The waiting list for his jewellery is so long and the finished creations are so highly prized by their owners that they rarely come to auction. So it is a coup for Christie's to be auctioning a collection of 18 pieces by the reclusive French jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal, known as JAR and considered to be one of the most enigmatic jewellers of our time.
These creations are part of a collection of jewellery owned by Lily Safra to be auctioned at Christie's in Geneva next month.
Safra, born in Brazil and wife of the late banker Edmond Safra, is a philanthropist and a lover of spectacular jewellery. She is selling a collection of 70 rare pieces to raise money for 20 charities around the world. The sale is expected to raise more than US$20 million.
The collection, which will be previewed in Hong Kong on April 27 and 28, will include three rings (a Burmese ruby, diamond and sapphire), each of more than 30 carats, and a beautiful Belle Epoque Cartier diamond and emerald 'eglantines' rose necklace. But it is the JAR jewellery that has connoisseurs really excited.
The Elizabeth Taylor auction last December saw a pair of his multicoloured ball ear clips fetch US$602,500 in fierce bidding. Prior to that, actress Ellen Barkin sold 17 creations by JAR given to her by former husband Ronald Perelman. So this collection of 18 pieces, including a gorgeous ruby camellia brooch made in 2003 and estimated to fetch US$1.2 to US$1.5 million, is very special and the fruit of a creative relationship that began in 1981.
'He is an artist and can just look at a client and know how to enhance her,' says Angela Berden, one of the auctioneer's jewellery specialists.
'Mrs Safra is a passionate collector of JAR because he is so innovative and has the most sophisticated technique, quite unlike a mainstream jeweller.'
Now in his late 60s, Rosenthal was born in the Bronx and moved to Paris in 1977, where he began designing pieces using dark silver-gold alloys, unlike other jewellers, and using the pave technique for setting small stones. He had no training but he found the best craftsmen to make his designs.
His settings are so finely wrought as to be virtually invisible and gradations of colour progress from subtle to vivid, as illustrated in the Elizabeth Taylor ear clips and the delicately shaded but imperceptible setting of Safra's diamond and amethyst Three Violets ring (estimated at US$50,000 to US$70,000).
JAR's shop is located in a passage off the Place Vendome. It has no shop window and you need to be introduced by someone he knows before the door is opened. It is an A-list clientele.
His jewellery is expensive and he is alleged to retain the right to refuse to sell an item if he feels it doesn't suit you.
This auction opens the door into the exclusive club of JAR owners.
Jewels for Hope, The Collection of Lily Safra, Christie's April 27 and 28, 10.30am-5.30pm, Alexandra House, Chater Road, Central