The Power of Gemstones: an Interview with David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division. Interview by Tricia Topping
My breakfast with the renowned David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division was highlighted in my diary in red. What a privilege and a treat. I had watched David conduct an auction in London and was enthralled with his ability to capture an audience and hold them in the palm of one hand, whilst securing exceedingly high prices with the other. David could have been an actor or a politician; Sotheby’s have a rare and precious asset in Mr. Bennett.
David is well versed in rare and precious assets. It is not without reason that he is known as the 100-carat man, he has sold the rarest and most important jewels in the world. The list of questions we had prepared had been designed to learn the secrets of those who buy and sell jewellery from this famous auction house. Our discussion in the best corner of the wonderful Sotheby’s café merely touched on this, so the script was dropped to the floor as David started to talk about the meaning of jewels and talismans, which have stretched down through the centuries.
David studied philosophy at university and really wanted to go to the London film school but his father who was very Victorian in attitude, thought that films were something for Hollywood and not for his British son. He organised for David to join Sotheby’s for a year’s training in 1974. At the end of the year, he was offered a place in the jewellery department just as the country was going through a particularly turbulent period in its history. With this in mind, the desire to go to film school vanished in return for a regular pay packet and he decided to take it. ‘I wanted to know more so I took myself off on a gemology course and bought gold and silver and learnt to work with metals’.
David went onto to tell me that ‘studying gemology was important and he had always been interested in astrology, numerology, gemstones and talismans which are all inter- related . He is now celebrated and respected throughout the world for his extensive knowledge of jewellery and gemstones.
David told me the story of the Sunrise Ruby which captivated him from the moment he saw it. ‘I took it in my hand and held it for half an hour without saying anything’. Set by Cartier the ‘pigeon’s blood red colour’ achieved a new world record for a ruby sold at action for 28.3 million Swiss Francs or around £19.6 million in May 2015.
But it is when David started to talk about his love of understanding the mystical connection of gems and jewels as personal amulets, that he glows like one of the gemstones he loves. He is not alone, and it is not surprise that some of our leading business leaders carry personal amulets to ward off evil. David talked about his obsession with exploring the relationships between gems and individuals and precious stones and the planets. For very special people, David will create a piece of jewellery, which draws on not only astrology including hermetic astrology, geometry and numerology. ‘Lots of rubbish has been written on the subject and I want to clear out the misconceptions and return to what is really missing in the study of gemstones’.
Finally, I asked the man who during his four decades at Sotheby’s and many record breaking sales, of all the jewels he has sold which one has he wanted to own? ‘None’, was the reply ‘it has been a huge blessing in my life, to study it, love it and will always be part of me’.
David has written two books with Daniela Mascetti, Understanding Jewellery published in 1989 and Celebrating Jewellery published in 2012.
Sotheby’s Upcoming Jewellery Sales
15th March Fine Jewels London
5th April Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite Hong Kong
19th April Magnificent Jewels New York
17th May Magnificent Jewels & Noble Jewels Geneva
6th June Fine Jewels London
The Meaning of Gemstones
The stone is seen as a protection against drunkenness. Aurora amethyst and ruby earrings, by Shaun Leane.
Symbolises truth and fidelity and often used in engagement rings. A 6.27ct natural Ceylon sapphire and diamond cluster ring, mounted in platinum, by Sandra Cronan.
Known as the ‘stone of kings’ the blood red colour is thought to hold the power of life. Zeyna Ruby egg Pendant, by Fabergé.
Often used as a symbol of purity and perfection. White freshwater pearl torso with metal and diamond struts, 18 carat white gold and diamond huggies with a south sea pearl drops, by Coleman Douglas Pearls.
Dates back to the Incas and the legend is that if you place it under your tongue can predict what the future holds. Mimosa emerald and diamonds earrings, by Damiani.