My first auction catalogue literature reference happened when this necklace was sold on 11 December 2018 in Sotheby’s London’s Fine Jewels auction. This previously unknown necklace by Oscar Massin sold for 274.000 GBP, almost 4 times the estimate.
My article on Oscar Massin’s jewels in the Dutch Royal Collection was referenced in the literature overview in the catalogue, because the design of this necklace is clearly based on that of a very special medallion in the Dutch Royal Collection.
A previously unknown Oscar Massin jewel surfacing at auction is an important event for any jewellery aficionado, even more so when you’re a jewellery historian working on this ‘grand joaillier’. Unfortunately this happens only once every few years, but when it happens it always gives important new insights.
Massin was an important innovator, both technically and in design. A necklace like this, with the main, large diamonds seemingly floating in clusters very subtly set with small rose cut diamonds, is quite unique. But the design was not created new for this necklace, it appears to be an further elaboration on a special commission Massin made in 1878, the medallion with engraved diamond which you can see on the right.
Massin, Martin Coster and King William III
The diamond with King William III of the Netherlands’ portrait engraved in it by M.C. de Vries jr was one of the most talked and written about exhibits at the World Exhibition of 1878 in Paris. It exemplified Amsterdam’s position as the nr. 1 global center for diamond cutting, a position which the city held up until World War II. Martin Coster, the diamond dealer and owner of the largest diamond cutting factory in the world, was the instigator of this project. As Consul General of the Netherlands, he had a close relationship with the Dutch King. So when the King married in early January 1879, Martin Coster decided to have Massin make a medallion to include the engraved diamond and have it set with many ‘roses of Holland’, as the rose cut was often named back then. This specific challenge – to create a medallion in which the engraved diamond takes center stage while incorporating lots of very small ‘roses of Holland’ – led Massin to develop the design principle we see in the necklace that was auctioned by Sotheby’s.
Oscar Massin was a very inspired artist, which makes it possible this necklace was created not long after the medallion. The necklace was the star item in the auction and it featured on the cover of the auction catalogue – click here.
For a long read on the history of the medallion – an extended version of my article A Very Parisian Affair: Oscar Massin’s Jewels in the Dutch Royal Collection, published in Jewellery History Today, the magazine of the Society of Jewellery Historians, issue 31 Winter 2018 – click here.
Images necklace: Sotheby’s.
Image medallion: Koninklijke Verzamelingen/Joods Historisch Museum