While Carlos King may be best known as an interior designer, it’s his love of high-end costume jewelry that sustains him. At Gallery24Jewelry, his shop in downtown Palm Springs, only one-eighth of his entire collection – dating from the 1930s to the present – is on display. “It's therapy for me to be around some of these pieces,” he says. “They are very inspiring for some of the projects I do.”
King will present a selection of his rare couture jewelry including pieces from the French fashion houses of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Isabel Canovas at the Modernism Week Show & Sale on Feb. 14–17 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. “People haven’t see some of the pieces that I’m showing,” he says, “and I want to see what their reaction.”
Isabel Canovas, Paris gilt bird wrap bracelet circa 1980/1990.
Rochas Paris, haute couture gilt collier circa 1940 - 1950.
Modernism Show & Sale marks its 20th year featuring more than 90 premier national and international decorative and fine arts dealers with items representing all design movements of the 20th Century and select 21st century items. Produced by Dolphin Promotions, which organizes antiques, art and design shows across the nation including Chicago, Houston, Miami, Sarasota, and the San Francisco Bay Area, last year's Palm Springs event drew over 14,000 attendees.
Haute couture costume jewelry, as King defines it, is always handcrafted, takes many hours to make, and has a limited number of items produced (usually one to three). Most important, the pieces have provenance. “A real collection is a collection of caliber pieces that are documented with provenance and that are examples of the craftsman who created them,” says King. “It’s like buying a piece of art. You want to know who the artist is and the provenance.”
King’s foray into the world of fashion jewelry began seven years ago when he inherited his mother’s collection. At the time, he knew nothing about the art form and sent it to be sold at auction. “Ever since then, I’ve been hooked,” he says. “It’s turned into one of my passions and one of my businesses.”
King focuses primarily on French jewelry “because the French know craftmanship and quality,” he says. With price points from $125 (Celia earrings) to $20,000 (a Chanel necklace), King tries to have something for everyone and every budget. He also has a wide range of styles from vintage to contemporary. “I like having a mixture of pieces, he says. “Some that are more conservative as far as design and style versus something that is full of rhinestones and full of gold.”
“Jewelry was created for self-adornment in ancient Egyptian times and it really hasn’t changed at all,” he says. “The reason I love what I do is because I like to see the reaction on women’s faces after they put a piece of jewelry on. It’s very gratifying to see themselves and look at themselves in the mirror and completely transform themselves into somebody else.”
As a dealer of exclusive brooches, necklaces, and earrings, King also has to be a fashion historian. For the haute couture pieces, “I know the collection they were in, who is the designer, and the time of the collection,” he notes. “There is a lot of research that goes into play, especially when I’m selling a necklace for $6,000 to $7,000 dollars. Then I need to know exactly what it is, who made it, when it was made, what collection, because that’s important to clients especially when they are pieces of wearable art.”
Later this month, King will start pulling jewelry by all different designers from his archive to create one cohesive display for the show. The Modernism Week Show and Sale is the only show he participates in. “I like doing the Modernism Show in February because I believe it’s the last good show that highlights and exhibits some of the best in the design industry from furniture and art to costume jewelry and haute couture jewelry,” he says. “I feel that the caliber of some of my pieces and the caliber of some of the exhibitors is a perfect marriage.”
Cilea Paris faux tortoise poppy collier, circa 2000s.
King adds, “I’ve traveled the nation searching for these shows — and Modernism in February is it.”
The Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale runs Feb. 14-17 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. On Feb. 14 from 6-9 p.m. a Preview Party ($110) offers a sneak peak before the show opens to the general public on Feb. 15. Show hours are Feb. 15, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Feb. 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Feb. 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $20 at modernismweek.com. Tickets are also available at the door for $25.
Gallery24Jewelry, 457 N. Palm Canyon Drive, #9, Palm Springs or visit gallery24jewelry.com. To schedule an appointment, call 760-880-9987.