What it's Worth

The Western Case Company was a short-lived business for a few years before it was bought by a large American watch company. They employed artisans from all walks of life including Swiss immigrants, enamelists and case makers.

Often when we write a column about a particular subject, it generates interest in our two stores for both buying and selling. Last month’s column about mid-century modern enticed a forward-thinking Tampa resident to bring us perhaps the mother lode of mid-century modern.

Why the mother lode? Because these two rings are a couple of the heaviest and most unusual rings we have ever seen. Additionally, he retained the original artist paperwork (Barry Merritt) outlining the original cost and signed by the artist.

There is a fascinating phenomenon in the world of art, jewelry and antiques. Simply put, things once considered ugly by one generation become incredibly beautiful and/or valuable in the eyes of a later generation.

It’s not that difficult to explain. Let’s examine the phenomenon of “freeform” or “modernist” or “brutalist” jewelry.

While we were fortunate enough to see hundreds of items at the Expo last week, we thought we’d choose a few items we appraised and valued for this column.

We had the chance to meet hundreds of people and appraise a lot of unique items – including expensive paintings, large diamonds and a range of antiques. Most of these pictures are low-resolution cellphone photos, and some are even pictures of other pictures, but you will get the idea.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The eye is in the beholder ... right?

This old adage is particularly true with gemstones. When folks bring in antique (or modern) rings to sell, there seems to be some confusion between a star sapphire, a cat’s eye and a tiger’s eye.

Let’s start with tiger’s eye. Tiger’s eye (Fig. 1)

Collectibles come in many forms, and not only antiques.

Mid-century modern is a term thrown around a lot, describing the style of things made from the 1950s to the 1980s.

We recently bought from an estate sale a huge collection of art moderne by famed designer Jennifer Kalled.

Ms. Kalled started her craft in Arizona in the mid-’80s with a more southwestern or Native American style, and gradually moved to a

Klimt-like style (referring to Gustav Klimt, the famed Austrian symbolist, and secessionist).

The internet has changed the course of jewelry and watch collecting dramatically. At the start of my career in antiques, it was considered almost a kiss of death for a watch to be heavily inscribed with the former owner’s name and/or occasion of receipt. And vintage rings with information engraved inside were quickly taken to a bench jeweler to remove this personalization, since it was so much easier to sell a piece without it.

Today I will write about emeralds past and present. I will talk about a current emerald in our store from a local dealer and offer an update on an emerald I wrote about last year. 

First, I will talk about an emerald brought to us by a local resident. It’s very large, and very green, but heavily included (people say “flaws” or “carbon,” but these terms are incorrect. Imperfections in emeralds are often referred to as “Jardin”... French for garden). It is over 15 carats, but the degree of imperfections worried Katrina. As suspected, it came back from GIA as heavily treated. 

These past few weeks have been pretty exciting at Hess Fine Art as we’ve been getting ready for our big fall arts, sports, important silver and autograph auction. 

This month we purchased three nice paintings. The one pictured is an important watercolor by Otto Eerleman that we purchased from a local art dealer. It depicts Napoleon at a rest stop in France. Our auction estimate is $7000-$9000. 

Additionally we bought, from a local retiree an Arts and Crafts mid-century painting for almost $100,000 by a famous Western artist. 

Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. had a very cozy relationship early on. In fact, at one point, Patek Philippe and Tiffany even shared the same building in Switzerland, according to many sources. 

Patek and Tiffany continued to work hand-in-hand for many years after Tiffany closed their factory in Switzerland. Tiffany loved the quality of Patek but sometimes the cases did not meet the aesthetics that Tiffany customers preferred.