Author Archives: Lara

About Lara

I grew up as the daughter of an antique dealer of Dutch jewelry and silver. From the age of 18 I went to auctions for my mom, as she did not had the time to go there herself. In those days there was no such thing as online auctions. In my mid-twenties I thought for a brief moment of taking over the business of my mother, but I had other plans. Chateau I wanted to live and work abroad and own a chateau. Only after finding my husband I did so and for 10 years long I changed an 18th century old and torn down Burgundy castle into a holiday rental business. Back to my roots In 2009 I started dealing in French antique jewelry at my chateau and I went back to school to learn more about precious stones. I followed the online courses at GIA (Gemmological Institute of America) and I took all the lab classes in London and in Carlsbad, California. I worked for a short period for a jewelry retailer in the Caribbean, but I had no feeling with the brand new products that I sold. Even brands as De Beers Forever Mark and Harts on Fire could not exhilarated me. Maybe this is because I saw so many beautiful pieces in France, or maybe because I just love old stones in all senses of the word. That soft patina that comes with the years and is undeniable beautiful to my eyes. As the French locals called me La Chatelaine, which I’m still today, I thought it is an appropriate name for my web boutique. La chatelaine means Lady of the Manor or Key holder. Enjoy! Lara Lunow GIA GG

Taboo on synthetic rubies?

1940 TANK ring with diamonds and synthetic rubies

1940 TANK ring with diamonds and synthetic rubies. Sometimes my eye is caught by a very strong design, that is so appealing that I can’t go by it without touching it, louping it, putting it on and in the end buying it. And sometimes I ignore the fact that the design is set with synthetic stones. In this case this very 1940s TANK*ring. The ring is set with 3 brilliant cut diamonds that are accentuated by a row of synthetic rubies.

I think there is still a taboo on synthetic rubies and sapphires. Why is that? Costume jewelry is widely accepted and in most cases not cheap at all (think Chanel in the 1920s). Another example are glass and pastes look-a likes, they were popular for centuries. But when it comes to high end jewelry were natural stones are combined with synthetics it raises some eyebrows. Synthetics came in use after the war, although the French chemist Auguste Verneuil already invented the stones or better to say the process of flame fusion, in the 1890s. After the war natural stones were rare and synthetics were cheap and available.

Rubies were the most popular gemstones of the 1940s period.  Partly because they went well with pink gold and partly because of their warm feminine colour. Smaller stones could be used to great effects. At this time synthetic stones were widely used and mixed with precious gems to create great colour effects or to accentuate, like in edges, ridges and on the side. So when you come across a piece of period jewelry with synthetic rubies or synthetic sapphires it is not to con you, but this was a logic and deliberate choice of the goldsmith or designer of that time.

18K gold and diamond TANK ring with synthetic rubies

Taboo on synthetic rubies: 18K gold and diamond TANK ring with synthetic rubies

*The description TANK in capitals is a referral to Machine Age Jewelry, a whole different chapter. More on TANK jewelry coming soon.





The story behind the rose on my page

REtro French rose brooch 18k gold and diamond hart 1940s

Retro French rose brooch in 18K gold and diamond hart 1940s

I came across this delicate rose at a local French auction and fell in love with it. It resembles an Eglantine rose, like the ones I have in my garden (for the garden lovers: Rosa rugosa “Blanc double de Coubert”). The petals are made of gold mesh, a technique which was introduced in 1946. The French call this style “ à tamis” or ”sieve”. The diamond hart you can scroll off and can be replaced by a gemstone hart in a different colour, but unfortunately this pin is missing the blue or pink hart. The rose can be worn as a pin but also as a pendant. The petals can move slightly back and forwards so that the rose closes itself for the night.
Besides the hallmarks for 18K gold, the back of the rose is stamped: “BTE SGDG”, this mention was in use between 1844 and 1968. “Bte” is short for “breveté” (=“patented”) and ” S.G.D.G.” stands for “Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement” =”without government guarantee” and means that the government was not liable for the working of the product.




Frozen movements in gold

Frozen movements in gold: Retro French 18K gold and diamond brooch

Retro design of the 1940s, the undulating lines are typical of that time and refer to new inventions in fabric like rayon.

New in my shop are thes very strong and stylish Retro designs. Characteristic of the 1940s were the stiff and fluid lines like frozen movements and the use of “fabrics”. The handkerchief motif and the undulating lines in both brooches referred to the new artificial fabrics such as jersey or rayon, which were particular soft and fluid. Wear these pins high on the shoulder, as high as the collar bone, that was ‘en vogue’ in those years.

Frozen movements in gold: French handkerchief brooch in 18K gold and diamonds of the 1940s

French Handkerchief brooch in 18k gold and diamonds of the 1940s




Piece de la Resistance

Resistance jewelry: 18K gold French Liberation ring in bleu, blanc, rouge

Resistance Jewelry in Bleu, Blanc, Rouge

Without realizing it I bought a typical post war Liberation piece. This ring in 18K gold represents 3 torches with the Allied Forces flag in Blue (sapphire) – Blanc (diamond) and Rouge (ruby). The torches are set “en tremblant´, which means they can wiggle and the stones can turn around in their cone.
During World War II orders diminish and the creativity of the Jewelry Houses turn into jewelry pieces of resistance and patriotism. VCA and Cartier put their workshops under the flags of the Allied Forces and choose the 3 colours bleu-blanc-rouge to use in their jewelry designs. The results were rare pieces of patriotism under Nazi occupation.
The Liberation of France in 1944 inspired and during that year and the following year we see torches and flames in bleu-blanc-rouge, clips of nurses and soldiers and the Croix de Lorraine.

See also the French documentary “Les tresors de la joaillerie francaise”, (no sub titles)


Historical Space Age jewelry (knuckledusters part 2)

historical space age jewelry: Sputnik ring in gold, diamonds, emeralds and rubies

historical space age jewelry. Ring inspired on the launch of the Sputnik in 1954

It was not for the first time that space and phenomena of the sky inspired artists, think of the Comet of Halley embroidered on the Tapestry of Bayeux (11th century), but the launch of the Sputnik triggered the Space Race between the US and the former USSR in the 1950s and it inspired lots of jewelry artists. This ring is not only a charismatic example of the launch of the Sputnik, it fits also the fashion of wearing knuckledusters of that time. The dome is shaped by a tutti frutti of diamonds, rubies and emeralds and the “ship” is made of gold wires. Next year it will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik, excellent way of remembering such an important event with a beautiful piece of art.


Coctail style Knuckleduster

Cocktail style knuckleduster: 18K gold and diamonds

Cocktail style knuckleduster in geometric patterns set with diamonds

Jewelry has produced some pretty funny names. I heard about “doorknockers”, then I read about “knuckledusters” that were popular in the 1940s. Not your average hip hop ring with dollar signs, but heavy duty diamonds in geometric shapes. This is what UK jewelry writer Vivienne Becker wrote about it:
“Slowly the 1930s look took on the 1940’s characteristics. You can see the transition clearly in the rings, which were particularly popular and plentiful at this time: square-edged knuckledusters for clenching round a glass of champagne, with layered edges like steps and square-cut stones stretched into a line over the corners and down the sides.“ I’m sure they must have looked like this one.
Quote from Vivienne Becker Fabulous Fakes (p 151).




Popular Birds of the 1950s

18K gold French humming bird brooch from 1950s

French humming bird brooch from the 1950s in 18K gold and enamel

Under the influence of Hollywood and Walt Disney Cartoons, all sorts of whimsical animals and especially birds like highly stylized parrots and birds of paradise came into fashion in the 1950s. Bright enamels and rich gem colour combinations were particular popular. This enamel hummingbird from France is a beautiful example. Some popular bird names of those times were Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Lana Turner. But what do you think of my French humming bird? 18K gold and beautiful rich enamel.










Afternoon of Vivid Blues in sapphire and tanzanite

This afternoon saw a great many Vivid Blues going under the hammer in Paris. All stones had a French or Swiss certificate of a gemological laboratory declaring that they found no signs of treatment and all stones are vivid blue in color.

5,08 cts vivid blue emerald cut sapphire

nr. 47, 5,08 cts emerald cut sapphire

nr 65_sapphire

nr. 65, 10,03 cts cushion cut sapphire

nr. 85, 7,09 cts oval sapphire

nr. 85, 7,09 cts oval sapphire

nr 118

nr. 118, 8,10 cts cushion cut sapphire

Lot number 47 is a emerald cut sapphire of 5,08 cts. This lovely vivid bleu went for 19.000 euros.

Next was a 10,03 cts cushion shaped sapphire going for 60.000 euros.

The third was a 7,09 cts royal bleu oval sapphire, for 28.000 euros (nr. 84) and the fourth stone again a cushion cut sapphire from Sri Lanka for 18.000 euros.

There were 2 more vivid bleus, but than in Tanzanite, nr. 72 a 18,96 cushion cut tanzanite for 24.000 euros and a 31,21 cts octagonal tanzanite for 44.000,- euros.

nr 72_tanzanite

nr. 72, 18,96 cts tanzanite

nr 145

nr. 145, 31,21 cts tanzanite


Empire State Building in gold

Georg Hornemann's Empire State building

Ring from Georg Hornemann master gold smith.

A very special ring goes under the hammer today of German master goldsmith Georg Hornemann (75). It is the Empire State building in gold, diamonds and amethysts. I wonder if this will be the X-mas gift for a rich New Yorker, maybe an architect’s wife? The ring is estimated for 5000 to 5500 euros.

Georg Hornemann has together with his also award winning son Alexander Hornemann a workshop in Düsselfdorf, Germany. Georg Hornemann is the only person to date to receive the platinum guild international award for excellent jewellery design. He works together with international artists and makes besides extraordinary jewelry, objets d’art.


1950 rings

The monday afternoon auction had some interesting and afordable rings on offer. Like this series of 1950 rings.

1) 18K yellow and diamond ring. Estimated for 450-500 and also went for 450,- euros

2)  18K yellow gold and diamond ring. Estimated for 1100 to 1200,- euros. Sold for 1200,-

3)  18K diamond and sapphire ring. Estimated for 800 to 900,- euros. Not sold.

4) 18K yellow gold and diamond ring. Estimated for 450,- and sold for 450,- euros

Continue reading