Monday, July 25, 2016

Custodians of beauty

Looking south along Fifh Avenue from 85th Street. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, July 25, 2016.  A beautiful, very hot weekend in New York where most people who hadn’t left town, stayed inside, mainly. The weatherman says don’t get your hopes up. More where that came from.

Last Tuesday night our friend Katherine Bryan hosted a cocktail party at her Park Avenue apartment for her daughter-in-law Hilary Gurley who has recently been made director of Eleuteri (pronounced Ellay-oo-terry), purveyor of antique and vintage jewelry along with art and other precious European objects in their new shop just off Madison Avenue on East 69th Street. Naturally, Hilary brought a great sampling for all the guests to  see what you’d see in the shop, and she also invited the owners, Carlo Eleuteri and his son Wagner (pronounced it with a V).
Guests gather and converse in the foyer of Katherine Bryan's apartment.
Eleuteri is greatly admired for its uniquely curated collection of myriad beautiful, exceptional treasures. Carlo, who is a passionate collector of art and jewelry  among other collectibles, opened his first shop in Rome in 1972. He sold antiquities from his family’s collection, as well as art and other precious objets. His collecting philosophy is based on the Wunderkammer  (cabinet of curiosities) and Eleuteri is considered the preeminent source of antique and vintage jewelry in Italy.

In 1983, Eleuteri opened its flagship store on Rome’s illustrious via dei Condotti, where you can still find it today. Their clientele runs to the Italian aristocracy, the international jet set, including Sheikha Mozah Al Thani, Sir Elton, John Karl Lagerfeld Silvio Berlusconi, Diego della Valle. They have additional shops in Milan, Venice, Cortina d’Ampezzo (in the Dolomites) and Porto Cervo on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda.
Carlo and Wagner Eleuteri.
They specialize in 20th century style jewelry – Art Deco, exceptional Bulgari items from the 1940s through the '80s, and other Italian jewelers such as Cazzaniga, Buccellati and Serafini as well as world famous jewelers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tiffany. They also carry objets de vertu: extravagant sets of silver and tableware, and prominent works of art by artists (ranging from the traditional — Reynolds, Boldini, Balla, Fontana, Wildt, Burri — to more modern, conceptual — Boetti, Christo and Allen Jones).

Their collections have been in exhibitions around the world including the Royal Academy in London, the Musee d’Orsay, the Fortuny in Venice, as well as Bulgari’s retrospective in Rome, Paris, Shanghai and Beijing, San Francisco and Houston.

So now you know a little something about Eleuteri.  I knew before I went to Katherine Bryan’s that her party would be about the jewelry in her daughter-in-law's life and business. I do not have an intense interest in jewelry although its hold on people always fascinates me. However, it was a hot day and the invitation called for 5:30 p.m. I would have preferred staying home, but I like Hilary and her mother-in-law and it wasn’t all that far from my house. So I went knowing I’d enjoy myself. With my camera. And then JH came with his camera since it occurred to us that it might be interesting to photograph.
Katherine Bryan and Susan Gutfreund.
Kristina Keyser, Cynthia Frank, and Katherine Bryan.
Well it was. Their pieces were laid out on a large dining room table. They’re beautiful, but I had a tour of them by Carlo Eleuteri. He’s a very charming man whose grandfather started the business two generations ago. His son Wagner, who is 28, asked to join the business four years ago. This surprised Carlo because he never assumed his son would be interested, and now Wagner is very actively involved. It was Wagner who strongly suggested they open in New York. The store, at 19 East 69th Street, is itself a tiny jewel box. London is next.

Carlo speaks English with only the slightest trace of an accent. I was surprised that he was a native Italian and lives in Italy. He told me that when he was a small child and learning to talk he was living with his family in Germany and first learned German. But when his father moved them back to Italy, he never spoke German again and now really doesn’t know it. He then went to boarding school in England, and learned English that comes out very American.
Alexis Bryan Morgan and Kristina Keyser. Carolyne Roehm and Francis Schultz.
Tiffany Dubin, Jack Bryan, Debbie Bancroft, and Hilary Heard.
The jewelry is beautiful of course, but for me it was interesting to see the range of style and its allure. I was looking at history spread out before me. I had just finished “The Mistresses of Cliveden” and ruminating on which pieces might have been worn by the women who lived there, who visited there. You can’t deny it. Full of symbols, fantasy, reality and human affection. It made me think how unfortunate that women don’t wear these beautiful works of art more often and every day. It used to be like that in New York in the ‘30s and ‘40s. It was a matter of aesthetics. A woman could wear a simple dress or suit or even a pair of jeans and a tweed blazer, like my friend Brooke Hayward, and with a single brooch turn it into a fascinating story.
Julie Britt and Mary Russell.
Francis Schultz and Mercedes Mumford.
George Gurley and Marion Fasel, founder of jewelry website
I asked Carlo why “vintage” was so desirable. He was quick to answer: the quality of work. “It used to be that the labor that created these beautiful pieces was very cheap compared to today. And their craftsmens’ expertise was very great." Today it’s different, and you can see it in the contemporary pieces. Mechanization has moved into the picture. But not at this table.

Katherine had invited about thirty. I was there for about an hour and a half. It turned out to be a very successful cocktail party, mainly women who came to see and to see each other, but with something to talk about and consider.

This is what it all looked like:
Guests browsing the table of Eleuteri jewels.
Eleuteri has an enormous range of cufflinks, mostly from Italy. They feature ancient Roman coins and intaglios, tiny painted seashells, carved dogs, lapis frogs, and hand-painted Royal yacht flags.
A 1970s pendant mounted with a Mexican Peso is grouped with a carved aquamarine convertible sautoir, a silver Bulgari box mounted with an ancient Roman coin, several clever brooches, a panther mosaic bracelet of rubies and diamonds, and a Frascarolo enamel lipstick holder in the shape of another panther.
Bumblebee brooch in 18kt yellow gold with rock crystal, diamonds, onyx and opals. Italy, circa 1960s.
Enigma (by Gianni Bulgari) bracelet in 18kt white gold with black and colorless diamonds and rubies. Italy, circa 1990s. Frascarolo panther design lipstick holder in yellow gold and enamel with diamonds. Italy, circa 1960s.
Cartier Art Deco blackamoor brooch in 18kt yellow gold with black enameled face, pearl earrings, white enamel turban and rose cut diamonds. France, circa 1930.   Cartier brooch with a black enamelled hand and wrist with one bangle set with seven rose diamonds in platinum, and a second red enamel bangle, the hand holding a yellow gold flower with a central claw-set old brilliant cut diamond, circa 1940.
Carlo spots a piece for Jean Shafiroff.
A spread of diamond, citrine, amethyst and carved emerald flowers, pink cabochon sapphire link bracelet, gargantuan aquamarine bracelet, and blue sapphire/diamond "cornucopia" bracelet.
Bracelet in white gold with diamonds and aquamarines (total 661 cts). Italy, circa 1940s.
Katherine Bryan wearing chandelier ear pendants in 18kt yellow gold with multi-color sapphires and diamonds. Italy, circa 1965.
Top: Antique Russian snake bracelet in 14kt yellow gold and enamel with old mine cut diamonds (approximately 6 cts) and rubies. Russia, circa 1850.

Above, left: Double panther bracelet in carved rock crystal with white gold, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. USA, circa 1960s.

Above, right: David Webb cuff bracelet in platinum and carved rock crystal with pavé diamonds. USA, circa 1975.
Intricately carved coral earclips, parrot brooch and 18th century Sicilian bracelet depicting cherubs; Cartier diamond panther brooch; gold and enamel American eagle brooch, circa 1970s.
Trapani (Sicily) coral bracelet with carved angelic scenes in floral motifs, circa 18th century.
Gold treasures from Mauboussin, Bulgari, Cartier and Van Cleef. In the middle an exquisite bracelet from Bottega Mortet, who makes rings and other jewels for the Pope.
Gabriella Longo trying on ...
a Cazzaniga lariat necklace in 18kt grained yellow gold with dome cut aventurines, rose cut diamonds and rubies (Italy circa 1960s); and a ring in 18kt yellow gold with rubies and diamonds.
Carolyne Roehm holding an Edwardian stomacher brooch with emeralds and diamonds; Nina Griscom holding a Victorian snake necklace in yellow gold and silver with diamonds and turquoise (manufactured in Austria, circa late 19th century). Right: Detail of Victorian snake.
Wagner Eleuteri helps Nina Griscom with yellow gold pendants from Ciociaria Italy, circa 1750s. Nina trying on a ring in white gold with emerald briolette (22.59 cts) and diamonds, circa 1910.
Top and left: Antique bracelet with carved emerald (app. 40 cts) depicting a deceased cocker spaniel in gold with diamonds, emeralds and 12 tiny doggie teeth belonging to the beloved pet.

Bracelet in platinum with "cornucopia" of diamonds (app. 10 cts) and blue sapphires (app. 120 cts). Italy, circa late 1940s.
Cartier open and shut flower brooch in 18kt yellow gold with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires; a mechanism allows the petals to be opened and closed. France, circa 1965.
Ear pendants in platinum with fancy color briolette cut diamonds (123 cts). USA, circa 1980. René Boivin brooch in platinum with brilliant and baguette cut diamonds (35 cts). Circa 1940s.
Hilary and Cynthia compare their Bulgari Tubogas watches from the 1960s and 1970s.
Bulgari Stars & Stripes necklace in 18kt yellow gold with red and blue enamel and diamonds. Italy, circa 1971.
Kate Hemphill wearing Bulgari's rare Stars & Stripes necklace. For more, visit

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