has posted results of online survey of 1000 collectors – the clients of the company.

  • Three-quarter of the respondents are men, 73% of which are males from 40 to 69 years.
  • According to the survey, 80% of collectors state that they buy pieces of art because “they like to possess beautiful things and be surrounded by them”. The second place of honor among motivations of beginning collectors goes to the desire of “pursuing art and multiplying knowledge of this sphere”
  • 95% of collectors visit art fairs, but consider them more as the informational source. The majority of them – 73% – still prefer individualized service and purchasing pieces in art galleries.
  • 82% of respondents give priority to contemporary art, and only 12% buy art pieces of previous centuries (moreover, 39% of them collect works of impressionists and modernists, while the second popular epoch among connoisseurs of “eternal values” turned out to be the 19th century).
  • 43% of collectors, who confessed that the key goal for collecting pieces of art is investment, purchase works of impressionists and modernists, nevertheless buying some modern artists as well. Anyway, the profit from investing in “eternal values” will be lower than buying “rising stars”, yet the risks would be much lower as well.

According to UBS bank’s research, devoted to American HNWIs’ lifestyle (High net worth individuals) 40% of them appeared to be rather passionate collectors.

  • 12% of American HNWIs spent more than $50 000 on works of art in 2016, while 3% spent over $1 000 000. Believe me, these are huge figures, comparing to the beginning of the century!
  • The majority of collectors receive the annual income of more than $100 000: since 2000s their number has increase from 217 mio to 398 mio.
  • Five largest art markets (the USA, Great Bitain, China, France and Germany) account for 63% of dollar millionaires, living in the respective countries.
  • 69% of art pieces customers turned out to be private collectors (not institutions), whereas 34% were new clients or made their first purchase.
  • Basically, collectors are “invisible men”, who prefer confidentiality, except for several celebrities. 

How much do they pay?

According to The Art Market 2017 by Art Basel & UBS annual report, as well as TEFAF report on art market condition:

  • Art pieces purchase bargains of the highest price bracket in 2016 were nearly invisible in daily art market activity: sales over $1 000 000 accounted for less than 1% of transactions in public and private markets. The largest part of transactions was carried out at levels below $50 000. 
  • Private sales with a turnover of less than $1 000 000 declined on a year-on-year basis, while sales from $1 000 000 to $10 000 000 grew by 7%. Companies with a turnover of more than $10 000 000 also showed positive results, with sales increased by 2%. 
  • The high price segment (over $1 000 000) of auction sales experienced a sharp decline in value in 2016, going down in value by 34% (in comparison to 22% of drop in prices in the segment of less than $1 000 000). Sales of over $10 000 000 suffered the most, having decreased by 53%. (Meaning the difference between the average estimate and hammer price comparing to 2015, but not the sales turnover – ARTFINEX) 
  • Despite the dramatic drop in 2016, the growth of sales value above $1 000 000 is still surpassing other price segments in the light of the last 10 years , having increased by 73% from 2006 to 2016 (i.e. three time more than the average and the lowest price levels). 
  • 24% of online sellers’ transactions totaled in less than $1 000, 75% – less than $50 000. The most popular Internet segment was art, ranging in value from $5 000 to $50 000. 

Where do they buy?

  • In 2016 a turnover of the global art market reached $56.6 bln ($45 bln – TEFAF), having declined by 11% comparing to 2015 ( rose by 1,5% – TEFAF)
  • Three leading markets – the USA, Great Britain and China – enhanced their dominance in the international art arena in 2016, accounting for 81% of the total sales volume. The USA again took the premier place in global sales with a market share of 40% (29.5% – TEFAF). Great Britain was the second largest global market with 21% of share (24% – TEFAF), the third one was China with 20% (18% – TEFAF).
  • Online sales in 2016 accounted for almost 9% of the global art and antiques market. Online sales appeared to be a perfect tool for attracting new customers. More than half of online sales (56%), carried out by dealers in 2016, fell to new buyers who had never been in the physical space of the gallery and hadn’t met with sellers in person. 
Wallace Chan
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Tatyana Pfaifer

The founder of Jewellery Masterpiece