Antique & Estate Jewelry / Colored Stones / Diamonds

Sammy Davis Jr. and Art Smith Jewelry Auctioned at Bonhams


Bonhams’ California Jewels sale is slated for July 20, and a rare collection hailing from one of the greatest stars of the 20th century will be up for grabs. Five pieces owned by Sammy Davis Jr., including a fancy brown diamond ring (estimated at $7,000 to $9,000) that he was frequently photographed wearing while performing, will be available in the sale.

Sammy Davis Jr. diamond ring
An 18k gold fancy brown diamond ring Sammy Davis Jr. was often seen wearing (est. $7,000– $9,000)

Sammy Davis Jr. is best known for his work as a singer and comedian and as a member of the Rat Pack, along with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. But he was also known for his flamboyant style—he was rarely seen without a suit—and luxurious jewelry.

“Sammy Davis Jr. was a huge talent and an icon of style,” said Emily Waterfall, head of jewelry at Bonhams Los Angeles, in a statement. “We are thrilled to be offering a selection of jewels that were worn and enjoyed by this groundbreaking entertainer. Bonhams Los Angeles has had great success recently handling jewelry from Hollywood stars; the sale of the estate of Diahann Carroll in 2020 included a Tiffany Zodiac pendant which sold for four times over its pre-sale estimate.”

In the same sale, a number of pieces by leading midcentury modern jeweler Art Smith will be offered. Smith, who sold jewelry from a shop in Greenwich Village from 1946 to 1979, and who worked primarily in brass, copper, and sterling silver, said he was largely influenced by biomorphism and surrealism.

The six lots to be offered are from one collector who recalls her mother befriending the Afro-Cuban artist in the late ’40s. The private collector said in a statement, “All of Mom’s pieces were either purchased by her from Art Smith, by my father as a gift for my mother, or were a gift from Art Smith to my mother. Her choices were sculptural, elegant pieces of art, ahead of their time, and timeless statement pieces designed to be worn every day.”

Art Smith earclips
Sterling silver earclips by Art Smith (est. $1,500–$2,000)

The collector went on to say, “My sister and I grew up hearing stories of Art Smith, who was a larger-than-life character from Greenwich Village. Mom’s memory of him was that of a tall…openly gay Black man with a shaved head wearing an earring. He made an impression on her, selling his designs from his own shop on Cornelia Street. She explained to us what a rarity this was in the 1940s, and how much courage it took for him to live his life.”

Top: 18k diamond and enamel monogram necklace, formerly owned by Sammy Davis Jr. (est. $6,000–$8,000) (all photos courtesy of Bonhams Los Angeles)

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Kristin Young

By: Kristin Young

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