Gold, Brewed Best If Vintage

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Gold, Brewed Best If Vintage
Jay Sagar - 31 March 2021

In India, jewellery, in particular pieces which reflect an ingrained vintage, is not only considered a high-value asset but is rather wedded with one’s personal history and heirloom legacy.

It would be an understatement to merely quote that vintage jewellery has a charm that no modern jewellery can flaunt. Apart from the visual appeal, factors such as the designs and the manufacturing techniques form important mainstays of vintage jewellery. Even with all the computer-aided possibilities, the symmetry and finishing observed in old pieces cannot be replicated.

Vintage jewels command a premium, and as seen with results in various auctions, the prices realised for vintage jewels is far above the attributed estimates. It is indeed incredibly fascinating to see the profound and personal connection people share with their jewellery in India. The valuation of vintage jewellery is determined after taking several parameters into consideration, namely, the period of its make, the base metal, i.e. gold or platinum and an inspection of the precious stones that have been used. Finally, subject to the specific period, one can quantify the antique value of the piece.  Every era of jewellery designing – from antique to modern – each has its unique characteristics and features. Some of the most significant jewellery design periods include the Victorian age, the Edwardian age, the Art Nouveau age and the Retro age. My personal favourite period of jewellery design is the Art Deco Era, which spanned from the early 1920s to the late 1930s.

It was the finest design era, be it for jewellery, silver, cars, furniture or buildings. I believe it was indeed the golden era of design in the recent past. The Art Deco period was all about geometric shapes, clean lines and symmetry.  India’s tryst with jewellery making, in my opinion, has seen many scholars from different historical periods. The Mughal era was the most fecund and impactful. Emperor Shah Jahan was a patron of the craft and encouraged the spirit of jewellery design and innovation. The early 17th century and the following decades can be considered the golden period for jewellery design in India. Some of the most sophisticated pieces of jewellery were created in this period with the use of finest precious stones and flaunting an exquisite craftsmanship.

The ‘Kundan’ method of setting stones in gold that we see even today was largely a result of innovative jewellery design during the Mughal era. Apart from that, gemstones like the Golconda diamonds were extremely coveted and facilitated overseas trade.

Mystic Mughals The ‘Kundan’ method of setting stones in gold that we see even today was largely a result of innovative jewellery design during the Mughal era


Over time, the primordial traditions of Indian jewellery have garnered a lot of attention and reverence. Accessories like the Rajasthani Borla, the navratna and more are still popular among women. Our designs have inspired influential trendsetters, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet and Mauboussin.

Global fashion houses adopted India’s famed design motifs such as the ‘Jaali’ design. After topical modifications, when they did present the pieces, it took the western market by storm. These designs are in vogue even today and are highly sought after. Auction results can trace validation for the demand for vintage Indian designs. An international auction house had offered a ‘Tutti Frutti’ bracelet by Cartier in the recent past. The said lot, which was composed based on Indian design aesthetics, was estimated between $600,000 and $800,000. However, because of its rarity and sheer grandeur, it commanded a hammer price that surpassed its higher estimate and was sold for $1.30 million.  On the domestic front as well, things are looking positive, and my experience with Astaguru over the past couple of years has been exciting. I came on board as the jewellery specialist for AstaGuru in 2018, and it has been an exciting and fruitful journey since then. My expertise includes appraising vintage and estate jewellery for the past 21 years. Drawing from my experience in this trade, I believe, India has a burgeoning market for collecting rare and vintage jewellery. It is incredibly satisfying to curate an auction catalogue for a well-informed collector base.

The auction market in India is maturing, and all the credit goes to the enthusiasts, who keep a tab on the happenings at auctions and stay abreast of the trends in the domain.

Therefore, with a well-informed audience that appreciates the historical significance, and the rarity of the presented lots, we at Astaguru, are motivated to present pieces worth a place in their collections. We have indeed witnessed the jewellery market in India grow and expand.  Following our debut standalone auction for jewellery in 2017, we have started conducting an auction every year with increasing success. Our most recent edition, held on October 20 and 21, 2020, generated Rs 8,87,67,536. It was our firm belief that the Indian market has untapped potential, and therefore, we were the first auction house to present an exclusive sale in this |segment in India.

The observed trends of the past sales prove that the presented lots garner traction and have demand, and I feel that people want to build a structured portfolio of important vintage gems and jewellery. By being the first auction house in India to conduct an exclusive sale in the segment, we have opened up the market for seasoned bidders to choose an Indian auction house over an international one. With the increasing interest that this segment has garnered, we had several new collectors expressing their keen interest in building a great collection. The increasing number of new bidders looks very promising. My most important piece of advice to them would be to acquire jewellery that strikes a conversation with them and resonates with one’s aura. We hope to keep engaging both seasoned and budding collectors by continuing to curate auctions within this segment.

The author is a jewellery expert at AstaGuru

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