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Classic Lalique brooch at £58,000

04 August 2008Written by ATG Reporter

THIS 2in (5cm) long brooch is textbook Lalique. Fashioned as a cicada, its main constituent is glass set into a gold frame. The insect’s body is formed from pâte de verre and the wings from plique à jour enamel, both favourite Lalique materials.

One of René Lalique's particular skills as a jewellery designer, and something that makes his work so desirable today, was his ability to create inventive, dramatic jewels from constituents of no great intrinsic worth. Their value is all in the workmanship, not the materials.

The only precious stones are in this example are the little diamonds forming the eyes and set to the wing tips, elements which would give it an intrinsic value of around £80. But as a piece by one of the best-known names in Art Nouveau jewellery, it was the pièce de résistance in Woolley and Wallis's jewellery sale in Salisbury on July 31.

The brooch is signed to the reverse and comes in the original cream box inscribed R. Lalique 40, Cours-La-Reine, Paris. As Lalique only worked at this address from 1901-5, it can be dated with some accuracy.

Woolley's jewellery specialist Jonathan Edwards said the brooch, which was entered by a local private Wiltshire lady, had probably been in the same family since new and that the vendor, who was selling it so she could have a new knee, had no idea of its value.

With no fewer than 14 phones lined up to bid on the jewel, there was plenty of pre-sale interest and every indication that the auctioneers' cautious £5000-7000 estimate would be outstripped.

So it proved on the day, with plenty of potential bidders up to around £30,000.

After this it was a two-way battle between room and phone, with Camden Passage Lalique dealer Raul Arantes in the room ending up as the underbidder to West End dealers Wartski on the phone who secured it at £58,000.

By Anne Crane

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