Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hand-Painted Holiday Cards

The Holiday Season is rapidly approaching – this year, we started seeing Christmas advertising in October! One very important part of celebrating the holidays is the exchange of holiday greeting cards, and while there is no end of choices out there, Primavera Gallery has something very special to offer – gorgeous French holiday cards from the 1920’s.

On one of our trips to Paris, we purchased an entire collection of fabulous antique hand-painted holiday cards that were done in the 1920’s, some of them designed by known illustrators of the period. Fortunately, they had been stored in the original cartons, and the colors are still as fresh and vibrant as when they were made. They were created by a process know as pochoir, a labor-intensive process whereby a stencil for each color was laid on the card, and then carefully painted-in by hand.

The subject matter is varied. Many of the cards feature everyone’s “fantasy” 19th century Christmas – scenes of finely costumed people carrying brightly wrapped packages, with snow falling in the background, and beautiful interiors of people enjoying the holiday ambience. Some of the holiday cards feature exotic scenes, others depict people enjoying outdoor activities.

There are no messages inside, and while many of the images do evoke Christmas Past, they are quite non-denominational, and do not have religious themes, so they can be sent to people of any (or no) religious affiliations. Because they are so beautiful, many
people who buy them from us send them as small gifts, as they are worthy of being framed. They are definitely cards that will never be thrown away, and the lucky recipients will always remember the gorgeous card that you so thoughtfully sent.

To see our entire collection of these wonderful antique holiday and Christmas cards, visit the Holiday Cards section of our website. (<-- click on the link).

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Art of the Cocktail….Ring

While the term “cocktail” was first used in 1803, and the first Bartender’s Guide was published in 1862, the first recorded actual “Cocktail Party” was given by a Mrs. Julius Walsh of St Louis, Missouri in 1917. The idea obviously caught on, as Cocktail Parties (called Drinks Parties in England) became an increasingly fashionable way to consume spirits in public, and the Cocktail Party soon became the new and exciting way to entertain at home. The term evokes images of glamorous women with, perhaps, long cigarette holders, in languorous poses, and with a large ring consconspicuously on display as she sipped a martini or glass of champagne.

The evolution of the cocktail ring came about in the early 1920’s, with the social revolution that made it acceptable for women to drink, smoke and touch-up their make-up in public.

At soigné clubs and elegant restaurants, and the newly popular Cocktail Parties, (and also, perhaps, at somewhat less elevated locations), women took full advantage of their new freedoms, and they wanted elegant accoutrements with which to do so. These items were, for the rich, yet another way of showing off their wealth with precious and often jewel-encrusted accessories. Those less fortunate could also be in style with less costly versions.

A cocktail ring is a ring of unusually large proportions, meant to draw attention as the drinker raised her glass. These could take many forms, as long as the ring was large enough to attract the eye, and the idea of a cocktail ring remained fashionable through the decades, as did cocktail parties. After a brief rest, these rings have now become the new “must have” accessory.

A cocktail ring can take just about any form, as long as it is stylish and conspicuous, and what better way to be in style with great originality than with a smashing vintage ring, and you needn't just wear it to cocktail parties – these rings go out to dinner with equal panache.

All of these, and many other cocktail rings are available for purchase at the gallery.

Cocktail rings, l-r: Cartier, Paris, Ruby and Diamond ring, ca. 1960's; Marchak, Paris, Sugar-loaf turquoise and diamond ring, ca. 1950's; Chaumet, Paris, Ruby and Diamond ring, ca. 1930's; Cartier, Paris Emerald, Ruby, and Sapphire ring, ca. 1950's; Unknown designer, USA, Sapphire and Pearl ring, ca. 1950's; Unknown designer, France, Gold and Diamond ring, ca. 1950's.

Audrey Friedman for Primavera Gallery

This article is copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


We have recently acquired this amazing bracelet and we couldn’t wait to share it with you. In fact we will be bringing it with us to the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show next week (Oct 22-Oct 28). This cuff-bracelet is unique not just because of its design, but because of who designed it. Conceived by the renowned French couturier Paul Poiret, this is a rare piece of jewelry. While Poiret wasn’t averse to lending his talents to clothing, interior, and stage design, jewelry was not so much a part of his repertoire.

What struck me immediately about this bracelet is how modern the design is. It resembles the jewelry created by Art Smith, in his Greenwich Village shop, in the 1950s. Even the signature on the Poiret piece resembles Smith’s style. Date circa 1920, Poiret’s material of choice for this cuff is silver and the decorative swirls resemble the designs of his textiles. Although I must note that Raoul Dufy, who worked with Poiret at his decorating firm, “Atelier Martine”, was also involved in the designs of these.

Like Poiret’s clothing this bracelet is quite theatrical. It is possible that this bracelet was created for the very memorable costume party of the 24 june 1911 in his private house, Faubourg Saint Honoré, ‘mille et deuxième nuit’, (Thousand and Second Night) with a chosen decor, very influenced by the Persian. This ball was one of the most incredible and amazing spectacles. The Parisian beau-monde was asked to attend in their best Oriental costumes, many of them, of course, choosing to wear Poiret’s dazzling ensembles (Poiret would probably appreciate this season’s crazy for the “harem” pant, which wa part of his spring collection in 1911 and proved to be very controversial at that time). It really is impossible to capture, in words, the beauty and the magic of that memorable evening.

At some point, Poiret also had jewelry created for him by the Maison Gripoix, founded in the 1870s, which specialized in fanciful costume jewelry creations. They were responsible for producing the jewelry designs of many French couturiers, including House of Worth, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and most famously Coco Chanel.

Poiret’s familial connection to jewelry design was quite close. His sister, Jeanne was married to René Boivin, who was a renowned French jewelry designer. Boivin’s jewelry house has a very interesting story as well. The house was founded in 1890 but it wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that it became known for producing the most original jewelry creations in all of Paris. Boivin passed away shortly after World War I but the house continued to operate under his wife’s leadership. Jeanne, including her daughter Germaine, hired a group of very talented women designers, including Suzanne Belperron, who were responsible for jewelry that was bold, fresh and very elegant. Even today jewelry from Boivin is very sought-after by collectors.

To see the bracelet in person please visit the gallery or come and see us at the Fine Art& Antque Dealers Show at the Park Avenue Armory, Ocotber 22- October 28, 2010. Please email us if you would like to receive free tickets.

Image credits: Paul Poiret, silver bracelet, ca. 1920. Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944) Textile design by Raoul Dufy (French, 1879–1953) "La Perse" Coat Worn by Denise Poiret, 1911, Ivory and blue-black block-printed cotton velvet with brown rabbit trim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2005 (2005.199). Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944)Fancy Dress Costume Probably Worn to "The Thousand and Second Night" Party, June 24, 1911. Green silk gauze and gold lamé with blue foil appliqué and gold, blue, pink, coral, and turquoise celluloid-bead embroidery. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Trust, 1983 (1983.8a, b). Art Smith, Lava Bracelet, circa 1946 Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell. Art Smith, sterling collar necklace, c.1948, seven hammered sterling sections with sphere detail, stamped Art Smith Sterling, 14.5l, Treadway Gallery.

Bella Neyman, Associate Director, Primavera Gallery

Friday, September 17, 2010

The New Look

The hot new trend being reported by fashion magazines is for women to get rid of the sweats and hoodies, and look smart and elegant in crisply tailored, simple dresses and suits, skirts and slacks with jackets, and, yes, a skirt or slacks with a nice blouse or sweater.
I can’t help but think that this “old” style of dress has been made popular again by the award-winning TV series Mad Men. The women, be they office workers, secretaries or higher-up in the corporate structure are all so nicely dressed – they look feminine and sexy. And, let us not forget the wives of the executives, who look elegant even when just going to lunch with friends, and fabulous when they are dressing up to go out.

Take note - they are all wearing jewelry.

Jeans are fine, and will always be popular, but now – really – isn’t it time for something new – a fresh look all your own? And what better way to add glamour to a new outfit than with good jewelry? This is the prefect time for a simple and elegant gold necklace, some interesting earrings, an eye-catching bracelet, or perhaps the most iconic signature piece – a good-looking brooch on that jacket lapel or dress collar. Fine jewelry with great design is an investment that will give you immediate and long-term pleasure, and garner lots of compliments.

The Mad Men series is set in the late 1950’s – 60’s. At Primavera Gallery, we have always had a big following for this jewelry, and have never felt that jewelry of these periods was out of style. We have a wonderful variety of pieces, but there is no reason to stick to period accuracy. Victorian, Art Deco, 1930’s, and 40’s jewelry all offer great and stylish jewelry, and there is certain to be something special for you.

Audrey Friedman

This article is copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


There was a time when just about every woman longed to have a piece of jewelry, no matter how modest. It was something personal, and precious to the owner. It might have been handed down in a family, or a gift from a loved one. The fact of its being in an earlier style made it even more special – it had a history.

Now, we tend to look upon jewelry differently. Granny’s necklace may have been stylish in its day, but can I really wear that now? My mother loves gold jewelry from the 1930’s and 40’s but isn’t that out-of-date now?

The fact is, beautiful things never go out of style. Not only is”what is old is new again” – it never really went out of fashion.

Every woman should own at least one great and distinctive piece of jewelry. By great, I don’t necessarily mean big, precious stones. I am talking about jewelry that was designed with imagination, and built by skilled jewelers who cared about details. Some of the most interesting jewelry has very little of intrinsic value – it is about great design. We like jewelry that has a “personality” – something about it that is unique, original, eloquent, and that speaks of its period, but in a way that defines the period, rather than merely following it.

Every period of recent jewelry history has beautiful and wearable pieces to offer that transcend the ordinary, be it Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, 1930’s Modernist, 40’s “Retro”, 50’s, with its textured gold, lots of colors, and humorous themes, and 60’s, with it’s bold use of stones and enamels, and it’s new take on Art Deco. The best jewelry pieces are strong and self-contained – perfectly proportioned and designed with care and, often with humor.

We are now, in fact, seeing a return to certain jewelry styles from the 50’s – bangle bracelets, charm bracelets, button earrings. From the Sixties, we are seeing long gold chains and necklaces, with or without stones, and hoop earrings.

That heavy gold Retro bracelet that your mother bought twenty years ago or perhaps even inherited from her mother is just as striking now, as is that 1930’s cocktail ring. Those hanging Victorian earrings are so distinctive and flattering – dare I say feminine? Sexy? The 1950’s and 60’s produced jewelry that was full of humor and imagination – these things never go out of fashion.

We are constantly lending jewelry to fashion magazines, and we are being asked for heavy gold jewelry from the 1930’s that an elegant woman would wear for an evening out. We are being asked for dramatic yellow gold jewelry of any period. We are being asked for Art Deco diamond bracelets. Fashion magazines are showing glamour and a sophisticated diversity in their choices of jewelry to accessorize an outfit.

Jewelry can be so much more than just a “fashion accessory”. The best pieces of jewelry are artful – they have a certain quality that sets them apart from more mundane pieces, and this is the kind of jewelry that we have been offering to our clients for 40 years. We have seen styles come in to fashion, go out of fashion, and then come in again, sort of like the tides…

Now that so many women find themselves most comfortable in jeans and a jacket, why not wear a distinctive brooch, a smashing bracelet, or an interesting pair of earrings? Every woman should have at least one “signature” piece of jewelry.

There are many areas being explored now in contemporary jewelry design by individual “studio” designers, such as the spare, geometric designs of Giampaolo Babetto, each executed by him in 18k gold, some with textured enamels. Small studios are creating original designs, many in new materials that are fresh and modern, such as the “Superleggere” necklaces and bracelets of GianCarlo Montebello, made from intricately laser-cut steel.

There really is no reason not to explore the fascinating world of jewelry – there is just the right piece out there, waiting for you to discover it, and be it Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, Retro, 50’s or 60, or contemporary, it is not your mother’s jewelry – it is yours.

Jewelry images from left to right: Sterle, 18k gold and multi-stone necklace; Buccelatti, 18k gold and yellow beryl ring; Buccelatti, 18k gold and 4 ct. diamond ring; Boucheron, 18k gold necklace that can also be worn as three separate bracelets; Babetto, 18k white gold with red and black niello, pigment; Montebello, 18k gold hoops and three stainless steel pendants.

Audrey Friedman

This article is copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Snakey Things

There is no question that we are both fascinated and repelled by snakes. Putting aside Freud and phallic symbols, and Genesis with the demon serpent, we get to Charles Darwin. Snakes are potentially dangerous, and our brain instantly responds to anything that resembles a snake because any earlier ancestors who weren’t so alert, might not have lived to pass on their genes. We are by far not the only species highly sensitized to snakes, but unlike the others, we can make jewelry.

Snake-themed jewelry can serve as a protective amulet – wear the thing you fear, and it will protect you from that thing. This is one reason for the popularity of snakes in jewelry, and when you factor in Freud and Genesis, the serpent becomes even more compelling. The symbolism can also be reversed – rings designed as a snake with its tail in its mouth symbolized Eternity, at least in English jewelry –I can’t speak for everyone else. A diamond Eternity ring was and still is a very popular wedding band. The Eternity snake is also found on Memorial and Memento Mori jewelry from earlier periods.

Snakes lend themselves so well to jewelry, particularly rings. They can twine up the finger in a life-like way, or be just one elegant coil. In any form, snake jewelry demands our attention, and isn’t it nice to have people notice your jewelry?

Images top to bottom (l-r): Victorian gold and diamond serpent ring, ca. 1880; Memorial ring, ca. 1833, the eternity snake with its tail in its mouth can be seen surrounding the central motif; Diamond and emerald serpent ring, ca. 1920's; Ruby, diamond and emerald snake cufflinks, England, 19th c., Double headed serpent ring with rubies, England, ca. 1900; Edwardian platinum serpent ring with sapphire, diamonds, and rubies, England, ca. 1910.

*Please contact us if you are interested in acquiring any of these pieces.

Audrey Friedman

This article is copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Salvador Dali’s Ruby Lips

We consider ourselves very fortunate to own one of Dali’s most iconic pieces of jewelry - the Ruby Lips With Teeth Like Pearls. Dali took this cliché, and created a fabulous and sexy brooch. The full, curving lips are paved with beautiful rubies. The teeth, naturally, are very fine pearls. This brooch gets lots of attention. I wore it a while back to a museum dinner, and a male acquaintance of mine actually stooped down and kissed them!

Dali is arguably the most famous of the Surrealist artists. Just the name Dali evokes images of the bizarre. This is due, in part, to his flamboyant personality and mania for self-promotion, but is also the result of the precision of his technique, his fascinating images of simulated but convincing paranoia, and of course, his extravagant personality -– he was almost a living embodiment of the figures in his surreal world.

Dali had always been interested in translating his ideas into precious jewelry. It was during the 1940’s and 1950’s that he actually created a body of jewelry based on his singular, surrealist images. Some of the designs for these jewels were taken directly from his paintings. He wanted to transform the two dimensional into the third dimension, and loved adapting his images to precious, small sculptures that could be worn.

Quite a lot of his jewelry, though, is too big to actually wear. When we had the opportunity to visit the Dali Museum in Figueras, Spain, we were surprised by the scale of many of the pieces, which we had previously only seen in books. The genius of these pieces is staggering – it was truly an awe-inspiring experience to see these pieces before us.

Dali’s first jewels were commissioned by a wealthy Scandinavian businessman named Eric Ertmann, and these jewels and objets d’art caused a sensation when they were shown at the1954 Milan Triennial. The collection was full of richness and exuberance, and was widely admired and quite influential. In 1958, the Owen Cheatham foundation acquired the collection, which was subsequently exhibited around the world, giving a wealth of new images to jewelry design.

Of course, the success of the collection led to private commissions and to the production of some of the jewels in simpler and less labor-intensive versions -- using enamel instead of rubies and emeralds, for example. Dali developed images especially for a more “mass” market, such as the crossed dove’s wings, meant to symbolize peace. These were done as earrings and rings, with and without stones.

In 1961, Dali participated in the historically important “International Exhibition of Modern Jewelry” at Goldsmiths Hall in London.

Dali’s entrance into the area of jewelry design was important for several reasons:

Firstly, he was an artist of international stature, a genius in his own twisted and very original way. When any artist does jewelry, it is always interesting to take a look. His jewelry designs successfully bridged the gap between art and ornament -- no mean achievement, and something that few great artists who tried their hand at jewelry were able to do as successfully.

His ideas gave a burst of fresh energy to post-war design. Here were new images and ideas to play with. He not only gave courage to other artists to try jewelry, but also had a great influence on the American studio movement.

Today, his pieces are highly sought-after, but caution to the collector – there are pieces on the market that are copies, especially of the Ruby Lips and the Eye of Time. Dali also did editions of jewelry that were quite ugly - long ropy things of twisted figures and blobs. They were done in unknown quantity, and have little artistic merit.

Dali produced his jewels with the help of several people. Mr. Ertman, as I mentioned, provided the money. Mr. Carlos B. Alemany was a jeweler who organized the fabrication and eventual selling of the designs. He had a shop in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. The actual bench - work was done by Charles Valliant, of the 47th Street workshop of Valliant and Devere.

We have loaned Ruby Lips to so many museum exhibitions that I have not been able to wear it for quite a few years. After being in a museum show in Belgium of Artist’s jewelry, the Lips went off to the “Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design” exhibition that opened in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and traveled for several years to venues in Europe and North America. We were told that the Ruby Lips were among the most popular pieces in the exhibition. They will be on view soon at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, from August 7, 2010 until January 9, 2011, in an exhibition called Dali: The Late Works.

We are also fortunate to have a fabulous gold box with the Leaf-Veined Hand, ornamented with cabochon ruby nails. Like the Ruby Lips, this piece has also been in many exhibitions, as can also been seen at the High Museum.

Audrey Friedman

This article is copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.