The Wolf Family Jewelry Collection Up for Auction

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Sotheby’s is featuring The Wolf Family Collection, which includes a wide range of 20th-century jewelry along with paintings by Winslow Homer, silver by Paul Revere, and creations by Frank Lloyd Wright. Erving and Joy Wolf, the collectors behind the collection, approached jewelry acquisition with the same care and purpose as every other category in their landmark collection.

The couple had a preference for exquisite and iconic mid-20th-century designs. They were not swayed by big gemstones alone, but rather, they sought jewels with beautiful gemstones that had perfect proportions and a grand sense of scale. The jewelry had to be crafted by renowned designers or important Houses.

The Wolf Family Collection includes signed pieces from esteemed American jewelers such as Harry Winston, David Webb, and Oscar Heyman & Bros. It also features creations by JAR, the American designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal based in Paris.

The collection showcases jewelry from renowned Houses like Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Cartier, René Boivin, and Jean Schlumberger. The Wolfs’ taste in jewelry went beyond American creations, as they sought pieces that aligned with Joy’s fashion sensibility and represented the epitome of style.

The Wolfs’ fascination with jewelry began in the 1960s when they started collecting after moving to Denver, Colorado. A proximity to the Navajo Indian Reservation sparked their interest in Native American rugs and pottery, but jewelry became their primary focus. When they relocated to New York City in the 1970s, they lived near Sotheby’s old location, which allowed them easy access to the auction house.

The couple spent time at Sotheby’s, learning about different offerings and buying across various categories, including 20th-century jewelry. Their passion for jewelry was evident, with Joy wearing the pieces frequently, even during family dinners, and Erving enjoying the sight of her adorned in jewels.

Highlighting the collection are nine mystery-set jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels. This technique, patented by the French firm in 1933, creates the illusion of gems without visible metal settings. Each gem must be specially cut and grooved to fit snugly in the design. The collection also features all-diamond pieces, such as a bold Dusausoy diamond and onyx clip brooch and a Van Cleef & Arpels double clip brooch with swinging diamonds in various shapes.

Additionally, the collection includes remarkable pieces like a diamond René Boivin fish-scale bracelet and a stunning Harry Winston marquise and pear shape diamond cluster earrings. A standout item is a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond bracelet adorned with emerald, marquise, bullet, and baguette cuts, creating a tapered ladder silhouette.

One of Joy’s favorite pieces was a ruby and diamond strawberry brooch by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany. This sculptural brooch features round rubies for texture and marquise-shaped diamonds for delicate leaves that twist and curl, giving it a natural and organic appearance.

The jewelry in The Wolf Family Collection was not acquired to commemorate specific occasions. Instead, the couple collected pieces they found special, similar to their approach in collecting art and decorative arts. Jewelry was a positive experience in their relationship, with Joy adorning herself with the pieces, even during family gatherings, and Erving cherishing the sight of her wearing the jewels.

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