Property from the Estate of Fred Leighton, New York
On the evening of Friday September 28th, Stair will offer selections from the collection of the late, famed jeweler Fred Leighton.
Born into humble beginnings in New York, Fred Leighton began his career in retail running a floristry in Los Angeles. He returned to New York in the early sixties and bought a shop specializing in Mexican silver, crafts and folk pieces in Greenwich Village. Mr. Leighton carved out a niche selling Mexican wedding gowns, which he paired with Native American jewelry and accessories. He focused his energies on mastering the gem trade, receiving a gemological degree, and widened his interests to include Georgian, Victorian, and Art Deco pieces. Mr. Leighton moved to the Upper East Side where he became known as the ‘King of Estate Jewelry’, traveling the world in search of rare Indian Mughal and royal jewels. Recognizing their inherent value, Mr. Leighton resolutely preserved his purchases intact, counter to the contemporary practice of taking apart and resetting antique jewels. His ascendant reputation among discerning New York clients eventually led Mr. Leighton to Hollywood, where jewels from his collection were first worn on the red carpet by Nicole Kidman in 1996. His vintage and antique pieces soon became an emblem of timeless glamour, donned by actresses including Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Michele Williams. Today’s top stylists continue to be influenced by Mr. Leighton’s innovative taste.
Alongside his lifelong passion for jewelry, Mr. Leighton was also an energetic collector in a variety of fields, and his penchant for mixing fine and vintage pieces extended to the decoration of his own home. For instance, a painted panel depicting Diana the Huntress and her Stag hung in his New York apartment, complemented by an Art Deco metal jardinière attributed to Pierre Chareau, and a simple Italian glazed pottery vase. Surrounding his chic Art Deco silver-leafed dining table were paintings by the notable Mexican artist, Leonel Maciel.
From the bustle of Madison Avenue to the glitz of Hollywood, Mr. Leighton’s eye for great design has been revered for over half a century. Through the objects he chose to surround himself with, this collection offers a window into the private world of a legendary dealer. Also included in the auction are a Puiforcat Art Deco silver tea set, a pair of Italian beaded glass urn-form lamps, a set of Cartier barware, two Indian inlaid bone hardwood boxes, and a group of rare Kashmir shawls. The sheer range of these objects is a testament to the diversity of Mr. Leighton’s taste for beautiful things, traversing time and place.