Season of JAR: a connoisseur’s approach to gems

Ring of 10.67ct oval-shaped and two 6ct diamonds by JAR, est. $2.5-3.5 million at Chrisite’s Hong Kong on May 29 (Chrisite’s Images)

One thing that sets the designs of Joel Arthur Rosenthal apart is his approach to stones. He always chooses the very best, but it’s more than that. The Bronx-born designer who became known as “JAR of Paris” proved what a designer can achieve by going against convention when it comes to cut and color.

On top of the record-size private collection up for sale in May at Christie’s Geneva, Christie’s Hong Kong just announced they’ve got a little JAR of their own. How’s this for a sparkler?

Those are all D color, flawless diamonds, of course, so you can imagine the flash that gives off. That center oval-shaped diamond is 10.67 carats and it’s flanked by two diamonds of 6.04 and 6.07.

Note the setting of blackened metal lined with accent diamonds – typical JAR. (See what I mean in the amazing diamond thread ring pictured below.) This three-diamond ring is expected to fetch between $2, 500,000 and $3,500,000 at Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale on May 29.

Before it left for Asia for the rest of its pre-sale tour, many got to admire it stateside last week at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Center, where it was on display with the 18 JAR jewels from the Geneva sale.

I’m not sure where Rosenthal got the diamonds in that ring, but the New York-based diamond dealer William Goldberg & Co. has been working with him for at least 25 years. I spoke a few years ago to Saul Goldberg, before the much-publicized Ellen Barkin sale, about what it’s like working with Joel Rosenthal – and what he looks for in diamonds. “He would expect a flat, cushion cut or an unusual rose cut, a special pink or blueish-green diamond – something exotic, always exotic,” Goldberg said, adding that it’s extremely difficult to predict JAR’s taste, even after two decades.

JAR diamond thread ring from the 2006 Ellen Barkin sale (Christie’s Images)

“Something I might think he would like, I could be so off base. And something I don’t think he’ll like, he loves,” Goldberg said. “My father had that relationship with him also. We thought of him for special pieces that would come along, but we could never seem to predict his taste. The tone of pink might not have been his tone of pink, or the tone of blue might be beautiful but we wants it more gray than blue.”

In terms of shape, the Goldbergs learned to avoid showing him the angular cuts that were in fashion long after Rosenthal began rejecting them. “He definitely likes flat stones, not your conventional, traditional cuts. He likes soft things – a cushion or an oval, nothing with hard edges,” Goldberg said.  “Give him a pointy stone and he’ll say, ‘Cut off the points, then show it to me.’ Or show him a pear shape and he’ll say, ‘Cut off the point at the bottom.’ He can dictate those things because it’s him. He’s the designer. He is a great artist.”

If you want to see an interesting example of the JAR approach to topaz, you can find it here. Since we’re talking rocks, let me show you a couple more of the JAR-picked beauties you’ll find at the Christie’s Geneva sale next month:

Ring of Colombian emerald, natural pearls and diamonds by JAR, 1988, est. $500-700,000 at Christie’s Geneva in May (Christie’s Images)

Pendant brooch of garnet, ruby and diamond by JAR, 2001, est. $170-220k at Christie’s Geneva in May (Christie’s Images)

Camellia flower brooch of rubies and diamonds by JAR, 2003 (Christie’s Images)

Jewels for Hope will be on view at Christie’s Hong Kong April 27-28. Viewings at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva begin May 11. Sale: 8pm, Monday, May 14.

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