One of the most awe-inpiring collection of antique jewels travels back to its roots

Suite of six multi-colored gemstone and diamond brooches Two large and one smaller sprays, two flower baskets and one bow set with topaz, amethyst and diamonds Portugal, second half 18th century

Whenever I cover the antique and period jewels from S.J. Phillips in London, I am like a kid in a candy store— I don’t know what to look at first. My eyes try to focus on the sheer wonder of it. But the magic of S.J. Phillips Collection of Jewels from Portugal  left me breathless, when I first saw much of it during the sale featuring the collection in London in October 2016, when a number of pieces were sold.

From May 25-28, the collection, which now encompasses approximately 70 pieces travels back to it’s roots and will be presented by Sotheby’s and S.J. Phillips at the Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida in Lisbon.

Demi-parure Silver, close set russet coloured topazes of different shades Portugal, 18th century

Portuguese jewels from the 17th and 18th century have always amazed and delighted me with their lively gemstone colors, set alone or in combination of hues, floral and religious motifs and settings that often evoked lace-like patterns and textures. According to Francis Norton, Partner and Director of S.J Phillips Ltd, “Antique Portuguese jewelry has always been a favorite of SJ Phillips. This collection has been painstakingly assembled over approximately a decade. As with all the jewelry that SJ Phillips deal in we have only focused on examples of the finest quality so this is a particularly awe –inspiring collection.”

Rings: Silver, close set white topazes and golden topazes; chrysoberyls and rock crystals Portugal, second half 18th century

Perhaps the reason that one of the most renowned houses for antique jewelry as well as jewelry collectors and connoisseurs from around the globe find Portuguese jewels so mesmerizing is the same reason they will find this display of jewels one of the most outstanding, “The exhibition presents one of the most comprehensive collections of Portuguese jewelry to exist outside the country and we are thrilled to be bringing it back to Lisbon, where much of it was made in the 18th century. Explains Sotheby’s Senior Specialist and Sotheby’s representative in Portugal, João Magalhães, Created during the apogee of Portuguese decorative arts, and particularly jewelry making, these beautifully crafted pieces tell the story of the country’s rich history and global reach of its empire.”

Demi-parure. Gold, silver close set chrsyoberyls. Portugal. Last quarter 18th Century.

Some back-story behind the jewels: During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Portuguese empire included Brazil, Indian and Japan. Vivid gemstones from the mines of Brazil set the tone for the aristocratic jewels of Lisbon. Emeralds, diamonds, sapphires as well as the widely used semi-precious stones, particularly chrysoberyl, pink topaz, aquamarine and amethyst were designed in gold, silver on top of gold or silver gilt set into the traditional foil closed back settings of the time. Many of the pieces came alive with tonal and unlikely color combinations, rendering these designs even more striking.

The motifs were often in the baroque style, florals and flowerpots, with bows and ribbons and swirls while others depicted religious or sacred designs.

Full suites of necklaces, pendants, day-to-night earrings and brooches that could also act as pendants as well and demi-suites of say, a necklace and earrings were in vogue during the 18th century and those rare sets that are still in tact are most covetable today. The styles from the time include girandole earrings and pendants, which consist of central ornament with three drops, most often pear shaped and sometimes featured garland or floral details. Pendants worn as chokers, decorative bow knots, stomachers (which were ultra large and worn either close to the neck or waist) as well as a diverse range of brooches.

Pair of earrings Silver, close set chrysoberyls Portugal, second half 18th century


For all of you who are as obsessed with this style and time period of jewelry as I am, the exhibition will be accompanied by the launch of a book by renowned jewelry historian and author, Diana Scarisbrick and is being published by S.J. Phillips and Sotheby’s.

Set of Buttons Silver gilt, chrysoberyls, with its original tooled leather case. Portugal, mid-18th century

Brooch of Silver gilt, close set chrysoberyls Portugal, 18th century