Nine pieces were sold by Lyon & Turnbull (25% buyer’s premium) on October 22 followed by eight more at Fellows (23% buyer’s premium) in Birmingham on November 12.
Donald was part of the select group of British ‘artist jewellers’ who revolutionised jewellery design in the early 1960s and is now very much back in vogue.
Sharing digs in Chelsea while at college with fellow metalwork students Robert Welch and Gerald Benney, he entered five pieces in the seminal International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890-1961, held at Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1961, and by 1964 he could number Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother among his patrons. After a fall from fashion, it was the sale of Margaret’s collection of Donald jewels at Christie’s in 2008 that was important for recalibrating the market for his prime period work.
The pieces offered in London and in Birmingham were all quite typical of his work, using the textured goldwork (sometimes casting from nature) or gold rods that reflected an interest in new techniques and necessary thrift
Diamonds provided accents but take a backseat to ‘humble’ materials such as a slice of agate, a turquoise cabochon, or a rough crystal.
Leading the L&T offering was a rutilated quartz brooch with a surround of gold tubes. Carrying marks for 1970, it sold for £2400 – the same sum realised by a lady’s 18ct gold and enamel wristwatch of 1965 with an openwork bracelet composed of abstract textured cubes.
The Donald pieces included in Fellows’ last live auction of the year also received an enthusiastic welcome from bidders.
A 1970s 9ct gold citrine brooch pitched at £350-450 took £3600, while a 1960s 18ct gold cultured pearl ring with brilliant-cut diamond highlight in a textured cuboid mount carried a guide of £400-600 and sold at £3200.
Some of the results brought Donald’s prices a little closer to the punchy levels now commanded by contemporary Andrew Grima.
Specialist Alex Duffy said: “It is such a fabulous collection of his works, showcasing his incredible ability and unique designs. It was a pleasure to handle the items, gaining a real understanding and appreciation for the pioneering impact he had on the jewellery industry.”