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Sotheby's to offer Fred Leighton's personal collection of jewelry, furniture & decorative arts
Gold, Diamond, Ruby and Emerald Bangle-Bracelet. Estimate $6/8,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’swill present The Jeweler’s Eye: The Personal Collection of Fred Leighton in a dedicated auction on 18 April 2018 in New York. While Mr. Leighton is legendary within the jewelry industry, and often lauded for revolutionizing the way celebrities wore jewels on the red carpet, many will discover that his creative eye also extended to his collection of fine furniture and decorative arts, spanning from the 17th through 20th-centuries. Amassed over more than five decades, this collection of pieces from Mr. Leighton’s residence in Manhattan offers an unprecedented look into his life and how he chose to surround himself, reflecting his passion for the beautiful and the eclectic.

The collection, which has been largely unseen by the public, will be on view in Sotheby’s New York galleries from 13 – 18 April 2018, alongside the annual spring auctions of jewelry and decorative arts.

Born Murray Mondschein in the Bronx in 1932, Mr. Leighton showed an affinity for the art of retailing at a young age. After living in Europe while enrolled in the armed services, Mr. Leighton returned to New York in the early 1960s and purchased a shop specializing in Mexican crafts, silver and folk pieces. Located in the West Village, the store bore the name “Fred Leighton”— a name that Mr. Leighton would legally adopt as his own in 1986. In short order Mr. Leighton found a niche in the sale of Mexican wedding gowns, eventually offering complimentary accessories, including Mexican and Native American silver jewelry, then introducing Victorian-era pieces which ultimately led him to the gem trade at large.

Establishing himself as a trusted jeweler in his flagship store on Madison Avenue, Mr. Leighton spent the rest of his life transforming heirloom and period jewels into the coveted baubles of society and celebrity clients alike – a skill that would later anoint him as the “King of Estate Jewelry”. An early proponent of Art Deco-style jewelry and decorative arts, Mr. Leighton’s fascination for all forms of design – from Antique to Victorian to Modern – led him to reinvigorate the market for pieces that had fallen out of style, and in turn, gain the implicit trust of his clients.

His sterling reputation in New York eventually led Mr. Leighton to the bright lights of Hollywood where he would come to revolutionize how celebrities dressed for the red carpet. Nicole Kidman was the first to work with Mr. Leighton on “red carpet” styling in 1996, donning an opal choker necklace to complement her lavender-hued Miuccia Prada shift dress at the Oscars. The debut drove A-list designers and celebrities to work with Mr. Leighton and caught the attention of the public, who responded to his fresh and accessible aesthetic, ultimately branding his eye.

Mr. Leighton’s Manhattan apartment reflected a life immersed in beauty, with an emphasis on French Art Deco design and objects of Southeast Asian Art. Much of the furniture, designed primarily during the 20th century, was artfully juxtaposed with antique artifacts dating back to the 17th century, with accents of Chinese, North African and Sicilian Baroque details displayed throughout the lavish space. The result was an idiosyncratic aesthetic that embraced beauty in its many forms and engendered a refreshingly-innovative approach to how collectors can live with these storied pieces.

• Large Pair of Cut and Beaded Glass Campana Urns on Mirrored Pedestals, Fitted as Lamps, 20th Century Estimate $70/100,000

• Indian Silver-Veneered Armchair and Footstool, 19th Century Estimate $6/9,000

• Pair of Carved and Polychrome Egyptian Revival Armchairs with Indian Silk Upholstery, Late 19th/Early 20th Century Estimate $5/7,00

The majestic ambience and luxurious materials featured in Mr. Leighton’s home complement the wide ranging genres of jewelry design found in his collection. The renowned jeweler collected pieces not just for their intrinsic value, but for their artistry, rarity and history. This philosophy to collect only what he defined as beautiful was largely formed by his extensive travels all over the world. From an Antique Heart-Shaped Diamond Pendant-Brooch to an Indian Gold, Diamond, Ruby and Emerald Cuff, an Art Deco Diamond Brooch by Cartier and a Pair of Modern Emerald and Diamond Earclips, Fred Leighton’s eye was unencumbered by boundaries.

• Gold, Citrine and Diamond Brooch-Necklace Combination, Cartier, London, circa 1945 Estimate $60/80,000

• Diamond Brooch, Cartier, Paris, circa 1910 Estimate $50/70,000

• Diamond Necklace, Raymond Templier, France, circa 1950 Estimate $75/100,000

• Gold, Diamond, Ruby and Emerald BangleBracelet Estimate $6/8,000

• Diamond Pendant-Brooch, circa 19th Century Estimate $8/10,000

• Pair of Emerald and Diamond Earclips Estimate $5/7,000

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