Elegance Personified

Jewelry from the Estate of Carol Prisant

Carol Prisant wearing her pink sapphire ring and Angela Cummings earrings. Photo courtesy of Annie Watt.

Rago presents jewelry from the estate of antique dealer, writer, and editor Carol Prisant (1938–2021).

Ms. Prisant had an eye for art and antiques from a very young age and was entirely self-taught. After marrying and moving to New York with her husband, she worked as a decorative arts vendor in the 26th Street Antiques Market and participated yearly in the Manhattan Antique Show in addition to owning Locust Valley Antiques in Long Island for 10 years. In 1989, she became the New York editor of the British magazine The World of Interiors, a position she would hold until 2020. Actively involved in the world of antiques and interior design, she sat on the board of the Raynham Hall Museum on Long Island and the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. She was also a member of the Manhattan-based Appraisers Association of America. Her writing became a staple in these circles. Prisant wrote articles for Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful, and New York magazine and was the author of several books including Antiques Roadshow Primer and Antiques Roadshow Collectibles. Her antiquing column “Good, Better, Best” for House Beautiful would go on to be adapted into a book of its own.

A longtime friend of Ms. Prisant, Christine Pittel, remarked about Prisant’s interior design skills that she “curated her own environment like a work of art.” The same can be said for her impeccable taste in fine jewels. From a stunning sapphire ring in her favorite hue, pink, to elegant brooches and refined earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, her sense of style and eye for quality is evident in every piece from her collection.

I met Carol Prisant during my early days as an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. I initially knew her as an inquisitive and factually concise reporter for The Antiques Roadshow Primer, but a friendship soon blossomed from that connection. You could talk to Carol, and understand that her sense of propriety and connection to the truth of a story was nothing short of reliable. We eventually became friends, bonding over personal loss, and Carol was ultimately someone with whom I came to share a treasured relationship. It is with deep regret that I heard about her death, and with gratitude and humility that we’ve been entrusted with her collection of fine jewelry.  

—David Rago

I see each finished piece as one of my own ideas made into a three-dimensional object. It has the shape of my thought.

Angela Cummings

Angela Cummings

Angela Cummings is one of the most renowned jewelry designers of the 20th and 21st centuries and, along with Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti, one of the most innovative designers associated with Tiffany & Co.

Born in Austria in 1944, Cummings’s family moved to the United States when she was three years old. She later returned to Europe to study at the Art Academy in Perugia, Italy, and at the Zeichenakademie in Germany where she graduated with a degree in goldsmithing and gemology. A gifted metalsmith and designer, she returned to the United States after honing her skills in Europe and began working for Tiffany & Co. in 1967. Just eight years later, Cummings became the first female designer to have her own self-named jewelry collection with the company. Her graceful, sculptural designs were enormously successful; in 1982 alone they accounted for over 45,000 sales with a total revenue of about $10 million.

At Tiffany, she became renowned for the way she processed 18-carat gold, platinum, and silver, combining them with precious stones and juxtaposing them with unexpected materials such as wood. Cummings also experimented with classical techniques like damascene, an inlay of precious metals with iron. Nature inspired all of her creations, some of the most famous being a gold-and-diamond spider web necklace, an 18-karat gold crocodile bracelet, and a $1.5 million geometric emerald and diamond necklace. One of her bestselling pieces was a lifelike rose gold petal necklace and earring set, and she also designed more affordable works in sterling silver. In 1984, Cummings parted ways with Tiffany & Co. to found Angela Cummings Inc. with her husband, providing her an opportunity to truly expand her design horizons.

Cummings swiftly began working in an even wider range of materials, especially sterling silver, as she had not been allowed to sign her silver works at Tiffany. Within a year, she partnered with Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and she would go on to do so with Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue as well. Cummings’ jewelry designs were astounding in their diversity and ranged from organic to abstract to geometric, but were united by their sculptural qualities and extraordinary craftsmanship. Her business expanded to tableware, accessories, and watches, and she also partnered with QVC to reach a broader range of consumers at a more approachable price point.

In 2003, Cummings closed her business and her department store boutiques, moving to Utah to spend time with her family. However, ten years later, she reemerged to collaborate with pearl specialists Assael for whom she designed 25 spectacular pieces of cultured pearl and diamond jewelry set in platinum and gold. Over the course of her career, Cummings has left an indelible mark on the world of jewelry and her creations are beloved by discerning collectors across the globe.

Auction Results Angela Cummings