12 août 2014

An unusual green and russet jade carving of a mythological animal, 17th century

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An unusual green and russet jade carving of a mythological animal, 17th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008 

The recumbent beast carved with head turned slightly to its right and with mouth open exposing the large, protruding teeth, with fierce expression and intent gaze above the ruyi-head form nose, a large curved horn set in back of its head amidst finely carved tufts of hair and between downcast ears, its pointed, bushy tail parted in curls and flicked up onto its haunches, which are outlined by wave-shaped scrolls; 4½ in. (11.4 cm.) long. Estimate $10,000 - $15,000Price Realized $32,500 

Provenance: Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 1970s.

Christie's. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART. 17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.

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A rare blue and white hexagonal tubular bird feeder, Da Ming Xuande Nian Zao six-character mark in underglaze blue in a line and

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A rare blue and white hexagonal tubular bird feeder, Da Ming Xuande Nian Zao six-character mark in underglaze blue in a line and of the period (1426-1435)Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

The slightly bowed body molded horizontally with six slightly concave facets divided by narrow flutes that continue to the conforming outline of the two ends molded with mallow blossoms, and painted with bands of classic scroll in deep inky tones of underglaze blue with 'heaping and piling' shading in areas to blackish brown, the two large apertures on the top with unglazed rims, with the reign mark reserved on a white panel on one side and the pair of small attachment loops applied on the opposite side; 3¼ in. (8.3 cm.) long. Estimate $20,000 - $30,000Price Realized $50,000

Provenance: Acquired prior to 1985. 

A large huanghuali recessed-leg table, pingtouan, 17th century

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A large huanghuali recessed-leg table, pingtouan, 17th centuryPhoto Christie's Image Ltd 2008

The single-panel top set into a broad frame with 'ice-plate' edge, supported on legs of round section joined by pairs of oval stretchers, with plain aprons and apron-head spandrels; 32 5/8in. (82.8 cm.) high, 81½ in. (207.1) wide, 20 7/8 in. (53 cm.) deep. Estimate $70,000 - $90,000Price Realized $68,500

Notes: The spare, economical lines of this design make it one of the classic forms of Chinese furniture. The basic proportions were adapted to make large painting tables, smaller tables, benches and stools. This form is referred to in the Classic of Lu Ban as a 'character one' table due to its similarity in profile to the single horizontal stroke of the Chinese character for 'one'.

Several examples of this elegant form have been published. See Splendor of Style: Classical Furniture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, National Museum of History, Taipei, 1999, p. 143, for a large huanghuali recessed-leg painting table of similar form, dated to the 16th or 17th century. See, also, G. Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Rutland/Tokyo, 1962, pl. 46, no. 36 for another example in huanghuali.

Compare, also, the huanghuali recessed-leg painting table formerly in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, sold in these rooms, 19 September 1996, lot 16, where it was dated to the late 16th/early 17th century.

Christie's. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART. 17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.

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A very rare early Ming tianbai-glazed anhua-decorated meiping, Yongle period (1403-1425)

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A very rare early Ming tianbai-glazed anhua-decorated meiping, Yongle period (1403-1425)Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

The well-potted body finely incised with a broad frieze of leafy peony scroll bearing four large, full blossoms and subsidiary buds just beginning to open, set between a band of classic scroll below and a ruyi-lappet collar filled with lotus sprays on the shoulder above, all within double line borders, covered with a fine 'sweet white' glaze that continues over the mouth rim, the base and bottom of the foot left unglazed revealing the fine white body;12 5/8 in. (32.4 cm.) high. Estimate $600,000 - $800,000Price Realized $2,770,500 

Provenance: Acquired prior to 1985. 

Notes: This particularly rare and elegant white-glazed meiping dates to the Yongle reign (AD 1403-25). Such was the Yongle Emperor's admiration of white porcelain that excavations at the site of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen suggest that more than 90 of the porcelains made there during his reign appear to have been white wares. It was during the Yongle reign that the famous tianbai or 'sweet white' glaze, seen on the current vase, was developed. This glaze has been admired by connoisseurs ever since for its soft, jade-like, appearance, which so perfectly complements the skilful potting and pure white porcelain body characteristic of this period. The tianbai glaze was made almost entirely of 'glaze stone' with little or no 'glaze ash' (burned limestone), and it therefore contains less calcium carbonate than the other Jingdezhen 'white' glazes. The reduction of calcium carbonate has the effect of making the fired glaze appear whiter. The tianbai glaze can perhaps be seen as the ultimate achievement of the Jingdezhen potters' experimentation with glaze stone/glaze ash balances, which had produced such differing glazes as qingbai; the glaze used with underglaze blue decoration; and the so-called Shufu glaze, largely through adjustments to the calcium carbonate content of the constituents.

The Yongle emperor's desire for white porcelain was undoubtedly due in part to his enthusiasm for Tibetan Buddhism, but may also be linked to the fact that when he was still a prince, his counsellor Yao Guangxiao suggested that he would 'put a white hat on his rank'. This was a subtle reference to the character for emperor, huang, which is made up of the character for white bai above the character for prince, wang. It was a bold suggestion, since Prince Yan was not the heir apparent. Yongle also appears to have had a genuine aesthetic appreciation for the color white, since the exterior walls of the famous 'Porcelain Pagoda' at the Bao'ensi, built in honor of his deceased parents, are covered with white-glazed bricks. This is extremely rare for a Chinese-style multi-eaved pagoda. His appreciation of pure white porcelain is made clear by his rejection of jade tribute bowls sent to him from the Islamic West in AD 1406, which he commanded to be returned with the comment: "The Chinese porcelain that I use everyday is pure and translucent, and it pleases me greatly. There is no need to use jade bowls." See Liu Xinyuan, Imperial Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen, Urban Council Hong Kong, 1989, p. 73. However, on another occasion the emperor returned other costly gifts and kept only some white jade. This may further explain his fondness for the tianbai glaze, which has a soft unctuous feel, reminiscent of fine white jade.

Christie's. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART. 17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

Back on five rhinoceros horn cups at Christie's, 17 September 2008, New York

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A rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th-18th centuryPhoto Christie's Image Ltd 2008

Carved as a large open leaf issuing from a jagged branch curled around to form the stem and base, and from which two smaller leafy branches emerge laden with ripe peaches and pomegranates which continue into the interior, opposite a large chilong which pulls itself up to the rim of the cup from the far side; 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm.) long, wood stand. Estimate $12,000 - $18,000Price Realized $43,750

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A rhinoceros horn libation cup, 18th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

Of flared form, deeply carved on the exterior with plum blossoms, pine boughs and bamboo forming the 'Three Friends of Winter,' issuing from twisted branches forming the base and handle; 5 in. (12.7 cm.) long. Estimate $22,000 - $28,000Price Realized $27,500

Provenance: Christie's, London, 7 November 2006, lot 46. 

NotesThe decoration on this rhinoceros horn libation cup, pine, prunus and bamboo, known as the 'Three Friends of Winter', symbolizes the strength, purity and uprightness of the cultivated gentleman, and is a common decoration found in Chinese art. 

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A small rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th-18th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

Of conical form, carved as a lotus leaf with a curled rim and incised veins, the base formed by a snail and lotus flower, its tied, leafy branches forming the handle; 4 7/16 in. (11.2 cm.) long. Estimate $20,000 - $25,000. Price Realized $25,000

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A small rhinoceros horn quatrefoil dish, 18th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

Carved with smooth, shallow lobed sides around a recessed well, raised on a short, thick foot of conforming shape encircling three characters reading shu xiang ge (Pavilion of Fragrant Books) written in seal script within an oval cartouche, the horn of brownish-honey tone with some black inclusions; 2 13/16 in. (7 cm.) long, box. Estimate $5,000 - $7,000. Price Realized $13,750

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An unusual small rhinoceros horn oval cup, 17th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2008

With deep sides flaring from the countersunk base which is carved with the seal Bo Hong within a recessed square;2 5/16 in. (5.9 cm.) high, box. Estimate $3,000 - $4,000. Price Realized $8,750

Notes: Works bearing the seal of the artist Bo Hong appear to be exceedingly rare. See J. Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pp. 124-5, where the author illustrates the seal of Bo Hong on an archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup in the Museum Voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam, and notes that it is the only known example by the artist. 

Christie's. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART. 17 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza



An Art Deco conch pearl, natural pearl and diamond brooch-pendant, by Bulgari

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An Art Deco conch pearl, natural pearl and diamond brooch-pendant, by Bulgari. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2012

he diamond-set scalopped lozenge-shaped openwork panel with baguette-cut diamond detail at the cardinal points and centering upon a conch pearl, measuring approximately 10.8-12.1 x 14.3 mm, flanked by diamond collets and button-shaped natural pearls, weighing approximately 13.53 and 12.66 grains, 1930s, 7.3 cm. Signed Bulgari. Estimate CHF30,000 - CHF40,000 ($32,180 - $42,907). Price Realized CHF105,000 ($111,279)

Accompanied by report no.62374 dated 28 February 2012 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the pearls are 1 natural conch pearl and 2 natural saltwater pearls

Christie's. MAGNIFICENT JEWELS, 16 May 2012, Geneva

An Art Deco natural pearl and diamond bar brooch.

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An Art Deco natural pearl and diamond bar brooch. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2013

The two drop-shaped natural pearls, measuring approximately 10.8-21.6 x 15.8 and 10.1-12.3 x 15.4 mm, linked by a single- and circular-cut diamond bar with baguette-cut diamond line detail, mounted in platinum, 1930s, 6.0 cm. Estimate CHF28,000 - CHF48,000 ($30,476 - $52,245). Price Realized CHF35,000 ($38,108)

Accompanied by report no. 69327 dated 6 August 2013 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the pearls are natural saltwater pearls

Christie's. MAGNIFICENT JEWELS, 12 November 2013, Geneva

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Découverte d’une occupation néandertalienne en bord de Saône

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© Henri Granjean - Collectif item / Inrap

PARIS - Une équipe d’archéologues de l’Inrap fouille, sur prescription de l’État (Drac Rhône-Alpes), un site du Paléolithique moyen à Quincieux, à l’occasion des travaux de l’A466. Après avis de la commission interrégionale de la recherche archéologique, et dans le cadre d’une procédure de « découverte exceptionnelle », le préfet a prolongé la durée d’intervention de cette fouille d’un hectare. 

Une séquence stratigraphique exceptionnelle

Ce site préhistorique est implanté sur une butte lœssique dominant l’ancien lit de la Saône. Unique en Rhône-Alpes, cette séquence sédimentaire qui associe des dépôts d’origines fluviatile et éolienne, renseigne sur l’évolution de la Saône durant le Pléistocène supérieur (128 000-11 000 ans). Initialement haute de 8 m, elle est constituée d’une succession de paléosols et de lœss : le plus ancien, épais de plus de 2 m, est daté entre 55 000 et 35 000 ans, c’est-à-dire durant la fin du Paléolithique moyen. La fouille révèle une faune riche répartie sur trois niveaux et associée à des silex taillés abandonnés par les Néandertaliens.

Une faune de climat froid

L’ensemble des espèces animales découvertes caractérise un climat froid et un environnement steppique. Plusieurs centaines de restes osseux appartiennent majoritairement à de grands herbivores : mammouth, rhinocéros laineux, cheval, bison et renne. Les carnivores, moins nombreux, sont représentés par un crâne d’ours des cavernes et quelques ossements de loup. Ces ossements sont souvent isolés, plus rarement en connexions anatomiques. La plupart des accumulations résultent de l’action de l’homme : les animaux présents ont été chassés et/ou charognés par les Néandertaliens qui ont exploité ces carcasses, certains os présentant des traces de fractures d’origine humaine. Parallèlement, les archéologues constatent un déficit d’os longs, ce qui tend à montrer que les parties riches en viande ont été emportées, probablement sur un site d’habitat. 

Un témoignage des activités de subsistance de l’Homme de Néandertal

Le site de Quincieux offre donc l’occasion d’étudier les comportements de subsistance de l’Homme de Néandertal hors de son habitat ou de ses haltes de chasse, habituellement fouillés par les archéologues. L’industrie lithique est peu abondante et se compose de quelques nucléus ainsi que d’éclats de silex et de calcaire dur. Ici, les Néandertaliens n’ont eu besoin que de quelques éclats pour découper des quartiers de viande. Les études paléontologiques et archéozoologiques à venir seront capitales pour préciser la nature exacte du site et les activités qui s’y sont déroulées. 

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© Henri Granjean - Collectif item / Inrap

PARIS.- A team of Inrap archaeologists is excavating, under curation by the State (Drac Rhône-Alpes), a Middle Paleolithic site in Quincieux in conjunction with work on the A466. Following the decision by the Interregional Committee on Archaeological Research and in the framework of a procedure for "exceptional discoveries”, the prefect has extended the duration of this excavation of one hectare. 

An exceptional stratigraphic sequence

This prehistoric site is located on a loess butte overlooking the ancient bed of the Saône River. Unique in the Rhône-Alpes, its sedimentary sequence associating fluvial and eolian deposits provides information on the evolution of the Saône during the Upper Pleistocene (128 000-11 000 BP). Initially 8 m high, it is composed of a succession of paleosols and loess: the earliest one, more than 2 m thick, is dated to between 55,000 and 35,000 years ago, and thus to the end of the Middle Paleolithic. The excavation has yielded a rich faunal assemblage distributed throughout three levels and associated with flaked flint objects discarded by Neandertals. 

A cold climate fauna

All of the animal species discovered are associated with a cold climate and steppe environment. The several hundreds of bone remains belong mostly to large herbivores: mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, horse, bison and reindeer. The less numerous carnivores are represented by a cave bear skull and a few wolf bones. These bones are often isolated, and less often in anatomical connection. Most of the accumulations resulted from human actions: the animals present were hunted and/or scavenged by Neandertals that used the carcasses, with some bones displaying the marks of human induced fractures. At the same time, the archaeologists have observed a lack of long bones, indicating that the meat rich parts were exported, probably to a habitat site. 

Evidence of Neandertal subsistance activities

The site of Quincieux thus provides an opportunity to study the subsistence behaviors of Neandertals away from the habitat sites or hunting camps that archaeologists usually excavate. The lithic industry is poor and is composed of a few cores and flakes in flint and hard limestone. Future paleontological and zooarchaeological studies will provide essential information on the exact nature of the site and the activities carried out there.

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Unique coin expected to fetch up to $593,000 at Dix Noonan Webb auction in London

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Roman Imperial Coinage, Augustus (27 BC-AD 14), Aureus, uncertain mint, c. 27-18 BC. Photo Dix Noonan Webb

LONDON.- A unique version of a rare gold coin minted during the reign of Augustus Caesar, the first and greatest of Rome’s emperors, is expected to sell for £300,000 to £350,000 ($508,000 to $593,000) at the auction of Ancient and World Coins to be held by Dix Noonan Webb, the international coins and medals specialists, in London on 22 September 2014. 

The gold aureus, which was struck c27-18BC, depicts the new portrait of Augustus transformed into an ageless Apollo-like classical beauty on one side and an image of a heifer based on a long-lost masterpiece by a Greek sculptor on its reverse. The coin is a piece of numismatic genius celebrating the power of the man who founded the Roman Empire and laid the foundations of a regime that lasted for centuries. 

Only 22 examples of the heifer-reverse aureus minted during the reign of Augustus are known to have survived of which 15 are in museums, leaving just seven potentially available to buyers. They are sub-divided into five types which vary according to whether Augustus is depicted with a bare head or a laureate head and which way the emperor and the heifer are facing. The aureus to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb is the unique Type 2 coin with the laureate head of Augustus facing right and the heifer looking to the left. Its condition is described as “extremely fine with lustre”. 

This is a truly extraordinary coin,” says Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb. “Not only is it a unique type of an already very rare coin but its condition after more than 2,000 years is extremely fine and visually it is a beautiful work of art. It also represents an epic period when Augustus built an empire that changed the course of human history.” 

The exact date of the coin and where it was minted remain unknown and the subject of much scholarly debate but it is believed to have been struck c27-18BC. In 27BC Octavian, as he was then called, the great nephew of Julius Caesar, founded the Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire. He took the name of Augustus, meaning ‘stately’ or ‘dignified’ and began to stamp his authority on Rome and its territories. 

The heifer-reverse aureus to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb perfectly represents this key milestone in Roman and world history. The depiction of Augustus is quite unlike the severe portraits found in late republican Rome and transforms the young Octavian into a figure of calm, remote dignity and power. It is of the same style as the celebrated statue of Augustus which is now in the Vatican and is arguably the best portrait to be found on any Roman coin. The reverse recalls the occasion in 28BC when he dedicated the temple of Apollo on the Palatine which had as its centrepiece an altar with four statues of heifers by the great sculptor Myron of Eleutherae. This is in every sense Augustus’s coin. 

The rest is history. Augustus dramatically enlarged the Roman Empire and secured its safety with a buffer region of client states beyond its borders, initiating an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana . He reformed the taxation system, developed a network of roads, established a standing army and transformed Rome with impressive new buildings. Although his latter years were clouded by economic problems, a military defeat in Germany and the deaths of two of his grandsons, he left a solid imperial legacy. He died during August, the month named after him, 14AD and was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius. 

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Roman Imperial Coinage, Augustus (27 BC-AD 14), Aureus, uncertain mint, c. 27-18 BC. Photo Dix Noonan Webb

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Yu Youren's Calligraphy scrolls keep Asian items on a roll at Michaan’s

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Attributed to Yu Youren (1879-1964): Six Calligraphy Hanging scroll, ink on paper, signed 'Yu Youren' with one seal. {59 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (151 x 27 cm) each. Estimate $2,000-3,000. Price realized $25,960. Photo courtesy Michaan’s 

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Chinese arts and antiquities continued to prove their worth as a hot commodity in Michaan’s estate auction Aug. 3. A runaway sales success was found in lot 179, a set of six hanging scrolls of calligraphy brushwork attributed to Yu Youren, which was estimated to sell for $2,000-3,000. The set provided a formidable as well as collectible group of works to a worldwide bidding audience. Competition was strong for the calligraphy suite, ending with an impressive winning bid placed by a Chinese American floor bidder. The sale of the calligraphies came to surpass the high estimate well over eight times, with a final price realized of $25,960.

LiveAuctioneers.com provided Internet live bidding.

Asian Art Specialist Harry Huang believed what struck bidders was “the comprehensiveness of the grouping. Having these artworks as a complete body of work in a collection of six scrolls is a wonderful way to not only present them, but also to display them.”

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DetailsAttributed to Yu Youren (1879-1964): Six Calligraphy Hanging scroll, ink on paper, signed 'Yu Youren' with one seal. {59 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (151 x 27 cm) each. Estimate $2,000-3,000. Price realized $25,960. Photo courtesy Michaan’s

Desirable performance was achieved by many other Asian lots, found in an impressive list of top performers at auction. Of note was a painted Buddhist scripture upon silk (lot 180, $800-1,200, sold for $7,080) as well as two famille rose vases depicting beauties and birds (lot 232, $300-500, sold for $4,130).

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A Painted Buddhist Scripture Silk Hanging With Tibetan inscription and Buddhist dragons and lions. {59 x 25 inches (150 x 63.5 cm)}. Estimate $800-1,200, sold for $7,080Photo courtesy Michaan’s

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Two Famille Rose Vases Depicting either beauties or birds. {Taller: 9 3/4 inches (24.7 cm)} [Crazing, abrasions]. Estimate $300-500, sold for $4,130. Photo courtesy Michaan’s

Among Michaan’s jewelry offerings, certified stones carried their weight at auction. A pair of jade, diamond and white gold earrings accompanied by a Mason Kay Report sold for a handsome $6,490 (lot 093, $2,000-2,500). Also on the auction block was a GIA-certified diamond and platinum ring of a marquise cut that realized a price of $4,425 (lot 089, $1,700-2,000). Select pocket watches also sold well, as evidenced by a Spaulding & Co. 18K yellow gold piece (lot 123, $800-1,000, sold for $2,950) and a group of 10 gold-filled timepieces listed as lot 118 ($400-600, sold for $2,655).

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Pair of Jade, Diamond, 14k White Gold EarringsPhoto courtesy Michaan’s

Each features one oval jadeite cabochon measuring approximately 14.20 x 9.65 x 2.51 mm, accented by sixteen round-cut and four baguette-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.45 cttw., set in a 14k white gold mounting. Accompanied by a Mason Kay Report #140527-1, dated May 27, 2014 stating "Natural jadeite jade, no dye or polymer detected - 'A' jade". {Gross Weight: 5.4 dwts). Estimate $2,000-2,500. Sold for $6,490.

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Diamond, Platinum RingPhoto courtesy Michaan’s

Centering one marquise-cut diamond weighing approximately 1.28 ct., flanked by two tapered baguette-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.15 cttw., set in a platinum mounting. Accompanied by a GIA Gem Trade Laboratory Report #1156803522, dated December 23, 2013 stating "H color, VS1 clarity". {Size 6 1/2, Gross Weight: 3.1 dwts}. Estimate $1,700-2,000. Sold for $4,425.

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Spaulding & Co. 18k Yellow Gold Pocket Watch. Photo courtesy Michaan’s

DIAL: Round, white, black Arabic numeral hour markers, black and red Arabic numeral minutes track, gold tone Louis VX hands, sunken subsidiary seconds dial at 6 o'clock, Spaulding & Co. MOVEMENT: Jeweled, adjusted, Patek Philippe, No. 115504, Geneve Suisse, Spaulding & Co. CASE: 18k yellow gold, cuvette #115504, Spaulding & Co., 115504, 46 mm Estimate $800-1,000, sold for $2,950

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Collection of Ten Gold-Filled Pocket WatchesPhoto courtesy Michaan’s

Including one Vacheron & Contantine open face, gold-filled pocket watch; two Elgin rail road gold-filled, open face pocket watches; two Waltham rail road gold-filled, open face pocket watches; two Hamilton gold-filled, open face pocket watches; one open face, gold-filled pocket watch; one Rockford gold-filled, open face pocket watch; one Hampden gold-filled, open face pocket watch together with one Elgin gold-filled, open face pocket watch. Estimate $400-600, sold for $2,655.

Top selling lots were seen across department lines as well. An authentic, mid-century modern classic Hans Wegner Papa Bear Chair was sold alongside its original ottoman for $7,670 (lot 425, $3,500-4,500). Also noteworthy was a standout lot from the furniture and decorative arts portion of the sale in a stately Kindel Winterthur mahogany inlaid sideboard that more than quadrupled estimates (lot 389, $500-700, sold for $3,245).

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Hans Wegner, Papa Bear Chair and Associated Ottoman, the chair with original upholstery and foam fill {Dimensions of chair 39 x 36 x 33 inches; ottoman 16 x 28 inches}. Estimate $3,500-4,500, sold for $7,670Photo courtesy Michaan’s

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Kindel Winterthur Mahogany Inlaid Sideboard {Dimensions 39 1/2 x 75 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches}. Estimate $500-700, sold for $3,245Photo courtesy Michaan’s



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