Monday, April 8, 2013


Detail from a circa 1920s photo of a geometric diamond clip brooch 
 Gustav Manz  archive, courtesy The Joseph Downs Collection
 Winterthur Museum

The vintage Parke-Bernet catalog for liquidation of "valuable jewelry" from the estate of John Kirkpatrick seemed, at first glance, a dull census of stones and carats with a modicum of photos to engage Depression era tire-kickers. The Jazz Age had run out of gas—no more madcap soirees, like the night Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald collected jewelry from guests and served it back to them in tomato broth. In March 1932, when the Kirkpatrick gems went on the block, LIFE magazine's cover was an F.G. Cooper caricature of the Big Bad Wolf in Grandma Prosperity's bed, with Little Red Riding Hood cowering in the corner, clutching a passbook and tax bill in her basket of goodies. 

Newlyweds Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald at her mother's home in 1921; 
the next year, Scott published "The Diamond As Big As the Ritz"
Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

 "Hot Weather Fashions"  cover for July 1926 Vogue 
(spelled out in diamonds) by Eduardo Garcia Benito
 (c) Conde Nast Publications 

Even with the wolf at the door, the Kirkpatrick name drew a crowd of serious buyers to the Anderson Galleries. On day one of the sale, 36-year-old Harry Winston picked up a platinum-set diamond bracelet for $2,100 and a necklace with one hundred and twenty-three Oriental pearls (239.82 grains) and a diamond snap for $2,000. Starting as a wholesaler, Winston purchased and re-sold rare gems using the social register for his mailing list, as The New Yorker's Lillian Ross later wrote. Now he was stocking his first retail store at 527 Fifth Avenue, betting that happy days would come again for his customers whether Hoover or FDR won November's election. 

  Kirkpatrick estate sale catalog, March 10-12, 1932; Margaret Wallace displays assorted gems from Harry Winston's "Court of Jewels" exhibit, August 1949

The first day's session brought in $44,192 according to The New York Times; the second day, $53,497—for a cumulative total of $97, 689 or about $1.6 million in today's dollars. And there was a third session still to come. As we flipped to the final day's lots, what to our wondering eyes did appear but an image we instantly recognized — Eureka!— as the long lost twin of a photo in Gustav Manz's papers at Winterthur (see them side by side, below). Designed as a modern Edwardian bowknot with Cubist/Aztec lines, Lot 303 sported 220 round and 20 baguette (1.54 and 2.24 carat) diamonds in a platinum mounting. An alternate view illustrated the combination brooch magically popped out of its frame and separated into a matching pair of dress clips. Hold the tomato broth. 

The undated brooch photo found in Manz's business archive shown with image of Lot 303 in the circa 1932 Kirkpatrick sale catalog

We don't know who took the picture or the final disposition of that lot. And the catalog did not specify the maker. But we do know that Manz made unique mountings for precious stones in diverse motifs for T. Kirkpatrick & Co. (founded in the mid-1800s by John Kirkpatrick's Scottish-immigrant father, Thomas) and other important firms. Perhaps the glossy was a stock record or style sample that Manz's daughter and sales rep Doris took on her calls to the diamond houses. Now, if we could just figure out which buyer went home with that zinger of a pin. (Talk to us, Harry Winston…) 


Copyright © Laura Mathews, 2014 

All Rights Reserved 

Credits: Scott and Zelda, wire photo of Winston gems, and March 1932 Vogue cover via web. All other images © Gustav Manz LLC

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