Auctions

Jewels from Modernist Designer Art Smith, Sammy Davis Jr. Head to Auction

AuctionsJul 13, 2021

Jewels from Modernist Designer Art Smith, Sammy Davis Jr. Head to Auction

“California Jewels” will feature six of Smith’s pieces, bought at his Greenwich Village store by a friend and collector.

This pair of sterling silver earclips, designed by Art Smith (unsigned) circa 1950, is estimated to sell for between $1,000 and $1,500 at Bonhams L.A. next week.
Los Angeles—Bonhams L.A.’s upcoming “California Jewels” auction will feature pieces designed by modernist jeweler Art Smith as well as jewelry that once belonged to one of the greatest performers of the 20th century.

Smith (1917–1982) was known for making jewelry influenced by biomorphism—design meant to evoke nature and living organisms—and Surrealism, creating pieces dynamic in both style and form.

He typically worked in brass and copper and sometimes sterling silver, but rarely worked in gold.

Smith trained at Cooper Union in New York City and sold his jewels at his store in Greenwich Village from 1946 to 1979.

His work was featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and museums around the world have also collected Smith’s jewels, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Newark Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

The Brooklyn Museum’s 2008 exhibition, “From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith,” helped bring interest in the Afro-Cuban artist back to the fore.

Smith is also the namesake for the endowment fund created in 2020 for Black students enrolled in, or looking to enroll in, the Fashion Institute of Technology’s jewelry design program.

See: The Art Smith Pieces Up for Auction

The six Art Smith pieces on the block during the L.A. sale—three of which are unsigned—come from a collector who said her mother became friends with Smith in the late 1940s and bought several pieces at his Greenwich Village store.

“My sister and I grew up hearing stories of Art Smith, who was a larger-than-life character from Greenwich Village. In the late 1940s, my parents lived in New York City and became friends with (him),” she said.

“Mom’s memory of him was that of a tall (to her) openly gay Black man with a shaved head wearing an earring. He made an impression on her, selling his designs from his own shop on Cornelia Street. She explained to us what a rarity this was in the 1940s, and how much courage it took for him to live his life.”

The jewels in the auction are sculptural pieces of art.

There’s a sterling silver and moonstone necklace circa 1950; a sterling silver collar and bangle circa 1950; and a pair of sterling silver ear clips attributed to Smith circa 1950.

There will also be an 18-karat gold and opal bead ring circa 1950 designed by Smith, a sterling silver cuff bracelet circa 1950, and a pair of sterling silver earclips circa 1950.

Bonhams’ upcoming L.A. jewelry auction will also feature jewelry once owned by none other than Sammy Davis Jr.

Born in Harlem to Afro-Cuban vaudeville dancers, Davis spent his life in showbusiness, performing for the first time at the age of 3.

He broke down myriad racial barriers to become a successful comedian, actor, dancer, and singer.

See: Sammy Davis Jr.’s Jewelry 

After starring as the lead in “Mr. Wonderful” on Broadway, Davis became friends with Frank Sinatra, forming the “Rat Pack” with Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford, and appearing in movies like the original “Ocean’s 11” (1960) and “Sergeants 3” with them.

The Tony-nominated performer also had a flair for style from the get-go, always seen wearing a suit and donning at least one big gold ring.

In 1967, he was the first Black man to be featured on the cover of GQ, sporting that signature look.

Now, five pieces once in his collection will be up for auction at the Bonhams L.A. sale.

They include an 18-karat bicolor gold, diamond, and enamel monogram ring, and an 18-karat bicolor gold, diamond, and enamel monogram necklace.

The other three of his pieces in the jewelry auction are a Bueche Girod 18-karat gold bracelet watch; a gold and diamond solitaire ring; and an 18-karat gold fancy brown diamond and white diamond ring.

To view all the lots in the July 20 “California Jewels” auction, visit Bonhams.com
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

EditorsMay 25, 2022
7 Standout Tiaras in Sotheby’s Platinum Jubilee Exhibition

Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator chooses the pieces she’d most want to see in person.

MajorsMay 25, 2022
Anne Hathaway Is Bulgari’s Newest Ambassador

The actress joins Zendaya and others in a new advertising campaign.

IndependentsMay 25, 2022
The Mexican Shack to Close After 47 Years

Owner Steve Delzio shares his thoughts on retirement after nearly five decades in the jewelry industry.

Brought to you by
Dive into GIA’s Pearl Expertise

When it comes to knowing the identity and quality of your pearls, count on GIA as your independent pearl experts.

IndependentsMay 25, 2022
Designer Theo Fennell Has Written a Memoir

“I Fear for This Boy” takes readers through the ups and downs of his business and is available for pre-order now.

Weekly QuizMay 19, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
IndependentsMay 25, 2022
MVEye, Wedding Report Partner on New Jewelry Research Platform

“Today’s Wedding Jewelry Consumer” shares data about engagement ring market size, lab-grown and natural diamonds, and more.

ColumnistsMay 24, 2022
The PR Adviser: 10 Questions to Contemplate

Columnist Lilian Raji wants to walk you through the customer journey. But first, she’d like you to answer a few questions.

Brought to you by
A.I. Grading is Changing Conversations at the Retail Counter

Advanced technology levels the playing field, helping jewelers give customers what they want.

Events & AwardsMay 24, 2022
8 Gold Jewelry Designers Unveil New Platinum Designs

Several Couture brands have partnered with Platinum Guild International ahead of the jewelry trade show.

Lab-GrownMay 24, 2022
Kendra Scott Unveils Lab-Grown Engagement Ring Collection

The jewelry company is moving into bridal just a month after branching out into the watch world.

SourcingMay 24, 2022
State of the Diamond Industry: Where Does Supply Go From Here?

The 2008 economic crisis, COVID-19, and sanctions on Russian goods have set the stage for an interesting decade for natural diamond supply.

Events & AwardsMay 24, 2022
WJA to Host Diversity Keynote at New Las Vegas Breakfast Event

The Generating Community Impact fundraiser on June 11 will feature Karine Bah Tahé of Blue Level Training.

WatchesMay 23, 2022
Steven Kaiser, Watch Industry Veteran and Beloved Mentor, Dies at 68

Kaiser, whose illustrious career spanned decades, died suddenly on Friday.

IndependentsMay 23, 2022
Long’s Jewelers to Open New Location

The family-owned jeweler is relocating its Braintree, Massachusetts, store to a new space.

IndependentsMay 23, 2022
Luxury Goods Veteran Olivier Stip Joins Chicago Jeweler CD Peacock

He will step into the retailer’s newly created role of chief development officer.

GradingMay 23, 2022
Gem-A Launches Digital Entry-Level Gemology Course

GemIntro is meant to give a broad introduction to gems and gemology.

Recorded WebinarsMay 20, 2022
Watch: Responsible Sourcing and the Gold Supply Chain

Three industry experts discuss “recycled” gold vs. mined, their challenges and benefits, and how jewelers can navigate the area.

FinancialsMay 20, 2022
Richemont’s 2022 Jewelry Sales in the Americas Nearly Double

Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Buccellati put on stellar performances.

SurveysMay 19, 2022
5 Predictions for Jewelry Retail in the Second Half of 2022

From a slowdown in sales growth to rising costs, Fruchtman Marketing outlines its expectations for the second half of the year.

MajorsMay 19, 2022
As It Nears 75, Here’s How Grandview Klein Stays Competitive

Once a part of Julius Klein Group, the diamond company combines its direct supply and cutting expertise with a keen eye to the future.

SourcingMay 19, 2022
De Beers’ Rough Sales Up 21% So Far This Year

One analyst cited rising diamond prices and the sanctions on Alrosa as contributing factors.

CollectionsMay 19, 2022
Brilliant Earth Collaborates with Jade Trau

The two have partnered on a capsule collection.

MajorsMay 19, 2022
Jewelers Mutual Adds 2 Industry Veterans to Its Board

John A. Green of retailer Lux Bond & Green and Niveet Nagpal of Omi Privé have joined the board of directors as of May 18.

FinancialsMay 18, 2022
Watches of Switzerland’s Jewelry Sales More Than Doubled in Q4

The retailer also said demand for Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet watches continues to exceed its supply.

IndependentsMay 18, 2022
Jeweler Lewis Baribault Celebrates 50th Work Anniversary

The Connecticut jeweler reflected on five decades in the industry and what the future holds for the family business.

Events & AwardsMay 18, 2022
Visit A Mine in New Jersey With WJA New York Metro

The chapter has organized a day trip to the Sterling Hill Mine and Museum in Ogdensburg on Saturday, May 21.

SourcingMay 17, 2022
A New Source in Tanzania Is Producing Cobalt-Blue Spinel

The stones come from a deposit close to Mahenge and have been on the market for several months.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy