By Cathleen McCarthy
The sporting life continued throughout the Edwardian and art deco eras with hunt scenes enameled on gold and painted on reverse intaglio. A pair of white gold cufflinks from 1910 features tiny fishing flies set beneath cabochon crystals. By 1920, Chaumet was turning out enameled motorcars studded with diamonds and rubies.
Perhaps the most famous novelty cufflinks—and the most sought-after among collectors—are the nuts-and-bolts pair designed by Paul Flato. The prototype links were actual brass nuts and bolts that Flato had hastily screwed into his cuffs after failing to locate a real pair before a society ball in the 1930s. Bandleader Eddie Duchin noticed them and commissioned Flato to make him a set in gold. They proved enormously popular, and Flato made several more over the years.
Collecting cufflinks. Perhaps because the type of jewelry available to men is limited, those who collect cufflinks often collect obsessively. In terms of quantity, few can beat Klompus, who owns nearly 40,000 pairs. New York stockbroker Derek Anastasia chooses to specialize—his comprehensive collection of enameled cufflinks numbers 1,460 pairs. When he began working on Wall Street, where snappy dressing is encouraged (as are ostentatious displays of wealth), Anastasia was exposed often to fine cufflinks and soon began coveting his own. They’ve proved to be a sound investment. He says the cufflinks purchased for an initial outlay of $20,000 are now valued at close to $500,000.
Like any collectible, cufflinks are most valuable when they’re in good condition and have a written record of provenance or connection to famous people or events. “Needless to say, that would include anything owned by the Duke of Windsor or the kings of England,” Klompus says. Add to that kind of provenance the name “Fabergé,” “Tiffany,” or “Cartier” and you have yourself a museum piece.
Limited-edition cufflinks connected to a war or a world’s fair bring big prices. The prize of Klompus’s collection is a pair owned by Kaiser Wilhelm before he fled Germany at the outbreak of WWI. The bulky links are platinum and 24k gold enameled with a “W” and family crest. “A rather ostentatious pair, to say the least,” Klompus acknowledges. With their written provenance and original box, they’re worth about $50,000, he estimates.
Function limits cufflinks’ form and size, but makers have been remarkably versatile in devising link mechanisms. “What’s really unusual about cufflinks is
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Cathleen McCarthy, a Philadelphia freelance writer, specializes in articles about jewelry design, collectibles, retailing, and travel.
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