Tefaf is a great platform for the art lovers.
The European Fine Art Fair, also known as TEFAF organizes every year one of the most prestigious art fairs in the world. I met with Van Cleef & Arpels, Wallace Chan, Hemmerle, Verdura and Otto Jakob.
Verdura Limited edition Bracelet called Theodora Cuff. Celebrating 75 years of style! Fulco di Verdura created this motif in the beginning of his years as a jewelry designer and his earliest collaboration with Coco Chanel. Containing a 9 carat sapphire, 5 carat emerald and 5 carat amethyst. Enamel over 18kt gold. Maltese cross shape. There are also rubies, diamonds, aquamarines, garnets, citrines and peridots. Cuff comes in a very limited edition of 200, sold in pairs or individually, engraved and numbered with Verdura New York 1939. Price: 97.500 dollar
I had received a kind invitation from the board of the TEFAF and so on that wednesday morning I took the car and headed down south towards Maastricht. A city in the Netherlands, squeezed between Belgium and Germany and known for it’s beautiful landscape that surrounds it, the bon vivant attitude and the many gastronomic delights found in the numerous restaurants.
As press, I was well taken care of, and within minutes after parking my car, I headed towards the MECC centre, a anonymous almost ugly building. Walking in the building prepares you in nothing for what is waiting ahead. But once you spot the entrance of the TEFAF itself, the ugliness of the MECC is completely forgotten. A hall, filled with an stunning composition of flowers on the walls, attracted so much attention that most could not resist taking pictures of it, mainly selfies. Which are fine to take, I just always feel kind of silly when I am alone, but surrounded by people, to do such a thing. So..sorry, no selfies ;-)
Hemmerle- The AL Project. Made in ALuminium
I headed immediately to meet with Wallace Chan and had one of the most memorable encounters in my career. Straight after that I went to my next appointment, visiting the famous jewelry house from Paris: Van Cleef & Arpels. Prior to meeting them, I had such pleasant contact with their PR. I was assured by them to be greeted as they would have done, if there, by one of their colleagues within the booth. I couldn’t help, but think about all those things I read about the client journey. When Julia shook my hand with a broad and welcoming smile, I felt that this was what people meant...the perfect client journey, from the website, to the e-mail contact, the phone calls and messages and the final meeting, all the way to the perfect and beautiful booth filled with stunning jewelry that was there to delight visitors and take them into the rich history of this famous house. What a pleasure!
Papillon Kallima Ring by Van Cleef & Arpels. White gold, diamonds, one pear shaped D FL TYPE 2 diamond of 5.22 carats. Red Gold and traditional Mystery set rubies....Incredible piece of jewelry
Julia, took me around the booth, explaining me what we were looking at. I noticed a fair amount of vintage pieces and she explained that they have a team that is on the constant look out for those pieces around the world. When they find something that they want to bring home again, it gets totally revised, stones are controlled one by one, to see if they are still the original ones. And clasps are repaired or replaced as they need to be secure for the future owner. As we sat down, she showed me the zipper necklace.
What a piece! It’s designed with the input of Wallis Simpson, who thought a zipper, at that time only used in men’s heavy duty clothing, would make excellent jewelry. It took 15 years of studying and trying, before the first necklace was created. The zipper actually works and it can also become a bracelet by simply taking of the part that goes from one side of the neck to the other. If you take a close look, you can actually see where you can take it off.
The famous Zipper necklace called : Zip Antique Ludo. Transformable necklace in pink gold, round diamonds, round rubies. Estimated work hours: 810 (!)
Julia then dazzled me with a mystery setting of rubies and a huge pear shaped diamond set upon a butterfly ring. Where Hemmerle and Wallace Chan were secretive about the prices, Van Cleef & Arpels had no such problems and I found out that the ring on my pink was worth 990.000 euro. Usually I am slightly clumsy, tripping over doorsteps, falling from staircases, that kind of thing, so I can easily say that I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments. I also lived long enough in Italy to have grown the habit of using my hands when speaking and taught myself to just not do that when around high end jewelry and move very calmly, focussing on one thing at the time :-) I certainly did not like the thought of swooping that ring of my finger by accident, throwing it against who knows what!
Julia showed me the details underneath the mystery setting, patented by van Cleef & Arpels in 1933 Tiny rails of gold and even tinier screws keep the stones fixed in place, but no metal is shown on the front side of the jewelry. It is incredibly difficult so it takes incredible stone cutters and -setters to do this right.
After saying goodbye and promising to go for a lunch when visiting London, I had some minutes between my next appointment. And just outside Verdura, I met this group of Dutch jeweler students. They looked bored. I tried to have a conversation with them and they engaged in the conversation as young adults may do. Slightly torn, some of them, between not knowing whether to tell me more, or thinking I may be some crazy & way too cheerful lady, old enough to be their mother.
As I learned they were students who wanted to become the jeweler of tomorrow, I thought they should be so excited to see some of the most fantastic pieces of jewelry here and some very exclusive brands too. But no, they were bored. They told me that they had lost their initial enthusiasm for their education and choice of career, as the teachers at Schoonhoven, the Dutch school for jewelers and goldsmith education, were old, uninspiring, unwilling to go to any depth of any matter. Nothing about internet, marketing, social media, nothing that went into depth about the mechanics of watches. Nothing. It made me almost sad too, as once more it seems that education does not meet with the current and future reality of the working world. These are the people that should inspire our future generation of jewelry buyers! Although all that may be true, I wanted to see how pro-active they were themselves. So, I told them about my career in shor; I was a jeweler in Italy for 6 years, I had been a buyer, agent and so forth. I was now a blogger, journalist and consultant. I told them passionately about my love for the world of jewelry and offered them help and advice if they would reach out to me. I gave them my website with the thought: show me your engagement and eagerness to learn, and I will invest my energy and time in you. One...one only connected with me on Linkedin, but so far that was all they did.
So, after leaving them, I entered the booth of Otto Jakob. Fully emerging myself into passion, art and craftsmanship again as I was met by Otto himself, a tall man that has a twinkle in his eyes and talks with a touching openness about his life, his career, his jewelry. He was open about his struggles and his choices, never taking things for granted and so convinced of his path, that he made no concessions. Which usually means that you don’t make life easier for yourself either.
Otto Jakob and Esther Ligthart
But he made it. In his booth on the TEFAF, there was an incredible collection of fine jewelry. After the much larger dimensions of Wallace Chan and Hemmerle and the glitz and glamour of Van Cleef & Arpels, you really need to take one step closer to the window, to look at much smaller pieces. But when you do, you’ll see unique creations. Again, almost or all of them, one of a kind. Otto taught himself how to make jewelry. He wanted to stay pure and although he is in his sixties, I could clearly see this almost innocent childlike conviction that he must have had back then. It felt like he took me to a mirror to look back in time, and see this young man, seeking through books to educate himself and learn and try and make mistakes and then learn more until one day, he was able to create the things he had in his head.
Hand holding Chameleon- Otto Jakob
He was a painter too, but he realized that his talent was within jewelry. Things were not easy, the basic materials for creating fine jewelry are expensive! But one day, a journalist passed by his workshop. And was, what I can only imagine must have happened; enchanted. He wrote a 7 page article for one of the country’s most relevant magazines for a large public ( I believe it was Der Spiegel) and as Otto was overwhelmed with delight, he also had the good sense of business to run towards the bank, holding the magazine underneath his arm. Rushing to the desk of the bank manager and pointing at the article: look! 7 pages! I need you to loan me more! Much unlike today’s banks, they did. And he took the money, advertised in Vogue, ensuring me that it was such a great effective thing to do back then ( although he wouldn’t do it today anymore) and invested in his company. It went well for him. He has a dedicated crowd of fans and buyers. Mostly based in Germany. He did have once a fantastic co-operation with a lady who owned a jewelry store near the World Trade Centre in New York. But the planes that entered the towers in 2001 brought an end to this co-operation, as the husband of this lady lost 88 of his staff members that day, and just by miracle was out himself and his son was downstairs in the building with a client. Both able to escape in time. It made a huge impact on the family and they closed everything and moved to the countryside in New Jersey.
I loved these at Chopard, the earrings are simply amazing!
When I drove home, a 2 hours drive in golden sunlight, I reflected on the day. The interview with Wallace Chan, the incredible stories of Otto Jakob. I thought of all the pieces of jewelry I had seen that day, bracelets by Verdura, once created for Coco Chanel. The beautiful Verdura Heart and the warm, almost homely welcoming of the lady in the booth there, who’s name I have sadly lost. The stunning Hemmerle collection. The different approaches of the 6 exhibitors: the crowded with own people booth of Chopard, showing amazing jewelry, but a rather nervous attitude almost, as I asked for permission to make a photo.The pushing swiftly a catalogue in my hand at Alexandre Reza, to the guys and girls, tomorrow's jewelers, hanging on that bench, as a sophisticated, mostly mature - above 50 for sure- well dressed public hopped from booth to booth. I thought about the vintage jewelers whom’s approach to jewelry is rather different to how Brands and normal jewelry stores do, in a way that makes me curious to explore more about this. The Indian jewelry I saw at Van Gelder, striking and warm. The two Dutch sisters that worked from London and Milan, selling to private clients an amazing collection of vintage jewelry like David Webb’s brooches and so on.
I thought about how much some of the brands that I know would be perfect for TEFAF: Lydia Courteille with her incredibly eclectic jewelry, Mario Buzzanca with his large pearl unique approach in jewelry or Luz Cammino herself, now only represented by one of the vintage jewelry resellers.
My head, heart and eyes were still filled with all that had happened that day, as I parked the car. The door flew open and my son ran towards me on his socks, my Jack Russel barked happily and my hubbie stood smiling on the doorstep. Home again….I smiled and stepped inside and started telling them all about my wonderful day.
Tefaf is a great platform for the art lovers.