The Original Miami Beach Antique Show (OMBAS) celebrated its 60th year at the Miami Beach Convention Center in mid-January, with more than 600 dealers from around the globe showcasing their wares over four-and-a-half days to more than 8,000 visitors. Known as the largest antique jewelry and watch show in the country, it also includes a sprinkling of antique objects and pieces of vintage furniture. This year’s fair showcased an eclectic selection of natural diamond jewelry, running the gamut from Victorian old cut stones to the geometric designs of the Art Deco era and the sweeping lines characteristic of mid-century jewelry.
It was the invention of the steam-powered diamond lathe in 1874 that gave rise to the modern round brilliant stone. The priority of the round cut is to maximize surface sparkle. In contrast, old-cut diamonds were fashioned to enhance size, color, and clarity. Old-cut natural diamonds scintillate deeply and offer a more subtle alternative to the contemporary sparkler. Fine old cut pieces are limited in quantity and this rarity helps contribute to their value and allure.
Gannon Brousseau, EVP, Emerald, the event’s producer, says the fair “has been a destination event for those on the hunt for unique signed and unsigned pieces.” (Signed pieces of jewelry are much more valuable than unsigned ones and some dealers won’t even deal with pieces that are not signed.) Brousseau adds that “it is the perfect chance to discover items that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, while also learning from experts in their fields.”
Here is a selection of the fair’s standout pieces, with a brief background of the dealers.
Yafa Signed Jewels
Founded in 1984 by Yafa Moradof and her son Maurice Moradof, this company specializes in exceptionally fine, antique and estate jewelry. After 40 years of acquisitions, it boasts an important collection of vintage signed jewelry, with a focus on rare and important pieces by some of the most prestigious houses. The collection spans a range of eras from Antique, Art Deco, Edwardian, and Retro, to Modern. Many of the pieces have been exhibited in museums around the world. Now, a third generation, Maurice’s son has joined his father and grandmother in the business.
Camilla Dietz Bergeron
Since 1988 Camilla Dietz Bergeron Ltd. has specialized in fine estate jewelry. Founded by the company’s namesake, it is led today by her longtime colleague and managing director, Gus Davis. The collection has a concentration of signed pieces by David Webb, Verdura, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Gemolithos Fine Gems & Jewels was founded in 2013 by Ioannis Alexandris, a gemologist and antique jewelry expert. He started in the industry in 1995 and today his collection specializes in original pieces from the 18th century, 19th century, Art Nouveau, Belle Epoque and Art Deco periods. A frequent exhibiter at antique jewelry shows around the globe, his book “Antique Jewelry 1800-1939” will be published shortly.
Paul Fisher was established in Austria in 1850; the six-generation family business has been based in New York since 1945. Notable pieces that the firm has handled include the famous La Peregrina pearl, “as large as the largest pigeon’s egg,” which was found on Isla Santa Margarita in the Gulf of Panama in the mid-16th century. Worn by Spanish monarchs, its last royal owner is thought to have been King Louis XVI of France. More recently, it belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. Paul Fisher also dealt with the 47-carat Excelsior II pear-shaped diamond, cut from the 971-carat Excelsior Diamond, the largest known rough natural diamond of gem quality when it was discovered in 1893.
Pat Saling’s collection showcases one-of-a-kind pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries, including those from Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Retro and Mid-Century periods. Pat and her son Parker are especially devoted to the French Art Deco era.
Based in London’s Mayfair, Morelle Davidson was founded 40 years ago by Morris and Eli Abramov. The duo are well-respected international dealers in antique and estate jewelry and exhibit their collection at the top antique jewelry shows globally.
Since 1989, the Miami-based lawyer turned jewelry dealer, Steven Neckman has specialized in signed jewels, from the period 1925-1975, focusing mainly on Art Deco designs through to the hip era of the 70s. With no real website — only a telephone number is listed — Neckman says his clients want their purchases to remain private. He adds that he prefers jewelry that lets the woman or man express themselves and not have the piece wear the person.