Setting the JAR High

Pieces by the much-coveted designer sold out at Christie’s Geneva, but had a tougher time at Sotheby’s.

July 30, 2023  |  David Brough
Auctions Opener JAR July August Magazine 1280 USED 073023

Jewels by contemporary American designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal — aka JAR — have gathered momentum in recent years. When 28 JAR pieces from a private collection went up for auction at Christie’s Geneva on May 17, 100% of them found buyers. Many of these items outperformed estimates, underlining the appeal of the Paris-based artist’s intricately crafted jewelry as a potential investment.

That said, the Sotheby’s Geneva sale a day earlier saw mixed results for such pieces. Of the six JAR items on offer from the collection of Austrian photographer Renate Graf, only three sold, possibly because bidders were waiting for the larger selection at Christie’s.

Multi-gem earrings set with chrysoprase, sold for CHF 252,000. (Christie’s Images Limited 2023)

The Christie’s collection, part of the house’s Magnificent Jewels auction, featured an eclectic array of cutting-edge designs, many of them taking inspiration from nature. The pieces also blended high-value gemstones with lower-value materials in unusual artistic combinations, a signature style of the designer. The results were in line with previous JAR sales, with the most artistically avant-garde designs often surpassing estimates.

Any unique piece with high-quality gemstones can have investment appeal,” says Munich-based dealer Ioannis Alexandris, who tracked the Geneva sales. “Signed high-end jewelry, especially from JAR, is always sought after by collectors and connoisseurs.

Wood and yellow-gold Griffons box that sold for CHF 27,720. (Christie’s Images Limited 2023)

A highlight of the Christie’s auction was a sapphire, spinel and diamond Eye bangle (lot 593) that had been prominent in the auction house’s publicity. It attracted a bidding frenzy and more than tripled its high estimate of CHF 250,000 ($278,878), achieving CHF 856,800 ($955,769). A pair of multi-gem Pansy earrings (lot 581) was another of the JAR successes, netting CHF 491,400 ($548,162) after intense
bidding — well above the lot’s CHF 250,000 high estimate.

At Sotheby’s, the JAR sales included two diamond rings: one with a cushion-cut, 10.03-carat stone (lot 646) that achieved CHF 635,000 ($708,349), and one with a step-cut, 6.01-carat specimen (lot 648) that garnered CHF 279,400 ($311,673), both comfortably within estimates. A sapphire bracelet (lot 645) fetched CHF 635,000 as well. However, a morganite necklace and a tourmaline ring failed to sell, and another diamond ring was withdrawn.

Sapphire, spinel and diamond Eye bangle that sold for CHF 856,800. (Christie’s Images Limited 2023)

When determining the market value of jewels at auction, “we cannot judge the work of a designer from a single sale,” says Alexandris. “Most JAR jewelry items are innovative pieces of art.”

This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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Main image: JAR acorn earrings in moss agate and yellow gold. (Christie’s Images Limited 2023)


Auctions Opener JAR July August Magazine 1280 USED 073023 Setting the JAR High

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