Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DECO DRAGONS: Hot Item at Skinner's Fine Jewelry Sale

A rare figural platinum and diamond bracelet retailed by T. Kirkpatrick & Co., and stored in its original box was the capstone of Skinner's Fine Jewelry Sale this week. The unmarked piece (which Skinner's experts attributed to Gustav Manz) descended through a New York family in its original fitted case, stamped with the Kirkpatrick logo. 

Founder Thomas Kirkpatrick emigrated to the U.S. from Dumfries, Scotland in the 1850s. After a few years at Ball, Black & Co. (where he was known to sleep under the counter to protect the stock), Kirkpatrick opened his own store and art gallery and prospered during the Gilded Age. A crony of "Boss" Tweed (reporters dubbed the jeweler Tammany's "badge man") and Teddy Roosevelt (on whom Thomas bestowed a "lucky" penny blessed by Pope Leo and then set in gold), he passed on December 27, 1906. His elder son John Kirkpatrick took over the store at 334 Fifth, later moving it to No. 664. The firm also had an outpost at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. After the younger Kirkpatrick died in 1928, a third generation kept the business going until the 1980s.

Lot 764: Ruby-breathing dragons warm the wrist
Photo Skinner Inc.

Gouache rendering of a circa 1910 Griffin mounting from Gustav Manz's design book (family collection)
Photo (c) Gustav Manz LLC

Gothic dragons and other mythical creatures do abound in Manz's ledgers between 1910 and 1925, and T. Kirkpatrick & Co was a steady customer. Stockbook entries record sales of two "Griffin" ring mountings (sold May 12, 1910) and a gold ring trimmed with applied platinum acanthus leaves (sold Sept. 16, 1913); and a "Renaissance Ring" (sold Dec. 21, 1914). Later entries for the firm include a figural Mermaid and Faun Ring set with a star sapphire (sold Nov. 5, 1919). 

Even with one emerald eye missing, the lot fetched $171,825—six times the $20,000-$30,000 reserve—reflecting the dazzle of this early deco design and the skill of its maker.

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