On May 18, Skinner Auctioneers will hold its May Important Jewelry sale, which will offer an array of antique and period jewelry, fine colored stones, and signed jewelry. The auction will feature a number of American jewelry designers, including Paulding Farnham, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Marie Zimmerman, Paul Flato, and Noma Copley.
The star of the show is an unmounted diamond, a marquis-cut stone that once was owned by Irene Gibson Emery and John Josiah Emery of New York and Cincinnati and has an estimated value of between $100,000 and $150,000. Irene Gibson Emery was the daughter of Irene Langhorne Gibson and Charles Dana Gibson, the famous American illustrator who was most famous for creating the Gibson Girl, the ideal of feminine beauty and independence for the Euro-American woman at the turn of the 20th century. The diamond was given to Irene Gibson Emery by John Josiah Emery for their engagement in 1926.
Other pieces up for sale at the auction have descended from Langhorne Gibson and include an antique diamond brooch, circa mid-19th century, set with old mine-cut diamonds, expected to sell for $8,000 to $10,000; and antique diamond earrings, set with old mine-cut and old pear-shape diamonds, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. The wife of the famous illustrator was a socialite and notable in her own right: Her sister was Nancy Astor, an American-born British politician, and, aside from being a muse to husband’s Gibson Girl series, she went on to advocate for disadvantaged children.
Another highlight at the auction is a Tiffany & Co. opal and diamond brooch, estimated to fetch between $4,000 and $6,000. The auctioneer notes that the design, which uses Mexican fire opals, suggests the work of Paulding Farnham, a jewelry designer who worked for the company in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Drawings of the brooch by Farnham appear in two separate books, Tiffany Jewels and Paulding Farnham: Tiffany’s Lost Genius, both by John Loring. The design is reminiscent of Farnham’s “Hupa” brooch, shown at the 1889 Paris Exposition, inspired by the basketwork of the Hupa People of California.