Why “More is More” With This American Design Icon

A behind-the-scenes look at Tony Duquette Online with Frank Everett. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Surrounded by Hollywood glamour from his birth in 1914, artist and trendsetter Tony Duquette was a man of many talents. A renowned costume designer, movie and theater set designer, interior designer, and jewelry designer, he remains an American design icon years after his death in 1999.

As a wearer of many hats, Duquette was also a prominent collector, especially of unique stones. Today, jewelry made by Tony Duquette Studios often still incorporates pieces from the designer’s very own stone collection. This month, from August 18-30th, a number of his extravagant, jeweled works of art will head to the auction block in a Sotheby’s timed sale, Tony Duquette Jewelry Online.

“Pieces in this collection are so big, bold, and colorful – it’s all about the volume, large stones, unusual color combination, and unusual materials,” says Frank Everett, Senior Vice President and Sales Director at Sotheby’s who is also the charismatic star of many Sotheby’s jewelry videos. “They are all so visually striking.”

Everett describes the Duquette pieces chosen for the sale as “fantastic,” “dramatic,” “over-the-top,” and “perfect for summer.” At the same time, the collection is great for new Duquette collectors – the jewelry is more accessible, geometric, and toned down as compared to other pieces created by the designer who lived by the motto “more is more.”

Where Home Décor & Jewelry Meet

When you look at Duquette’s interiors, you’ll notice that there are a few crossovers in materials and motifs. For one, says Everett, Duquette loved using malachite in the home – for accessories, prints, wallpapers, and more. “Malachite is extremely important in the Duquette palette and aesthetic,” says Everett.

Left: Tony Duquette malachite interior. Photo courtesy of Tony Duquette Studios & Sotheby’s.
Right: 18 Karat Gold, Tiger’s Eye and Coral Necklace, Tony Duquette; 18 Karat Gold, Malachite
and Cultured Pearl Brooch, Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Another extremely important material is coral. “In this sale, there’s a pair of button earrings with textured gold and coral. There’s also the big necklace with plaques of tiger’s eye mounted with branches of coral. Duquette was crazy about coral – he would sometimes spray paint branches red and add them to interiors so that they looked like branches of coral,” says Everett.

Left: Tony Duquette coral interior. Photo courtesy of Tony Duquette Studios & Sotheby’s.
Right: 18 Karat Gold, Tourmaline and Diamond Bracelet, Tony Duquette; 18 Karat Gold
and Tourmaline Necklace, Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

He could also be considered the original “re-purposer” of materials long before TV shows and books on repurposing materials and crafting were born. “Duquette famously tiled an entire ceiling in his house with plastic trays that he spray painted gold because they had the right texture and shape and color,” Everett adds. “But you rarely see a Duquette room without some malachite and some coral somewhere.”

Throughout the Tony Duquette jewelry collection, you’ll also see sunburst or starburst motifs, which was also really important in the Duquette design world. “Especially for light fixtures, Duquette really favored the sunburst.”

Left: Tony Duquette interior, sunburst motif. Photo courtesy of Tony Duquette Studios & Sotheby’s.
Right: 18 Karat Gold and Aquamarine Ring, Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

One of the pieces that Everett expects to do very well is the cocktail ring with the big square aquamarine and the sunburst motif. “It’s just so cool. You can just sit it on the table as a decorative object, or you can slip it on your finger and go to dinner.”

Costume Jewelry (That’s Not Costume Jewelry)

What Everett also loves about this jewelry collection is that the pieces are made with great materials like gold, amethyst, coral, and aquamarine.

“It gives you that costume jewelry look without actually being costume jewelry. If you’re going for that big, bold, colorful look – you’ll want your pieces to be made of fine materials. I like costume jewelry, but I would prefer it to be long-lasting, hold its value, and really be a quality piece of jewelry,” he says.

A behind-the-scenes look at Tony Duquette Online with Frank Everett. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

And there’s not much you have to do to take care of them. “You don’t want to bang them on anything, obviously, as stones can break. The gold will of course scratch over time, but you can either enjoy it as a patina and appreciate that worn, richer look, or if you hate scratches, every 5-10 years you can take the piece to your jeweler and have them polish it.”

Bringing Back the Brooch

Among many of Everett’s favorites from the sale is the selection of brooches. “I’m a big fan of the brooch, and I’m always trying to bring it back on my Instagram account or in my videos for Sotheby’s. #TheBroochIsBack!”

This is for two reasons, says Everett: the versatility and the art.

Brooches can be pinned down not only on the traditional place on the lapel, but also higher up on the shoulder, on the back of your hair, at the waistline on the side of a dress, or even as a belt buckle. “Imagine wearing just a simple summer dress that has a belt, and you just add one of those dramatic Duquette brooches as a belt buckle – perfect,” he says. You can also put a brooch in the center of a dress bodice, which works well with a deep V, or perhaps on a straw bag before you head out to lunch.

18 Karat Gold, Silver, Tourmaline, Diamond, Cultured Pearl and Citrine “Monkey King” Brooch,
Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

“Aside from its versatility, the brooch is the most creative expression of a jeweler’s art. Every other piece of jewelry is somehow constrained by where it’s worn. A ring has to be on a finger, earrings have to be on the earlobes, a necklace has to be worn around the neck and fit with the bodice of a dress. But a brooch is just a brooch – a tiny sculpture that can be pinned on fabric and worn in many ways. So when you see brooches, you’re really seeing the jeweler’s art – he or she is arranging color, form, and stone shape and cut in a beautiful pattern and nothing more.” In terms of trends, brooches come and go, but Everett stresses that they’re really a key part of the 5 building blocks of a jewelry collection.

“My personal favorite brooch from this collection is the monkey king brooch. One of Duquette’s great obsessions was his dressed jewels. He loved to make paper mache dolls, dress them, and bejewel them. The monkey king brooch is quite fabulous, very Venetian, and very Duquette.”

Cocktails, Anyone?

One trend that’s here to stay is the cocktail ring, now popularly worn on the index finger. “If you look at the history of the cocktail ring, quite literally, it was a ring worn during the Prohibition era on the hand holding the cocktail. As you sipped, your ring was shown off. That’s what it’s about, and many people don’t know that,” says Everett.

Clockwise from top left: 18 Karat Gold, Smoky Quartz, Citrine And Diamond Ring, Tony Duquette;
18 Karat White Gold, Cubic Zirconia and Diamond Ring, Tony Duquette; 18 Karat Gold, Emerald
and Diamond Ring, Tony Duquette; 18 Karat Gold, Amethyst, Prasiolite and Cultured Pearl Ring,
Tony Duquette;18 Karat Gold and Aquamarine Ring, Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

The cocktail rings in the Tony Duquette collection, he adds, are particularly over-the-top and fabulous. “Just imagine a simple dress in the summer, then you slip that on and you’ve got a really fun, glamorous conversation piece.”

“These Duquette pieces, overall, are just whimsical, playful, and beautiful. They’re gorgeous uses of color. It’s not about the rarest of stones or the highest of values, but it’s more about the fabulous colored stones that provide a certain feeling and a look. These ones are really just right for summer.”

Frank Everett About Frank EverettFrank Everett is Vice President, Sales Director for Sotheby’s Jewelry department in New York. In his role, Frank participates in arts-related events and exhibitions throughout the United States. He managed the 2013 selling exhibition ‘The Extraordinary Jewelry of Alexandre Reza’ and he oversaw the jewels offered in The Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon which achieved $43.8 million in 2014.

Frank joined Sotheby’s from the retail jewelry industry where he worked with brands such as Bulgari, Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston. He has overseen retail operations and client development in various markets including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Miami. Prior to that Frank spent 15 years in the food & wine business in San Francisco, as general manager and proprietor of several top restaurants. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and Communications from Ursinus College and pursued graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania.