Friday, July 22, 2011

Fabulous class and fabulous fraud

I was really impressed with the Van Cleef and Arpels exhibit that was staged at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.  The Arpels touch was extraordinary.  The perfection of metal work and quality of color serves to remind us of what true jewelry talents can do.  The colored stones were extraordinary, and a knowledgeable dealer who was present said that these qualities can no longer be found.  As if the industry does not have enough stress.

I found it interesting to find myself unimpressed with many pieces from a design point of view.  Our taste has really moved far since the 1920's and 1930's.  Some pieces were truly classic and timeless, but others were clearly done to suit specific customers.  There were actual ledgers displayed, showing for whom pieces were designed, the components, and the costs.  All of it was written out in careful script.  A wonderful look into the past, in days before any automation.  Great show.

By contrast, just a few days later, I read a remarkable article in the Times, on July 1.  Armand Hammer, the noted American tycoon, acquired much jewelry from Russians in the 1920's and 30's.  He offered to buyers in the US, claiming that the collection was owned by various czars, and had been crafted by Fabergé.  Turned out not only to be untrue for many pieces, but it seemed that Hammer used Fabergé hallmarking tools to mark pieces and sell them as genuine Fabergé!  Hammer's records have disappeared, but contemporary experts have revealed the fraud.  (If you want to read the article click here NYT article)

And we thought the scams were a recent problem in our business.