Late 16th-Century Diamond Marriage Jewel

Value (2012) | $50,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
I got it from my mother, who got it from her parents, and it goes back to my great-grandfather, who managed a shipyard during World War I. After the war, he traveled around the world and brought home some souvenirs, and this was one of them. He picked it up in Paris in 1923.

APPRAISER:
And we have an original bill of sale, and it's dated 1923, and it came from Arnold Seligmann in Paris. Seligmann was a very well-known connoisseur and collector of antiquities, renaissance jewels, and as he says, curiosities on his bill of sale. And in the bill of sale, he gives it a particular description as well, and the high point is that he says, "This jewel had been made for Gabriel Bethlen"-- he was the prince of Transylvania-- in honor of his marriage to Catherine of Brandenburg, and that it dates to the late 16th century. So what you do have here is the actual jewel. There are many pieces out there that have attributions that are never quite correct, but this piece is 100% correct. Stylistically, it has a very Germanic and Austrian stylization to it, as would be typical of the period. And this was a marriage jewel; this was to commemorate the marriage, and in doing so, it embodies all the different Catholic symbols related to Christianity and marriage. So we have a cross, but the cross also becomes an anchor, which is the anchor of hope. We also have two doves. The two hands on either side, which are enameled, are clenching a heart. The heart is in the background. And on the bottom here is a skull, and this is related to death and immortality, but also to the idea of love everlasting, till death do we part. The piece is made of gold, and it's highlighted by rose cut diamonds and then accented with both white and green enamel on various portions of the piece. Now, have you ever had this item appraised before?

GUEST:
No, I couldn't find anything to compare it too.

APPRAISER:
Do you have any idea what was paid for the piece when it was purchased?

GUEST:
He paid 45,000 francs. There was a notation on the bottom from New York that says $2,770. That might be an equivalent.

APPRAISER:
On the Roadshow, we see very few late 16th-century pieces. There just aren't that many out there. And it's the scale and the magnitude of this piece and the symbolism that really makes it so extraordinary. At auction, I would place a value on this of somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000.

GUEST:
That's a lot.

APPRAISER:
Well, as we would say in the business, "Try to find another one."

GUEST:
Yeah.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Peter Jon Shemonsky Fine & Antique Jewelry
San Francisco, CA
Appraised value (2012)
$50,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
Event
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)
Period
16th Century
Form
Pendant
Material
Diamonds

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.