Understanding Jewelry, the Web Version – The New York Times

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Two former Sotheby’s executives have created a platform that offers education and experiences.
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“One of the first things I do when I look at a piece of antique jewelry is smell the box,” said David Bennett, the former worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry division. “You can sometimes smell the glue when it’s not actually old. Or run your fingers over the setting — that gives you a huge amount of information about the piece.
“You can only teach people by handling the jewelry,” he added.
Yet Mr. Bennett and his longtime collaborator, Daniela Mascetti, the former chairwoman of Sotheby’s jewelry division in Europe, realize that the best way to educate jewelry lovers circa 2021 is online. So last month they introduced understanding-jewellery.com, a platform for jewelry education and experiences that includes a website with a blend of free and subscription content.
The site takes its name from “Understanding Jewellery,” a reference work, now in its third edition, that Mr. Bennett and Ms. Mascetti wrote in 1989. (A new volume, “Understanding Twentieth Century Jewellery,” is due out in September.)
Open to anyone are the site’s introductions to the chapters on jewelry in 1900 to 1920 and on diamonds; the News & Events section, with videos of Mr. Bennett and Ms. Mascetti discussing extraordinary gems; the Discover & Collect section, where they riff on jewels for sale; and Experiences, which lists their online courses, museum visits and international jewelry tours.
“We’re proposing a tour to Jaipur at the end of next year, which will involve visits to various palaces and stone cutters,” Mr. Bennett said. “We’re trying to open up the treasure box and instill a sense of wonder in jewelry.”
Subscriptions to the site are 70 Swiss francs ($76) a year and open up 12 chapters dedicated to gemstones, from aquamarine to zircon, and 10 chapters on the major jewelry periods between 1750 and 2000, highlighting the evolution of jewelry forms from tiaras to brooches.
More than 1,000 images on the site include many special jewels, like a necklace and brooch in the Egyptian Revival style made of gold, steatite, faience scarab and micromosaic, circa 1860, by the Roman jeweler Fortunato Pio Castellani; a Deco-era carved colored stone bracelet by Cartier, designed in the Mughal style popularly known as Tutti Frutti; and a 1960s gold and mineral-set necklace by the avant-garde London jeweler Andrew Grima.
Mr. Bennett and Ms. Mascetti are offering personal services like appraisals, collection management and gemstone sourcing, but they conceived of the online platform as a broadly accessible source for information on antique and vintage jewels on the market.
“What we noticed in the last five years and even more so during the lockdown: It’s amazing how people will buy, and can buy, important jewelry on the internet without seeing it,” Mr. Bennett said. “What was missing was, where could you go to get an opinion on something that isn’t from the person selling it? We want to offer that service.”
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