Why being a jewellery specialist is ‘the best job in the world’

Peggy Gottlieb, jewellery specialist at Christie’s in Los Angeles, selects her favourite pieces from the Magnificent Jewels sale on 17 April at Christie’s in New York — and reveals how to tell good jewellery from bad

‘I have the best job in the world — I get to go on a treasure hunt every single day,’ says Peggy Gottlieb, jewellery specialist at Christie’s in Los Angeles.

Jewellery has been a central part of Gottlieb’s life since she was a little girl. Growing up in a small town, she remembers frequently asking her father to take her to the local jewellery store so that she could peek inside its case of antique jewellery. When she stumbled upon an auction being taken by the women at the store, she knew she had found her calling.

‘My favourite style of jewellery is based on nature: flowers, vines. I love animal jewellery,’ Gottlieb says. These preferences are reflected in the lots she has selected as her top ‘treasures’ from the Magnificent Jewels  sale on 17 April at Christie’s in New York.

The first of Gottlieb’s top picks is a bangle by David Webb, featuring the animal motifs for which he is famous. This piece in particular is designed as a diamond-set ram’s head with oval cabochon ruby eyes. Another standout, a pair of iconic white topaz, black jade and gold ‘five stone’ Verdura cuffs (below), was originally designed for Coco Chanel.

A pair of white topaz, black jade and gold ‘Five Stone’ cuff bracelets, by Verdura. Estimate $30,000-50,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

A pair of white topaz, black jade and gold ‘Five Stone’ cuff bracelets, by Verdura. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

A further highlight for Gottlieb is a multi-gem and diamond suite by Van Cleef & Arpels, including a pair of earrings and a brooch designed as a bouquet of pavé-set diamond flower buds. ‘I love that it has rubies, emeralds and  sapphires,’ she says. ‘You can never go wrong with Van Cleef & Arpels.’

A set of multi-gem and diamond jewellery, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Comprising a brooch, designed as a bouquet of pavé-set diamond flower buds, trimmed with cabochon emeralds, rubies and sapphires and gold wirework detail, to the cabochon ruby and emerald leaves and textured gold stems; and a pair of earrings en suite, 2¾  ins (brooch),⅞  in (earrings), with French export marks,

A set of multi-gem and diamond jewellery, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Comprising a brooch, designed as a bouquet of pavé-set diamond flower buds, trimmed with cabochon emeralds, rubies and sapphires and gold wirework detail, to the cabochon ruby and emerald leaves and textured gold stems; and a pair of earrings en suite, 2¾ ins (brooch),⅞ in (earrings), with French export marks, mounted in 18k gold and platinum. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

Her favourite piece in the sale, however, is a Paul Flato ‘vine’ necklace. Flato was an American jeweller based in New York from the 1920s through the early 1940s, and, says Gottlieb, ’one of the great thing about this necklace, and about Paul Flato designs in general, is that he loved to have movement in his jewellery.’ The specialist points to the hinge in the necklace’s open collar, adding it is ‘pretty rare’ for one of these pieces to appear at auction.

An exquisite diamond necklace, by Paul Flato. Estimate $200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

An exquisite diamond necklace, by Paul Flato. Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

Finally, Gottlieb selects a pendant brooch necklace, made by Joel Arthur Rosenthal. Of ‘moghul’ design, the brooch features a central sapphire and purple and pink pavé sapphires, with a diamond surround. ‘One of the hallmarks of JAR jewellery is the reverse — they’re just as beautiful on the back as the front,’ Gottlieb says.

A superb multi-gem and diamond ‘Moghul’ pendant-brooch, by JAR. Estimate $200,000-400,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

A superb multi-gem and diamond ‘Moghul’ pendant-brooch, by JAR. Estimate: $200,000-400,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 17 April at Christie’s in New York

‘A poorly-made piece of jewellery will be rough on the back: you may even see file marks. But a great piece of jewellery, most of the time, is just as beautiful on the back as it will be on the front. That’s the way to tell a good piece from a bad one.’