Ostertag (Est. 1920’s – 1940?) Ostertag, a French jeweler, founded in the 1920’s by Swiss-born, Arnold Ostertag (1883 – c.1940) is said to have created objects that rivaled the creations of the more celebrated houses of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Boucheron. The Ostertag Maison was located in Paris, at number 16 Place Vendôme near other important jewelry houses of the day.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Ostertag was especially known for jewelry and objets d’art based on Asian and Indian designs. One style, known as Tutti Frutti, popular from the early 1920s to the late 1930s combined influences from Islamic religious architecture and so-called Hindu or Indian styles.
Emeralds, carved rubies, and sapphires – often imported from worldwide locations – were interspersed with diamonds. The jewels were crafted into unique pieces using the highest known techniques of the day and arranged into flowers and leaves, studded with berries and fruit. Many of the creations were purchased by an elite clientele that ranged from empresses, kings, and dukes to celebrities.
Ostertag was among the renowned Parisian jewelers, led by Cartier and Mauboussin that were invited to commission masterpieces in collaboration with other respected and well-known jewelry and timepiece houses of the day. Ostertag’s objets d’art and decorative clocks made by the revered clockmaker, George Verger, are jeweled works of art.
One of these pieces, a fine and rare gold, lapis lazuli, onyx, jadeite and coral annular desk timepiece, created around 1929 was made by Vacheron Constantin and sold by Ostertag. Designed as a gem-set jadeite flowerpot with whimsical exotic flowers, the clock was styled with carved coral petals and realistic leafage. The rim of the pot displayed diamond-set Arabic numerals and indicated the time with one angled leaf.
The piece was mounted on a stepped onyx base enhanced with cabochon sapphires at the corners that contained a 15 jewel rectangular mechanical movement that rested on a beveled lapis lazuli base with four gold feet and contained within a square glass outer case. The corners were fitted with gold cabochon sapphire-set openwork brackets.
It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2014 and realized nearly $300K.
This magnificent clock is an excellent example of the decorative clocks created during the 1920s and 1930s. Between 1880 and 1930, Vacheron Constantin worked in close collaboration with Verger Frères, a prominent French firm who was known as the Paris representative of Vacheron Constantin. In this partnership, the latter firm would create movements, and upon arrival in Paris, the former firm would case them in watch and clock cases.
Many of the finest clocks known in the Art Deco period were collaborations by these two celebrated firms. These pieces made brilliant use of carved hardstones, favoring Eastern-themed motifs, resembling Buddhist figures or exotic creatures such as elephants, gazelles, parrots and monkeys.
Ostertag, the retailer of these pieces, was fascinated by the extravagant aesthetics of the Far East, and was particularly taken with Chinese and Indian motifs. The masterpieces in his boutique reflected these interests.
Similar pieces were also sold in many other fine jewelry houses of the era including Lacloche Frères, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, and Black, Starr & Frost.
Other masterpieces created and retailed by Ostertag in the late 20’s through the 30’s included a gem-set and diamond bracelet wristwatch, an emerald and diamond necklace set with carved emeralds and diamonds in platinum, a pair of Art Deco diamond ear pendants, and an Art Deco diamond double clip brooch.
In 1929 Ostertag exhibited jewelry and objets d’Art at the Musee Galliera. Ostertag’s Paris shop continued until late 1939 when he left for America where he died around 1940.
His biographers, Proddow and Healy, write that Ostertag regularly visited America in years between World Wars I and II. They write that he would come to New York in mid-October, spend two months in Los Angeles, then visit Florida, and return to Paris via Cannes at Easter. After two months in Paris, he spent July in Deauville, August in the south of France, and September in Biarritz.
At the onset of World War II, Maison Ostertag closed its doors forever. The few highly prized Ostertag pieces that survive occasionally appear today on the market and/or at auction. The firm’s mark is ““OSTERTAG FROM FRANCE.”