From antiquity to today, opulent jewelry has been the ultimate wearable symbol of wealth, prestige and beauty and, perhaps even more impressively, a sagacious financial investment.
The mother of all examples is quite possibly the La Peregrina Pearl purchased in 1969 by Richard Burton at Sotheby's as a Valentine's gift for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. Burton paid $37,000 for the magnificent 65-carat, perfectly symmetrical, pear-shaped pearl that Taylor commissioned Cartier to set in a choker inspired by the pearl's first owner, Queen Mary I of England who received it as a gift from her husband, Phillip II of Spain.
Aptly named La Peregrina, meaning "The Wanderer," the jewel passed through two other European monarchs, the Bonaparte family and to peers of the British Empire until 1969 when the auction hammer came down upon Burton's winning bid — causing the actor to proclaim, "It used to belong to the Welsh, I thought it time they got it back."
In December 2011, nine months after Taylor's death, the La Peregrina necklace sold for a record price of $11.8 million as part of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection auctioned at Christie's in New York. One doubts whether a hot tip on Wall Street can boast a greater return on an investment.
With both adornment and investment in mind, what should today's collectors of fine jewelry consider? LUXPOP! recently invited internationally renowned jewelry connoisseur, Maurice Moradof, owner of Yafa Signed Jewels, the world's largest source of signed, antique and estate jewelry to share his expertise.
LUXPOP! : What is the importance of signed jewelry?
Maurice Moradorf: When a piece is signed by an important jewelry house such as Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier, the buyer is assured that an item is, one: of the best quality; and two: the retail price is a known factor. We sell at far below retail, so a customer knows they are not only getting a top-notch piece, but that their money is safe. Furthermore, if a fine piece is signed, a client can be confident it will increase in value.
LP! : In building a classic jewelry collection, what pieces must every beautiful woman own?
MM: Earrings—especially drop earrings because every woman is more beautiful when she wears earrings. For a black tie event, chandelier earrings will frame the face and enhance a woman's beauty. Of course, a very fine diamond engagement ring is a primary investment piece, but not all women are engaged or married, but every woman can wear earrings during the day and evening.
LP! : Were you to advise a customer, in the manner of an investment banker to an esteemed client, which jewels would you suggest he/she buy?
MM: Van Cleef & Arpels. Their style is beautiful, they hold their value and the quality is impeccable.
LP! : During the last twelve months, which gems have you seen the greatest appreciation?
MM: Emeralds and specifically those from Columbia.
LP! : You've said that a priceless gem today can be the best investment for the future. Why?
MM: A priceless gem or super fine piece will always be sought after and will always go up in price—in any market. Even in an off market, it may appreciate slower, but in a strong market, it will appreciate rapidly.
LP! : How did you become known as "The King of Signed Jewelry?"
MM: We have been collecting and sourcing fine jewels for over thirty years now, literally traveling around the world, buying jewelry and exhibiting at the most prestigious shows. As our reputation developed, the jewelry cognoscenti sought us out, either to buy from and/or sell to us. We are proud of and passionate about the reputation we have earned.
LP! : What is your most important rule when it comes to investing in jewelry?
MM: Find a person you trust...and stay loyal.
If you find someone you trust, that person will be loyal to you.
I have clients who have incredible jewelry collections with whom I have developed great relationships. I am the happiest when one of my jewels finds a good home with a client who appreciates the best.