Beauty + Functionality: Etuis

February 10th, 2017 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

Petit, charming, and intimate. At first glance, an étui is certainly a mysterious, decorative object. Comprised of a small shaft-like shape, the object has two parts. With the gentle pull, the object pulls apart to reveal a small storage space. Taking their name from the French word, “estuier” meaning “to keep or hold,” the étui is a multi-functional objet d’art.


Covered in delicate engraving and ornamentation, this discreet case would have held multiple functions

As a convenient vehicle for holding an array of small items, the étui has held multiple uses throughout history. In 13th century Italy, etuis were crafted of wood and wrapped in stiffened, chassed leather, often called cuir bouilli. A carrying strap completed the object for easy transportation. It is believed that these earlier etuis were made to carry writing tools, as similar cases are depicted in paintings of scholar’s studios.


These ornamental cases could be made of any material, from precious metals like gold or silver, to exotic materials such as tortoiseshell or shagreen


These ornamental cases could be made of any material, like precious 18K gold or delicate enameling

Aristocratic and court culture in 18th-century France demanded all things luxurious. Simply put, one’s entire life would be comprised of fine materials, goods, and ways of life. Étuis, consequently, took on an entirely new, clandestine function. Court-goers and nobility discreetly pass notes to one another concealed within an étui. Frequently, an étui carrying a secret correspondence would be sealed with wax to ensure the utmost privacy. Other young woman would keep their sewing needs, scissors, thimbles, and even small hair combs tucked inside these diminutive works of art.

The 18th century was also the time in which the workmanship of the étui reached its zenith. The vehicle by which an artisan could display his technical prowess, The workmanship of each étui became as important as the function the object served. 18K gold in hues of yellow, white, rose and even green was the primary medium of choice. In France, the Louis XVI and Louis XV-styles proliferated and elaborate, ornate Neoclassical motifs were masterfully chased and etched over every serface of the étui. Often breathtaking hand-painted enamel genre scenes, precious jewels and even rare minerals would be employed to complete an étui’s design. Truly, the only limit was the craftsman’s imagination.

5 Must Haves: Valentine’s Day Edition

February 3rd, 2017 | posted by James Gillis

While the origins of Valentine’s day are perhaps too often forgotten, there’s no doubt that the day ushers in a season of grand romantic gestures, tender moments, and of course, chocolate.

While people today view it as a day of pure romance, Valentine’s Day roots are quite a different story. It was the mighty ancient Romans responsible for naming our modern day of love. In the 3rd century AD, the powerful Emperor Claudius II executed two men- both named Valentine- on February 14th. Quickly revered by the Catholic faith, these men became martyrs and were celebrated each year on what became known as “St. Valentine’s Day.” Fast forward several years and the romantic prose of Shakespeare romanticized the holiday. Soon, these tender characterizations of the day proliferated Europe, eventually spreading to the New World, where this idealized, passion-filled day in February took on a life all its own.

From cupid-themed pieces to a 5.25-carat fancy pink diamond ring. Our gallery is filled with the perfect Valentine’s gift. With the holiday quickly approaching, we’ve analyzed our collection and hand-picked our top five favorite gifts for this Valentine’s Day.


1. Meissen Cupid Groups30-0164_1

This season of grand romantic gestures and proclamations of love is often personified by its most popular mascot – the mischievous young Cupid. In fact, this plump young cherub is actually older than the holiday itself! First making his appearance in Ancient Greece, the perpetually youthful Cupid and his spells of passion came to symbolize the invincibility and irrationality of love. Artisans of the Meissen porcelain manufactory quickly fell under his spell and crafted figurines of the young god, depicting his playfulness, passion, and desire.



2. Orangy-Pink Diamonds

It’s no surprise that we love colored gemstones. From fancy intense vivid yellow diamonds to dazzling blue Paraiba’s, it’s hard for us to just pick one. Still, our 4.05-carat orangy-pink stone continues to captivate us. Diamonds with a pink hue rank among one of the rarest colored diamonds and, in recent years, have obtained considerable attention on the market. To find a pink stone of this size, and color, is simply amazing.





3. German Silver Wedding Cup

Legend has it that in 15th century Germany, in the town of Nuremberg, a young noble mistress fell in love with a humble goldsmith. Consequently, the young woman’s father did not approve of the different in social class and forbid the marriage. Becoming so enraged with their passion, he threw the young man in jail, proposing they could only marry if he could craft a cup from which two people could drink. The challenge was met and the wedding cup was born.






4. Perfume Bottles30-4102_2

As vessels for these lovely fragrances, perfume bottles are often considered a necessary and ideal accessory for perfume. Though they have existed since ancient times, when earlier Egyptians used containers of wood and clay, it wasn’t until the 19th century that perfume bottles became an art form of their own. In this time, an era that observed an unbounded fascination for finery, it was recognized that a bottle that encloses such an irresistible scent must be as striking and beautiful as the scent that is envelops.




5. Gold Étuis

An objet d’art with a multi-use function, the small, delicate étui means “to keep or hold.” Typically adorned with delicate engraving and chasing, these discreet cases would have perhaps held clanedestine notes of correspondence between lovers. Some may have even characterized a more practical purpose of holding smaller items such as needles or makeup necessaires.



The Art of Interior Design

February 2nd, 2017 | posted by Danielle Halikias

Some collectors of fine art begin with their favorite masterpiece to build the color scheme of their room, but for most of us, redecorating around a single painting is not always feasible. Lucky for us, it is possible to find museum-quality art that will fit right in with your home design scheme using just a few, easy interior design tips. A basic understanding of interior color schemes can help you choose a piece you love that is the perfect fit for your home.

First, begin with the basic color scheme of your room. The following three examples are the most popular, and each offer a myriad of options for inspired design!


1. Monochromatic
Perhaps the easiest to understand, the monochromatic color scheme is also the most versatile, and can range from soothing to dramatic depending on your chosen color. This scheme uses just one shade of a single color throughout the entire design. Most often seen in neutral schemes of white and grey, other more adventurous types may choose a bold blue or theatrical red to pull a room together. Regardless of your hue, choose a painting that matches it to complement this scheme. Or, get daring and add a dramatic pop of color to an otherwise neutral room.


Falaise by Claude Monet exudes tranquility with its blueish-grey monochrome palette

An Italian Beauty by Tito Conti

Tito Conti’s An Italian Beauty would suit a neutral white scheme


2. Analogous

Allowing for more diversity in a room’s palette, the analogous color scheme brings together hues that sit next to one another on the color wheel. Blues, teals, and greens are popular, while reds, oranges, and yellow offer a warmer feel. When choosing a painting for an analogous room, ideally you can find all three hues, though just one will do!

The Russian Emigrants by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer favors a warm red, orange and yellow palette

Pont sur la Seine by Achille Laugé

Pont sur la Seine by Achille Laugé combines three analogous hues, purple, blue, green, in one stunning scene

3. Complementary

The complementary color scheme – the use of two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel – can add the most depth to a room. Generally, one color will predominate, while the other provides vibrant, contrasting pops of color. This scheme is all about balance, and when used properly, it can draw maximum attention to your work of art. Just be sure to choose a piece that matches your accent color rather than your primary color to truly benefit from the contrast.

For instance, if the primary color of your room is green, choose accents that provide pops of red:

Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov

Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov

Study for Nude with Bad Abstract Painting by Tom Wesselmann

Study for Nude with Bad Abstract Painting by Tom Wesselmann


Alternately, if your room is red, go green with your accents:

Dans le Jardin à Sorel-Moussel by Blanche Hoschedé-Monet

Dans le Jardin à Sorel-Moussel by Blanche Hoschedé-Monet

Jeune Fille au Manteau Vert by Berthe Morisot

Jeune Fille au Manteau Vert by Berthe Morisot


Both color and art have the ability to transform an entire room. Bringing together the two can achieve something truly dramatic and special, all while displaying your own personality and tastes. When displayed well, art has the power to enliven your home – you need only to choose your favorite!


We’ll Drink to That: The Essential Wine Cellarette

January 25th, 2017 | posted by Susan Lapene

This handsome mahogany wine cellarette was crafted during the reign of William IV

Wildly popular for their elegance and functionality, wine cellarettes were considered an essential piece of dining room furniture between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries. The wine cellarette was generally displayed beneath a sideboard or side table in the dining area where dinner guests could easily view the evening’s drink selection. These luxurious fixtures allowed hosts to serve guests a wide variety of wine or spirits directly from the comfort of the dining room while also functioning as a cooler, keeping certain vintages chilled as necessary.


This rare wine cellarette is a superb example of Irish Chippendale style furnishings


The sarcophagus form is highlighted by lion paw feet and elegant inlay accents

The example illustrated above and at left, a William IV period wine cellarette, is crafted of mahogany and boasts beautifully carved details. Its sarcophagus form is held aloft by lion paw feet, and the hinged lid features a finial in the shape of a luscious bunch of grapes. The spacious interior of the wine cellarette is decorated with delicate inlay and is fitted with a lead liner which easily holds six bottles of wine.

The second example, a slightly smaller 18th century wine cellarette, is also crafted of mahogany but is carved in the elegant Irish Chippendale style. It includes a removable brass liner, an important feature which allows for the storage of one’s vintages at just the right temperature, as well as two drawers ideal for the discreet storage of cocktail accouterments.

Once a symbol of ultimate luxury and wealth, today wine cellarettes are a must-have for wine enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Press play below to learn more about the history and function of wine cellarettes!

The Garnet, Leading Exemplar of Beauty

January 19th, 2017 | posted by George Peralta

Quick Facts:

  • Garnets comprise of a group of minerals and result in a variety of colors (not just red!)
  • Has been around for centuries – sources show us that the garnet was initially favored by Ancient Egyptians with reputed health benefits for soothing anxious hearts
  • One of the most famous pieces of garnet resides in the Smithsonian, the Antique Pyrope Hair Comb
  • Experts believe there are still more varieties to be discovered!


    Depicting a serpent, this brooch is enveloped in vivid green stones that make up the Garnet’s rarest and most valuable variety: the Demantoid Garnet.


A Brief History:

Synonymous with the deep crimson hued stones that blanketed ancient Egyptian pharaohs and queens, the lavishness of the red garnet gemstone has long been cherished as a staple in the jewelry market. It’s rich history dates back thousands of years, beloved by many of the world’s great ancient cultures. A stylish red garnet bead necklace was recently discovered in an Egyptian grave that perhaps accompanied a corpse into afterlife – a testament to the garnet’s long, rich history.

Like the Egyptians, Ancient Roman nobility utilized the garnet as a sign of prestige, importance, and rank, applying personal stamps to documents using garnet signet rings. In fact, red garnets were the most traded gem during the height of the Roman empire. Similarly, the Middle Ages ushered in a new class of high-ranking clergy members who utilized the garnet in their rich clerical robes and dress.

Where do they come from?

During the 19th century, mining regions in Russia and Bohemia were important sources for Garnets. Favored and prized by the Russian royalty and aristocracy and favored by highly-ranked jewelers like Peter Carl Faberge, garnets were a source of pure pleasure during the Victorian era. In modern times, the popularity of the garnet has continued. The rolling, 3D landscapes of Namibia and Tanzania are home to some of the most important garnet mines. The garnet can also be found in Brazil, Myanmar, among others.

A Kaleidoscope of Colors:

The vivid orange mandarin garnets that are a testament to the garnet's wide variety of hues

The vivid orange color of these mandarin garnets are a testament to the garnet’s wide variety of hues

In the gemstone market, the multitude of garnet varieties cannot be over emphasized. While the garnet is best known for this crimson hue, it can also be found naturally in a rich palette of colors: Vibrant oranges, heavily saturated greens, intense yellows. Furthermore, garnets are also rich in rarities, including star garnets and color changing stones. Modern gem connoisseurs and experts alike can pick from this wide array of colors.

While the garnet gemstone is known for its red varieties, it is the precious Demantoid variety for which this gemstone has gained considerable attention.

The demantoid garnet is, perhaps, the most valuable variety of the garnet group. First discovered in the Ural Mountains in Russia in the mid-1880s, this variety experienced immediate popularity and was a favorite of the Czar’s royal court. In fact, the demantoid garnet was even incorporated into many of Faberge’s awe-inspiring creations. To no surprise, the demantoid garnet soon made its way into the European market and Edward VII prized the rich verdant green, its value radically increasing. Dramatically, these mines were purged by the Bolsheviks and all demantoid garnets disappeared from the gemstone market, along with any other symbols of wealth and royalty. After the political unrest and that plagued Russia during the revolution, demantoids gradually re-entered the market and its radiant green hue was met with the same admiration and fascination. With the highest refractive index, it’s brilliancy is unparalleled. So immense, in fact, that it rivals the vividness of both the ruby and sapphire.

Qualities to Look for:

Like with many other gemstones, clarity plays a large role in the importance and value of a garnet. Simply put, the better the clarity, the higher quality the gemstone. For garnets, however, it goes a little deeper. Because there exist numerous different types of garnets, clarity cannot all be judged the same. Demantoid garnets, for example, are prized for their “horsetail” or thread-like inclusions. Other garnet varieties maintain different desirable characteristics, such as transparency, cut, and color.

The Garnet’s Forecast:

The deep, crimson red hue of this 22.98-carat ring exhibits incredibly dazzling effects

The deep, crimson red hue of this 22.98-carat ring exhibits incredibly dazzling effects

Are there more hues to be discovered? Gemologists agree that there is no reason to believe that all possible garnet varieties have been found. Setting the stage for more potential discoveries, the future of the garnet is, as the garnet itself, brilliant and utterly fascinating.

Today, the garnet is popularly known as the January birthstone and is a symbol for the second year of marriage, renowned for both its luxurious color and brilliant refractive index. A jewel of marvelous variety, the garnet is an exceptional gemstone that commands great consideration and boasts high admiration. Those garnets displaying sumptuous color, vibrancy, and size found in M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of rare jewels are some of the finest garnets to be found.

View more exquisite garnets here.

Next »