Ever wanted to know about the history of jewellery, the world of fine jewellery auctions, or just how exactly you can become a jewellery expert? Well, we have just the lady for you! Vanessa Cron is the queen of jewels.
Looking through Vanessa’s IG feed – jewels and the gang – only confirms her status as gem expert. But what about her credentials? Well, she is an independent jewellery historian, consultant and lecturer at Christie’s Education, and has worked for some of the most important expert dealers in antique jewellery and exceptional gemstones. She also has 15 years experience at Christie’s, the market leader in the jewellery category, researching major jewels such as the Peregrina pearl, the Empress Eugenie ‘Feuille de Groseillier’ brooch, the ‘Blue Belle of Asia’ sapphire and the ‘Grand Mazarin’ diamond. This winter, she will be giving a range of short courses at Christie’s Education in London and New York, on everything from royal jewels to masterclasses on identifying jewellery. Other courses include glamour jewellery and gemstones. We spoke to Vanessa about how she got her job, and the key pieces of jewellery info every gem-lover should know.
How did you get to teach at the Christie’s Education courses?
I had worked as a cataloguer and archivist for the jewellery department at Christie’s for 10 years. At the same time, I had been also teaching the history of jewellery at HEAD-Geneva, the Art and Design school. There came a point when I wanted to dedicate more time to education, research and archive work so I left my job as a cataloguer at Christie’s. That is when I started as a regular speaker for Christie’s Education, initially on the Online Jewellery course, and then expanding to ‘live’ classes around the world.
What is the best part of your job?
Sharing! I teach all types of students at various schools, including Christie’s Education, and I really love how much they all share the same passion. They are eager to know more about the history of jewellery, the design and its symbolism, which has led to the formation of unique relationships with them.
What will students learn on the courses?
It depends on the course chosen. I talk about the history of jewellery through various angles; it may be identifying the artistic design periods, the glamour of the jewels of Hollywood, how gems have been used in jewellery or how symbolism have been so present in jewellery design through the centuries. Students can even learn about the jewels of kings and queens!
Which jewels or jewellery designers are the best investments?
That is a very difficult question. I believe you really need to invest in what you like and in the pieces you feel a real connection with. You need to be careful when investing in gemstones because it requires a good amount of previous knowledge. In general I would say that a good investment is to buy iconic 20th Century jewels, be it from Belle Epoque, Art Nouveau, Art Deco or Retro, in perfect condition and signed by a well-known jewellery house.
If you could have any piece of jewellery in the world, what would it be?
I have been lucky enough to have seen many incredible jewels during my career and therefore don’t feel the need to own any. I’ve cherished them for a few weeks or months, and then let them go to new caretakers as others would come in for auction. Of course, if I could, I would love to hold the Regent diamond in my hands, because it’s such a historic gem and perhaps because I’m French! I already have what I consider being the most beautiful piece of jewellery in the world. A gold bracelet by Ernesto Pierret from the Archeological Revival period. It’s what it represents for me that makes it so special.
Can you tell us the 5 most expensive pieces of jewellery?
Although it is a straightforward question, the answer is not easy. You can have a look at auction records to see that all of the most expensive pieces of jewellery are in fact stones. What I mean is that the price is linked to the value of the diamond, not to the jewel itself. An example would be the blue diamond in the Oppenheimer ring by Verdura, which sold for more than US$57 million. The final price may also be influenced by the provenance, such as the Marie-Antoinette pearl pendant sold for more than US$35 million. In these cases, the price is not linked to the quality of the jewel itself, rather to its material or former owner.
What are 5 historical dates every aspiring jewellery expert should know?
You could know that the French Crown Jewels were sold at auction in 1887, but in my opinion, rather than the exact dates, it’s more relevant to know how to identify each artistic period in jewellery during the 20th Century. Also, knowing the technical and design differences between jewels from the 1930s and jewels from the 1950s can be a key element to good expertise. Keep in mind, this requires a lot of practice!
CHRISTIE’S UPCOMING JEWELLERY AUCTIONS
Christie’s Jewels Online HK, Online | 17477, 29 Oct – 5 Nov
Magnificent Jewels, Geneva | 17436, 12 Nov
Important Jewels, London | 17284, 27 Nov
Jewels Online, Online | 17630, 4-12 Dec
Fine Jewels, Paris, 17578, 5 Dec
Magnificent Jewels, New York | 17465, 11 Dec
Text Lizzy Vartanian
Images via Christie’s