Appraiser Attends National Association of Jewelry Appraisers Conference

Eileen Eichhorn Certified Senior Member of NAJA recently attended the 46th Annual Mid-Year Conference of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers in Newport Beach CA.

The Association, consisting of national and international members, is dedicated to the maintenance of professional standards, professional ethics and education in the field of jewelry appraising. All members must adhere to the professional Code of Ethics of the association and all appraisal assignments must be performed under the constraints of this Code.

This year’s conference concentrated on several work areas which confront appraisers on a daily basis to update their knowledge. Over the course of several days lectures were given on Muzo emeralds, the challenges of creating a new branded gemstone: Emeryl Jewelstone® , counterfeit watches and old cuts of diamonds. A review of treatments and synthetics, digital photomicrography, inside Tiffany, as well as training your eye for antique jewelry were presented. Examples of difficult appraisal situations, 1950s-1960s vintage jewelry, and the identification of French hallmarks proved enlightenment.

Eileen Eichhorn, a Graduate Gemologist, has been appraising jewelry for over 40 years. She performs a variety of appraisals for individuals, the banking industry, attorneys and others. These assignments include but are not limited to insurance replacement, fair market value, donation, divorce, bankruptcy, collateral, comparison, casualty loss, and qualitative reports.

The Story of Fabulous Jewelry, etc.…an Appraiser’s Perspective

There exists forever the story of family heirloom jewelry brought to me for appraising. I was reminded recently of the sentimental journey these valuables take as I helped sort a large assortment of jewels from the lock box of a client’s mother for division of her property. No longer able to handle her affairs for some time now, her only daughter was assigned the task, struggling to lug the items to me for viewing. Sterling silver flatware and holloware was included in the vast assortment as well as a vintage sterling silver lady’s Art Nouveau cigar cutter on a long chain. Since my great grandparents had manufactured cigars at the turn of the last century in the building we currently occupy, I was fascinated to see this little “gem”.

The daughter had paid close attention through the years and was very aware of the best of the jewels. Many of the rings had legacy stories having been accompanied with hand written notes and a few photos in lockets. Other items were mysteries? Perhaps these were purchased at auctions, estate sales, or inherited from other family members long ago? Unless this information is shared with loved ones it is anyone’s best guess…If only the jewels could talk!
One item was especially interesting that it was nestled in a dark blue velvet fitted box reminiscent of the Nouveau riche: a lovely antique filigree brooch with thirty-three old European-cut diamonds totaling nearly 4 carats. Constructed of platinum and 14K white gold it depicts the best of fine lacy wire craftsmanship detailing unbelievable workmanship. One could only imagine the woman who wore this during the Edwardian era – perhaps for her wedding? Who purchased this and where was it made? No trademark exists to suggest a clue.

Another prized possession-an extraordinary family heirloom, an Edwardian ring was gifted to the daughter with a center diamond containing 81-facets. Bearing a registered trademark inside the shank, the platinum mounting is encrusted with 21 old European-cut diamonds plus one more modern-cut diamond melee- perhaps a replacement? Designed by Whitehouse Brothers in Cincinnati – a jewelry company still manufacturing die struck styles today – a featured vendor at Eichhorn Jewelry, it is truly fabulous! This ring is perhaps one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in 50 years! For its day, it would have been considered an ‘important’ piece of truly fine jewelry.

Many years from now someone will still appreciate these phenomenal works of art and enjoy their stories. A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

Famous History

By Eileen R. Eichhorn

Who would have guessed in in the year 2015 two stone rings would be so popular again! Do you know the history of this love gift? The ring style has a famous past: “Toi et Moi” means “You and Me” in French and refers to a ring that showcases two stones.  These were common engagement rings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, symbolizing two souls that are intertwined.  The ring that is believed to have started the trend was the gorgeous sapphire and diamond engagement ring Napoleon gave to Josephine in 1776.

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The engagement ring the young Napoleon “must have broken his wallet” to buy for his fiancée Josephine shattered expectations on March 24, 2013 at the Osenat auction house in France when it sold for close to $1 million according to Osenat’s expert, Jean-Christophe Chataignier.

The winning bidder, who wanted to stay completely anonymous, paid $949,000, almost 50 times the $20,000 Osenat had expected to bring in. Including the buyer’s 25 percent commission to Osenat, the total price for the ring was $1.17 million.

“In my wildest dreams, I did not think we would outsell the estimate by more than 47 times,” said Osenat’s Emily Villane, who led the auction. “We based the estimates in our catalog on the actual market value of the ring, minus Napoleon and Josephine provenance. It is not our job to tell bidders how much they should pay for the historical premium.”

There was intense interest in the ring, she said. In addition to the 300 people in the Fontainebleau auction house, about 50 more international bidders were hooked up by phone.

Osenat, which is in Fontainebleau, outside Paris, also received more than 40 written bids by email from the U.S. alone, she said.

The auction house set up extra phone lines and hired 10 additional people to be prepared for the sale.

“It was 15 minutes of relentless bidding,” Villane said. “We opened at 10,000 euros, I raised it to 50,000 euros. From then on it was going up by 10,000. When the hammer went down at 730,000 euros there was a huge applause.”

The sale was timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Josephine’s birthday.

The golden ring is in an 18th century setting called “toi et moi,” “You and Me,” with opposing tear-shaped jewels — a blue sapphire and a diamond. The carat weight of the two gems is little less than a carat each.

Osenat already had clues that it had a blockbuster on its hands several days before the auction.

Remembering Beginnings: Eileen Eichhorn

By Eileen R. Eichhorn

I started in the jewelry business on August 5, 1965 – shortly before the age of 14 working in my father’s store: Eichhorn Jewelry. However, my real adventure into the world of gems was the day I found myself in need of employment to pay out-of-state tuition to the University of Minnesota. Having a scholarship ‘discounted’ during the days of retrenchment was something I had never considered. It is an amazing thing to discover what one is capable of doing when faced with such a dilemma. I could have returned to Indiana to IU but my decision to get a job at the prestigious J.B. Hudson Jewelers AND go to college in a major metro city was my real education. Looking older than 19 when I applied for a job in sales, I was informed no one at that time would be hired that young. However, I had 5 years’ experience in every aspect of retail jewelry…Call my father. He will tell you I need this job!

I was hired and worked there throughout my college days.

I very recently returned to Minneapolis to visit my former co-worker/boss, Florence Benson. Now 95, she is even more of an inspiration to me than when we worked together. In addition to reminiscing about the glory days of the iconic landmark business, we spoke of her influence and dedication. She always said she was thrilled to have a job! She began working in gift wrap at JBH the age of 20 and worked for 20 years without a vacation. Climbing the corporate ladder and advancing to the position of buyer for a major player in the jewelry industry was something she never envisioned. She worked for 57 and one half years for the company and would have continued if her eyes would have cooperated!

Florence instilled in me a passion for quality, perfection and presentation. Most of all she loved her customers. She was self-educated in all aspects of the jewelry world. Having realized early in life that knowledge was power she remains healthy and active these days testing herself with only one major ‘project’ each day. Her memory is her greatest asset and stays informed on so many levels that she nearly runs circles around me. She encouraged me to challenge myself more and continue learning as much as I can because according to her, “I have a long way to go to catch up to her.”

Boss