Christie's has launched Garden of Wonders: A Selling Exhibition of Exceptional Jewels in Dubai, featuring one-of-a-kind high jewellery. Running until Friday, it is the latest in a series of outstanding gems and jewellery that have arrived on UAE shores.
However, this free-to-enter show, which is housed at the Christie's gallery in DIFC, is a little different as the pieces are not on tour nor will the exhibition culminate in a grand auction. Rather, they have been gathered and curated especially for this region, thanks to the combined knowledge and expertise of Julien-Vincent Brunie, senior director and international head of jewellery and private sales at Christie’s, and Abdulrahman H Alzayani, the owner of A2Z Advisory, a company that helps connect clients with exceptional pieces.
Brunie's vast network of contacts around the world, combined with Alzayani's knowledge and taste as a collector of jewellery for more than two decades, makes them well-placed to curate such an exhibition. Together, they have gathered a collection that not only offers visitors a visual treat, but also cements Dubai's position as a key market for such gems.
Alzayani has curated the collection to appeal to the sophisticated tastes of the region, incorporating a preference for classic, timeless pieces.
For the show, the Christie's gallery in DIFC has been reimagined around the theme of nature and features a collection of natural saltwater pearls that originated in the Gulf and are now set in jewellery.
There is, for example, a pair of Art Deco earrings, made with different cuts of white diamonds that encase round, saltwater pearls in pearlescent pink, while another pair of earrings has twisting leaves of white diamonds, from which purple drop pearls hang. There is also a Victorian three-strand pearl necklace, of graduated, round pearls in a creamy shade of peach and a clasp made of emerald.
For nature lovers, there is a brooch in the shape of a butterfly, with its body, wing tips and antennae picked out in rubies, and similarly winged earrings, this time made from spinals, and with the butterflies facing one another.
Elsewhere there are more classic pieces on display, such as a fancy light yellow diamond ring and a pair of emerald earrings set in yellow and white gold. There are even pieces from emerging designers, including Nikos Koulis, who is being tipped as one to watch, as well as important pieces by established maisons such as Boucheron and Cartier.
However, the true star of the show is undoubtedly a diamond bracelet by the jewellery house Harry Winston.
Made in 1975 — incidentally the same year Winston purchased a rough diamond weighing 204.10 carats, that was eventually cut into the Star of Independence — this exceptional bracelet is made of 99 emerald-cut stones, totalling 141 carats, with a central stone of 11.32 carats. Owned by a Middle Eastern collector, it is made with such skill, the stones appear to be set at different levels, creating a three-dimensional effect.
While prices remain firmly under wraps, this particular piece is expected to sell for millions of dirhams.
The pieces are available as part of private sales, which is how Christie’s connects buyers and sellers outside of the auction room.
Catering to the needs of wealthy clients, Christie's and other auction houses seek out rare and elusive items for collectors, perhaps to help build out a collection, to act as an investment or even to be gifted for a special occasion such as a wedding or graduation.
While these pieces are most often bought and sold at auction, not everyone feels comfortable in the raucous noise of an auction room. Some prefer a quieter, more low-key approach, particularly royals, celebrities and those who savour their anonymity. This is where private sales come in, and Brunie and his team are on hand to help clients with a one-on-one service.