Revival Jewels

Five Wonderful Reasons To Start A Fine Vintage Jewellery Collection

Yanni TanComment

1.    They Are Highly Wearable

While there are many different styles of vintage jewellery spanning more than an entire century, most creations by the great designers or maisons simply do not age. Even if you do not fancy decidedly antique-looking jewels such as cameos, or jewels that have acquired a patina due to age, there is still a wide range of vintage styles and choices. In fact, you will find that modern jewellery produced today still continue to reference designs created decades ago. Not only does a well chosen piece of vintage jewellery boost your style factor, you can be assured of not running into someone else wearing an identical piece!

From L - R : Scarlett Johanssen's Art Deco engagement ring would most certainly stand out in a sea of diamond solitairesCarey Mulligan wearing a showstopping pair of 19th century diamond ear pendants by Fred Leighton ; Margot Robbie wears the iconic Zipper necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels with aplomb;  Miroslava Duma accessorises a casual ensemble with cameo necklace and ringJennifer Connelly juxtaposes a contemporary cocktail dress by Balenciaga with an elaborate vintage necklace; Brooches can be worn in the most unexpected ways, shown here, pinned onto the shoulders and collar of a wool coatOlivia Palermo does casual luxe look with the help of whimsical brooches.


2.   They Are Pieces of Art

Most modern jewellery are mass-produced by machines in factories, and lack the exquisite handcraftsmanship displayed by older pieces. In the past, only the wealthy could afford fine jewellery, and therefore, small quantities were produced, meticulously and one at a time, by small ateliers of master craftsmen.

What takes today’s machines and modern craftsmen to churn out in days, probably took traditional artisans weeks or even months to create. Even so, there are many intricate and painstaking ancient metalworking techniques that simply can’t be reproduced by machinery. The differences in detail, appearance of volume, and personality between vintage and modern works are stark should you take time to examine them. Even modern high jewellery reproductions of old designs by some of the most renowned maisons in the world do not match the quality of the originals. 

Some antique and vintage pieces that have commanded the highest prices at auction. From L - R: An Onyx and Diamond Panther Bracelet, by Cartier. From the collection of the Duchess of Windsor ($7 million); A Magnificent and Rare Emerald and Diamond Tiara, formerly in the collection of Princess Katherina Henckel Von Donnersmarck, circa 1900 ($12 million); the Devant de Corsage Brooch, by Cartier, 1912 (over $20 million); a Belle Epoque Diamond and Emerald 'Eglantine' Necklace, by Cartier, 1906, belonging to Mrs Lily Safra ($1.168 million); the Hutton-Mdivani Jadeite Necklace ($27.44 million)La Peregrina – A Natural Pearl, Diamond, Ruby and Cultured Pearl Necklace, by Cartier, circa 1500, from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor ($11,842,500).


3.   They Feature Rare Old Stones

If you are a gemstone aficionado, you’d appreciate the fact that most of the gems used in luxury vintage jewellery come from old mines that have since been exhausted, and boast conflict-free origins. Some of these mines also produced the finest stones the world has ever seen, such as the Golconda diamonds of India, and the Mogok rubies of Burma.

The older the stones, the blockier and less highly faceted they are, because the more the gemstone cutters had to use rudimentary tools and their experience and sense of beauty to bring out the best of the stones. This means no two old stones are alike.


4.   They Make Great Conversation Topics

Fine estate jewellery that managed to survive the decades (or even the century) and have passed through different owners are certainly some of the best examples of the designs of their day. Fancy wearing a piece of jewellery with a secret message spelt out in gemstones, or a piece of iron jewellery, inscribed with the words 'Gold gab ich für Eisen' (I gave gold for iron). In fact, the greatest designers who ever lived also came from much earlier periods, such as the pioneers of today’s international jewellery maisons; René Lalique at the turn of the 20th century; Suzanne Belperron, Jean Schlumberger, Mario Buccellati and Fulco di Verdura in the mid-1900s. There’s no doubt that a well-made and signed jewellery piece will make an interesting dinner table conversation topic – be it their style, designer or provenance.

High on the wish list of every jewellery collector are a pair of these hammered 'manchette' gold cuff bracelets by Van Cleef & Arpels. Made famous by Jackie O and produced in limited numbers in the 70s, these bracelets have made record prices each time they were offered at auction, particularly the pair owned by Jackie O, which set a record of $128,500 at Sotheby's in 2011. A list of the auction records can be found here.

Considered one of the leading female designers of the modern age, Suzanne Belperron pieces are collected by those in the know. Her designs, once avant garde, remains relevant in today's fashion and does very well in the secondary market, often realising prices that soar 2 - 3 times above the estimate. This particular diamond bombe ring, created in 1956, achieved a result of $137,738 at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Nobel Jewels in May 2015, almost 6 times above its high estimate!


Some of the pieces available for sale right now at Revival Jewels. 

Enigmatic Celebrity Jeweller, Paul Flato


From L-R: A Portrait of Paul Flato, circa 1937; A Pair of Highly Articulated Emerald Bead, Diamond and Platinum Clip Brooches, circa 1936; The famous "Hand of God" Brooch belonging to Joan Bennett that was inspired by astrology and fortune tellers; The Feather Necklace, in Platinum and Diamond worn by Paulette Goddard and Lily Pons. 


Paul Flato was a celebrated jeweller in New York who rivalled the most established names in European jewellery from the 1920s to 1940s. Flato's creativity as a jeweller was unparalleled in his time and his unique combination of whimsy, style and proportion, and masterful renderings of a wide array of themes left behind a legacy of stunning "conversation pieces, which were sometimes wicked, always sophisticated and invariably smart". Navigating high society with flamboyant ease and charm, he built a strong following with his marketing savvy. Sought after by socialites, aristocrats and Hollywood stars, his sudden downfall following an arrest and imprisonment for fraud came as a shock.  A colourful personality, Flato has always been a source of interest to many, and his work remains highly collectible and valuable today. 

He was born in 1900 to a wealthy Texan family of German descent from the town of Shiner. From an early age, Flato was exposed to life in high society, and the finest things that money could buy. When he was 8 years old, a clandestine encounter with nomadic gypsies would spark off his lifelong interest with jewellery. Flato was fascinated by the jewellery that belonged to his mother and the female visitors who came to their house. He would examine the construction of the pieces, and how they were worn by women. After completing high school, Flato enrolled in the University of Texas as a pre-med student, and joined the Student Army Training Corps in 1918 (although he never went to war). Realising that a medical career was not for him, Flato decided to move to New York City in 1920 to seek a different future. Enrolling in business school at Columbia, Flato joined a fraternity and began socialising with the scions of New York's elite. 

Dropping out of Columbia a year later, and having been cut off from his family, Flato became an apprentice with Edmund Frisch, a Swiss jeweller and watch dealer, for a humble allowance of $15 a week. After several years of apprenticeship, Flato started his own business creating graduation gifts and engagement rings for his friends from Columbia. Success came easily and he became known as a specialist on Oriental pearls and was frequently featured in many publications. A million dollars worth of sales was achieved in a few short years. He had the help of a designer team, with him at the helm offering inspiration, ideas and setting themes. This team was made up of Adolphe Klety, George Headley and the Duke du Fulco Verdura. 

Despite his booming business, Flato often had problems with his cash-flow. He lived lavishly, beyond his means; while his wealthy clientele was tardy with their payments. Hollywood soon beckoned, leading to the opening of a second store in Los Angeles in the late 30s. Paul Flato jewels were worn by the brightest stars in Hollywood both on and off screen - Katherine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Merle Oberon, Joan Bennett, Vivien Leigh, Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo and Lily Pons were some of the celebrities who wore his pieces. In 1941, an armed robbery caused the company to suffer severe losses and in the same year the bombing of Pearl Harbour slowed business down further, forcing it to be closed down. 

In 1943, a $60,000 diamond brooch that had been consigned to Flato went missing. The police were called in to investigate the loss. Worried jewellers who had consigned pieces with Flato turned up to collect their pieces, only to find that he had pawned many of them, using the cash to temporary stay afloat. Charged with suspicion of theft, Flato was forced to file for bankruptcy. He was sentenced to jail at the end of 1943. A year later, the diamond mysteriously turned up. According to the the tailor who had returned the diamond, he had been to Flato's office to collect a bill, and Flato had handed him the diamond saying it was a present to his wife. The tailor's wife, not knowing the value of the stone, had left it pinned to her dress in a closet for a whole year. The couple only discovered it was the missing diamond when she had taken the brooch to a jeweller to have it reset. Although the diamond was returned, Flato still had to remain in prison. 

Upon his release, Flato started a business with his daughter, creating costume jewelled vanity cases and pens. However, he was caught in 1952 for paying a fortune teller with jewels that were on loan once again, and this time he escaped to Central America, where he was caught. Eventually he served prison time both in Mexico and then again in the United States. Moving back to Mexico after his 5 year incarceration in the United States, Flato finally started afresh, opening a jewellery store in the Zona Rosa district of Mexico City, where he continued creating jewellery late into his 80s. At 90 years of age, Flato was reunited with his family in Texas, till his death in 1999. 


Standard Oil heiress, Millicent Rogers wearing a large heart brooch that she collaborated on with Paul Flato and which later became art of the "whimsies" jewels marketed under the Flato brand. The Millicent Rogers heart: A Ruby, Sapphire, Colored Diamond and Enamel brooch, by Paul Flato was auctioned at the Christies New York Magnificent Jewels sale on April 14.
Estimate $350,000 - $500,000. Realised $425,000


Verdura for Flato "Aquamarine and Ruby Belt Necklace", circa 1935.
Originally created for Mrs Cole Porter.
Verdura and Flato shared a similar aesthetics and because his designs were so well received, they were marketed as Verdura for Flato. In 1939, Verdura left to set up his own boutique. This necklace was offered by SIegelson's at the 2011 Basel World for $1.75 million.


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A Retro Diamond and Gold Feather Brooch, by Fulco Di Verdura for Paul Flato.
Designed as twin sculpted gold plumes, enhanced by single-cut diamond trim, tied with an old European and single-cut diamond ribbon, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1935. 
One of the pieces offered in the Doris Duke Collection of Important Jewellery at Christie's, 2nd June 2004 for an estimate of $8000 - $10000. Price realised $23,900.


   Flato was especially attracted to hand imagery, which was a frequent theme in his pieces.
A Gold, Platinum, Citrine, Ruby, Diamond and Sapphire Clip-Brooch, by Paul Flato
The polished gold hand with five drop-shaped cabochon ruby fingernails holding an emerald-cut citrine weighing approximately 100.00 carats, the lace cuff set with round and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately .50 carat, accented by 15 calibré-cut sapphires; circa 1940. 


Gold, Diamond, Ruby and Enamel Sign Language Clip Brooches, circa 1938
Paul Flato had hearing problems and wore a hearing aid. He created a line of clip brooches called "Deaf and Dumb" as part of his "Say it in Jewels" series. Each sign represented a letter of the alphabet, so that the wearer would be able to piece together her name or monogram. 


Left: A Pair of Gold, Ruby, Diamond and Sapphire Shoe Brooches, circa 1938. Created for Ginger Rogers.
Centre: A Pair of Gold and Ruby Feet Brooches. Currently available at
Right: A typical display of the irreverent humour that can be found in many of Flato's pieces. An ink and gouache design for a brooch created for Marlene Dietrich. The actress suffered a broken leg on the set of filming The Lady Is Willing and was presented with a broken leg brooch when filming was completed. 


"Say-it-in-jewels" was an immensely successful line of jewellery that could be personalised with messages and monograms. 
A Gold 'I Love You' Bracelet, by Paul Flato, circa 1940


A Gold and Citrine Bangle Bracelet, by Paul Flato, circa 1940. Worn by Katharine Hepburn in the film Holiday. Part of the Important Jewels Sale at Sotheby's on the 2nd February, 2011 for an estimate of $7500 to $10,000. Price realised $36,250.


A Trip of Diamond and Sapphire Brooches, circa 1938. Configurable into a bracelet.

A Sugarloaf Cabochon Sapphire, Carved Emerald and Diamond Brooch, by Paul Flato, circa 1937





Paul Flato - Jeweller to the Stars, by Elizabeth Irvine Bray




Nécessaires and Minaudières - A Lady's Vanity


The roaring twenties saw a tremendous increase in the independence and mobility of females. Fashionable women in society bobbed their hair, raised their hemlines and were easily seen holding a cigarette and applying copious amounts of makeup in public, which before, was only considered acceptable if the women happened to be actresses or demi-mondaines. Women relished and asserted their newfound freedom by indulging in newly invented cosmetics. Pale creamy skin, thin eyebrows drawn in a downwards curve, kohl lined eyes, thick lashes and a scarlet pout was the look in vogue. Ladies spent much time powdering their faces and perfecting the cupid bows on their lips.

Paris in the 1920s by Albert Harlingue
Photo courtesy of


Women in bathing suits, smoking, circa 1920s
Photo courtesy of


Jewellers started designing intricate and elegant nécessaires to house a woman's cosmetic treasures and personal items. These beautiful objects were frequently on display and became yet another jewelled accessory to complement one's evening look. Major jewellers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and La Cloche Frères created some of the most exquisite vanity cases ranging from minimalistic plain gold cases set with gems to heavy ornamental cases with a strong Oriental theme. Chinese symbolic signs, landscapes, dragons, buddhas and enamelled flowers, Japanese chrysanthemums and peonies, and Persian mosaic tiles and tapestry were translated onto these boxes via an array of materials such as jade, onyx, coral and other precious gemstones.

An Onyx, Enamel, Coral and Diamond Vanity Case, by LaCloche Frères, 1920s.

The circular case set to the front with four bevelled onyx plaques, the central shòu character and edges set with rose diamonds, to a twisted silk cord set with coral bead and rose diamond slider, terminating on a similarly set tassel with onyx beads, opening to reveal a mirror, lipstick holder and powder compartment, signed Lacloche Frères, numbered, French assay and indistinct maker's marks.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

A Gem-Set Compact, by Cartier, 1920s

The circular compact with a water dragon motif composed of resin, ivory and mother-of-pearl, framed by black enamel, turquoise, and cabochon rubies, opening to reveal a powder compartment and a mirror, measuring approximately 65mm x 65 mm x 12mm, signed Cartier London, New York, Paris and numbered, French assay marks.

Photo courtesy of Symbolic and Chase

An Enamel, Jade and Diamond Lipstick and Compact, circa 1925

The black and cream enamel lipstick and circular compact, the lids decorated with carved jade flowerheads and millegrain-set old brilliant-cut diamonds, each suspended from a black and cream enamel baton-link chain, to a black enamel suspension ring.

Photo courtesy of Bonhams




Towards the 1930s, evening clutches became the de rigeur accessory for the evening when women started finding the handbag obtrusive and distracting from the sleeveless, low necklines and scooped-back dresses that were in fashion. A clutch became the perfect adornment, holding a few essentials while the ladies danced the night away. Charles Arpels was inspired to create the very first minaudière after a meeting with the modish Florence J Gould, who, in her hurry to leave the house, had simply thrown her lipstick, compact, and cigarette lighter into a large Lucky Strike cigarette tin to use as handbag. It was then coined "minaudière" and patented by Alfred Van Cleef as a tribute to his wife, whom he would often tenderly admonish for her tendency to minauder (simper). Subsequently, nécessaires, once simpler vessels containing one or two items, became an elaborate cabinet of curiousities. Compartments for powder, lipstick, comb, mirror, perfume, pen, lighters, and watches were crafted. These artistically and technically challenging works of art took various forms - oval, cylindrical or rectangular, and could also be attached to a ring or a lipstick case to form a handle.


An Art Deco Mother-of-Pearl, Enamel and Diamond Vanity Case, by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The rectangular blue enamelled case with black enamelled borders, designed as an Oriental mother-of pearl landscape, depicting a temple and trees with engraved gold trim, amongst billowing clouds, enhanced by rose-cut diamond geometric style trim and push-piece, opening to reveal a fitted mirror and covered powder compartment, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1925, 2¾ x 2 x 3/8 ins., with French assay marks and maker’s mark. Signed Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, nos. 29958 and 20.362. With maker’s mark for Van Cleef & Arpels

Photo courtesy of Christie’s


In our world of fast moving consumer goods today when almost everything is disposable, vanity cases now rarely come into play. The ones that have survived till date are precious pieces of art that allow us to relive the old days of glamour. Fine examples from the 20s and 30s are highly collectible these days, evident in the auction results they have been creating. Revival Jewels is proud to present some of these vanity cases that are currently available in our atelier.


From L-R:  A Gold, Pink Sapphire and Diamond Vanity Case by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1940s; An Art Deco Black Onyx, Enamel and Diamond Box, by Cartier, circa 1920; An Art Deco Gold and Sapphire-Set Cigarette Case, by Bulgari, circa 1930; A Gold and Enamel 'I Love You' Vanity Case, by Paul Flato, circa 1940; A Gold and White Enamel Vanity Case, by Bulgari, circa 1960




Victorian Romanticism: Love Jewels At Their Best

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The expression of love through offering presents and tokens courses through history in different forms. While gifting jewellery is a time-honoured custom, its heyday was during the Victorian Era (1837-1901) in British history, named after the period of Queen Victoria’s reign. It did not just coincide with the Romanticism movement (1837-1860) in literature and the arts, her happy marriage to Prince Albert was also one that inspired and moved her people. 

Comeback of the Brooch: 12 Stylish Ways to Wear It


A classic jewellery item, the brooch appears to have fallen by the wayside in recent decades as a veritable piece of bejewelled accoutrement. The younger generation these days seems to view the brooch as a “boring” jewel for dressier or more formal occasions. Why, we wonder, since the brooch is one of the most versatile and playful pieces of bling. Fortunately, a new wave of young tastemakers is falling in love with it, and showing the world how they wear the brooch in fun, imaginative and stylish ways. Here are 12 examples of how they did it with flair and aplomb.