In his quest to discover the world's most exquisite collectibles, Stephen H. Silver, chairman and CEO of the Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, has run across a veritable treasure trove of wonders. His work has brought him into contact with a giant emerald once owned by the Maharaja of Patiala and Silver himself has owned the famed Cullinan Blue Diamond necklace. But Silver will always treasure the memory of the twist of fate that led him to a long-lost, precious sapphire "lavaliere" pendant from Cartier. The tale is one of intrigue and irony, and Silver's history with this piece of jewelry provides a telling example of his skill and diligence as a master treasure seeker.
Many years back, at Sotheby's famed "magnificent sale," Silver's interest was piqued by a fabulous sapphire, diamond and crystal pendant, which hung delicately from a black cord. The necklace came in a stamped and molded Cartier box, but the piece itself was unstamped, leaving many others to assume it was not a genuine Cartier. He soon was engaged in a fierce bidding war for the pendant. Silver, who prides himself on his strict discipline in buying, dropped out of the auction when the bidding exceeded his pre -set spending limit. He lost the piece to a good friend, who happened to be a colleague in the fine jewelry business. The piece was stored in a safe for three years, until Silver convinced his friend to lend him the pendant to show as part of an extraordinary collection being assembled for a world tour.
Eileen Silver urged her husband to bring the lavaliere to the Cartier salon in London once and for all to definitively prove his instinct about this distinctive necklace. "The salesperson was absolutely speechless when I asked him to identify the necklace as Cartier," recounted Silver. "As it turns out, Cartier once created three special lavaliere pendants: one ruby, one emerald and one sapphire. I had in my possession the long-lost sapphire."
The house of Cartier had been searching for this piece for decades, but Silver, the consummate treasure -hunter, discovered it at Sotheby's most highly publicized auction. "It's truly a paradox that such a rare and valuable piece was under the noses of accomplished appraisers at Sotheby's and other respected fine jewelers, but was never detected as a true Cartier. Believe it or not, this is a phenomenon that happens more often than one might think," he says. "But that's the intrigue of doing what I do."
Eventually, after many interactions with Cartier representatives, who were quite eager to re -establish the piece in their private collection, Silver and his wife decided to sell the pendant to Cartier, thus inducting the piece into "The Cartier Collection," never to be sold again.
"This is the beauty of knowledge," Silver says, talking of his years in the jewelry trade. "We are on a constant treasure hunt to learn more about jewelry and its history. If there's any chance that we can ascertain the details that will make a piece that much more meaningful to our clients, we'll keep looking...and learning."
Celebrating 10 Talented Women in Wine: Sommelier and Ripe Life Wines Founder, Mary McAuley