Platinum, Diamond and Ruby Necklace. Estimate 50,000 —70,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s.

Designed as a flexible serpent set with numerous old European, rose and old mine-cut diamonds weighing approximately 50.00 carats, the crown set with an oval-shaped ruby, completed by two cabochon ruby eyes,length adjusts from 15 to 15½ inches, 20 small diamonds missing.

NotesThe serpent motif has wound its way through the history of jewelry design from antiquity to the present day. Rooted in the rich mythology of the Ancient World, serpent imagery adorned Egyptian tombs, Roman religious monuments, and Greek shrines such as the Temple at Delphi, where priestesses famously nurtured live snakes for use in ritualistic ceremonies. Frequently depicted devouring its own tail in a circular formation the Greeks called an ouroboros, the serpent symbolized both eternal life and wisdom to the civilizations that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea. Pharaohs and the celebrated Cleopatra wore serpent jewelry set with lustrous gems to reflect their immortality and unearthly omniscience. During the Renaissance, physicians adopted and wore the serpent-wrapped Rod of Asclepius from Greek mythology to represent the wisdom required to execute their life-giving craft.

In the nineteenth century, serpent-inspired jewelry became de rigueur after Prince Albert proposed to his cousin Victoria with an emerald-set engagement ring of ouroboros design, its form foretelling the love and affection that endured throughout their marriage and, indeed, Victoria’s devotion well after Albert’s untimely death. Many nineteenth-century jewelers delighted in proving their mastery over metal by manipulating gold into realistically-rendered, multi-sectioned creatures that slithered over necks and wrists. By the turn of the next century, renowned Art Nouveau jewelers such as René Lalique and Georges Fouquet veered away from realism to create fantastical serpents enhanced by polychrome enamel and non-traditional gemstones.  

The serpent continues to captivate jewelry collectors today, with maisons such as Boucheron and Bulgari answering the call by transforming the ancient motif into the cornerstones of their iconic collections. The necklace offered here, remarkable in its use of platinum paved with a thick layer of diamonds, is an impressive example of this millennia-long artistic tradition. 

Sotheby’s. Important Jewels, New York | 05 févr. 2015, 10:00 AM