Friday, May 25, 2018

Boivin Starfish, Signed and Unsigned

I’m reading an interesting book called Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress and One of the World’s Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry by Cherie Burns about her hunt for information on the ruby and amethyst starfish created by the jewelry house Boivin in the 1930s. Apparently only three or four of them were ever made back when they were originally fabricated. Juliette Moutard is credited with their design, based on an idea by Jeanne Boivin (wife of René Boivin, the founder of the house and sister of Paul Poiret, the famous couturier). Boivin did not sign their work. Burns writes:

“…Jeanne Boivin did not want to sign Boivin pieces because she believed the design alone was adequate to identify them.”

Boivin Starfish from the 1950s.

I happened to be at Christie’s for the Rockefeller auction exhibit when I unexpectedly got a chance to visit with two Boivin starfish about to go to auction in Geneva. They were stunning and huge! One was made of rubies and amethysts, the other, emeralds and aquamarines. They are fully articulated, so they move and mold themselves to the person wearing them.

This particular passage in Ms. Burns’ book has me thinking about the two starfish I saw in person.

“And then I had heard also that jewelers had on occasion taken a piece they believed to be Boivin to be stamped on its underside, so that prospective buyers would have confidence in its origin. (And thus establishing that it was possibly not original!) What was I to make of this? Like so much of the jewelry business it was shrouded in ambiguity and it would plague my attempt to identify the starfish later.”

According to the online catalog the starfish I saw at Christie’s were later creations, from the 1950s, so they are not the originals Ms. Burns spent her time hunting for, and, tellingly, the starfish I saw are signed, which, if you believe Ms. Burns, is not a good thing, and I would think would make them less valuable than the original starfishes, which I do believe are unsigned.

They are huge and gorgeous!

I would expect that these starfish, while stupendous, would not fetch the prices at auction than the starfish that belonged to either Claudette Colbert, the original owner of the starfish brooch, or Millicent Rogers, the Standard Oil heiress, who also owned one of the original pieces, would garner. However, both still sold for a lot of money. The ruby and amethyst brooch sold for CHF 125,000 (approximately $126,000) and the emerald and aquamarine sold for CHF 150,000 (approximately $151,000).

A photo of the starfish once owned by Millicent Rogers.

Love this photo of Millicent wearing her starfish. And her dachshund is adorable!

A closer shot so you can see the stones and settings in detail.

The emerald and aquamarine starfish in closer detail.

Signed or unsigned, I would be thrilled to have either one of these in my collection! I am only partway through the book and so far Ms. Burns writes of the secretive and mysterious world of high jewelry, of trying to get information about the original starfish only to be met with silence, hostility, or shifting and shady answers. It is a fascinating read!

Let me know if you are reading (or have read) the book or have ever seen one of the famous Boivin starfish.


Rosie said...

Hi Jill,

I have not read this book, yet. Will put it on my must read list. I wonder if Cherie Burns came up with the idea of the Starfish Jewelry Book while she was researching her Millicent Rogers bio.

Cherie Burns said...

As I explain in the opening of the book, Diving for Starfish, I got the idea for the Starfish book after Searching for Beaty was published and a number of jewelers had shown an interest in Millicent Rogers’ jewelry. I was intrigued. I hope you will enjoy the book. I appreciate your interest and discussion. Cherie Burns

Ellen said...

I loved Searching For Beauty and am just beginning Diving For Starfish. I have been very interested in historic jewelry and this book is very enlightening. I wonder how much one of these brooches weighs? I suppose the bodice of the dress has to be reinforced.

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Kat Venks said...

I am currently reading Cheries' most excellent book. When I saw the article on purchase of the starfish and the picture. I knew I had to learn more. I got the book two days ago and have started read it. I have come lately to the jewelry business. I love the Cartier and Bovin designs.

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