Jewelry from the Estate of Carol Prisant
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.
Established in 1904 by Seaman Schepps, who was born in 1881 to immigrant parents, this important jewelry house has been adorning some of America’s most famous women for decades. The hallmarks of Schepps’ bold designs were unusual materials, like shell or wood, combined with precious and semi-precious cabochon gems. Many of what he referred to as his Barbaric-style pieces are oversized with brightly colored gems in unusual shapes and colors set in 18k gold. Stones and other materials were often set in an apparently haphazard manner, giving the pieces a whimsical feel. This effect balanced well with fashions of the time, which in the 1940s and 50s were much more formal than what we are accustomed to today. His beautifully executed collections appealed to both European clients like Coco Chanel and the Duchess of Windsor as well as America’s elite families. Some of his most notable clients were Jackie Kennedy Onassis (who famously wore the Turbo shell earrings), Katharine Hepburn, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the Rockefeller and Mellon families. His designs were featured in both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines.
Though he passed away in 1972, work continued under the guidance of his daughter Patricia Schepps Vaill. She continued to create new pieces in keeping with her father’s unique style. Upon her retirement, Vaill passed the baton to Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenhajm. In recent years, new pieces have been added to the collection to reach a younger clientele and they have opened new retail shops in Palm Beach and Nantucket. The company is still based in New York in the diamond district, where all the pieces are produced. Each is marked with a unique number and the company’s shell stamp. Fortunately, there are over 5,000 renderings and 650 molds of Schepps’ unique designs to ensure the legacy of his innovation for decades to come.
Auction Results Seaman Schepps