Update: Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet sold for $55,000.
What you see: Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet. She was the wife of Wally Schirra, who was an astronaut during the early days of the American space program. RR Auction estimates the charm bracelet at $45,000 to $55,000.
The expert: Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction.
How did this bracelet with space-flown charms come to exist? Wally Schirra, like most astronauts, would bring tokens and souvenirs into space for friends and family. Wally gave these charms to his wife, Jo, who created the charm bracelet.
Did all the spouses of the Mercury Seven astronauts receive or create bracelets with space-flown charms? No, not all of them assembled something like this. All the Gemini and Mercury astronauts were allowed to carry coins and other things on missions. The astronauts themselves had to buy them and distribute them as souvenirs.
What was astronaut Alan Shepard’s role in helping Jo Schirra create this bracelet with space-flown charms? He provided her with a piece of Freedom 7. He only went up briefly [15 minutes in all], so there were no souvenirs, but he brought her a piece of the cylinder assembly of the heat shield release mechanism from Freedom 7 and provided her a letter of authentication (LOA).
Was the Freedom 7 charm the first that Jo Schirra added to her space-flown charm bracelet? I don’t know the chronology of when she received it, but that’s the first mission [represented], for sure. She certainly got the others in chronological order.
When would she have started assembling the bracelet?At the start of Project Mercury, in 1958? More like 1961. Kennedy was president.
I’d like to talk about at least a few of the space-flown charms in more detail. I understand that one is made with a Liberty Bell 7 dime? Very famously, Gus Grissom brought Mercury dimes with him on his mission [Mercury-Redstone 4]. When he returned, he had to splash down, and the capsule almost sank. One of the things pulling him down was the two rolls of dimes. [Laughs]. These ones, he was able to keep in the pocket by his ankles.
…and one of the space-flown charms is a tiny Robbins medal? I didn’t know they made them that small. This was for the first manned Apollo mission. It was the first created–serial number one. Even if it was not flown, the serial number one makes it the first Robbins medal. But it was flown, and flown by Wally Schirra.
Wow. The astronauts had to buy these, and they were government workers, not making any money.
So the Robbins medals would have tried their budgets? I don’t know. I do know the gold ones were more expensive than the silver ones. Wally had to splurge on this to get it for his wife.
Not hugely expensive, but expensive enough to make them stop and think. Right. They couldn’t buy ’em all, and they couldn’t bring tons. There were not many made. There were 255 [space-flown] Apollo 7 Robbins medals in gold and silver.
There are nine space-flown charms on this bracelet: one for each of the six Mercury missions, one for Apollo 7, and one for Freedom 7. That makes eight. What does the ninth charm represent? It’s a flown 18k gold love medal by Lyonnais jeweler Alphonse Augis. It has a French phrase that translates to “More than yesterday, less than tomorrow.” Engraved on the back is “February 23”, which is the wedding anniversary of Wally and Jo. It’s a very, very personal love medal.
Do all of the charms have inherent value? Yes. They’ve all flown in space, so they all have inherent value. And they’re relics of one of the great achievements of mankind.
Is this the first time Jo Schirra’s bracelet of space-flown charms has gone to auction? Yes.
I imagine that with Jo Schirra having passed in 2015, and the bracelet debuting at auction as a whole, that will help guard against it being broken into individual pieces in the future. Because it’s been kept together… it tells the story of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo 7. They’re all there, together, all the flights on one chain. It’s a remarkable artifact. We see individual charms come up, but to have these in a bracelet, gifts from an astronaut, lovingly placed on her wrist, it shows the closeness of the married couple.
What is Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet like in person? What eludes the camera? Like most charm bracelets, it’s not a gigantic piece to hold in your gloved hand. It’s cool to look at, but they’re small charms.
Do you have a favorite charm from the bracelet? We’ve worked with a lot of these guys. I knew them when they were alive. Design-wise, it’s the Sigma 7.
Did you try on Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet? No! [Laughs] No, no, no. It would be inappropriate.
Can you give me a notion of how it might feel on the wrist?It looks substantial. It is a bit substantial and clunky, but I don’t think it was difficult to wear on the wrist. It’s not overwhelming. It’s beautiful, a conversation starter.
Do we have any idea how often Jo Schirra wore this charm bracelet? Was it a daily-wear item, or did she save it for special occasions? I don’t know. I know it was lovingly given to her daughter, Suzanna, when Jo passed away. Her daughter is the consigner. You know from seeing films and reading books about the astronaut program that the wives would gather to watch the launches together. You can imagine Jo Schirra wearing this and with each successive launch, adding a charm. It represents the success of her husband launching into space.
What condition is Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet in? And does condition really matter when we’re talking about an item with such strong sentimental value? Typically, condition matters on coins and collectibles. This has an age patina, as you would expect. There’s a beauty about it in its natural state as a charm bracelet. As a historical piece, it stands on its own. It’s not for a coin collection. It would be a tragedy to take it apart and encapsulate it.
Have you ever had anything quite like Jo Schirra’s charm bracelet? Is there anything out there that’s even close? I’ve never really had anything like this, which covers the entire space program. It’s very, very unique. It’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s such a personal item. The Robbins medal does elevate it.
Why will this piece stick in your memory? Because of its uniqueness, and the way it was lovingly assembled. It tells the story of the Mercury program and Wally Schirra’s career. It’s all there on that bracelet.
Update: The Daum glass vase sold for $17,000, hammer price.
What you see: A circa 1900 Daum glass vase, painted in the Prairie pattern and rendered in a bulbous stick form. It stands a little over 12 inches tall. Jaremos estimates it at $12,000 to $18,000.
The expert: Bruce Orr, founder of Jaremos, which is located in Flower Mound, Texas.
How is the word “Daum” pronounced? [Laughs] It depends on if you’re American or French. Here, it’s “dom”. In France, it’s more like “dome”.
Who, or what, was Daum? Is it still active? Two brothers, August and Antonin Daum, ran a cameo-decorating company at the turn of the century. It was in competition with Émile Gallé, and it was contemporary with Tiffany Studios in the United States. The company was strong until 1913, when World War I shut the factory down, and it ended up being used as a field hospital. After the war, the brothers were too old to continue. One of their sons took over. Daum has been a continuously producing glass house for 130 years.
And the “Nancy” in the title of the lot listing–that is the town in France where Daum is based? Yes. Gallé was the primary glass-maker in Nancy. Daum came second. But in 1904, Gallé died, so it lost its leader a little early. Daum has more appeal to Americans than Europeans because it’s pretty. Americans buy pretty. Americans have always gone pretty. Europeans like technique.
Was there a golden age of Daum art glass? There’s an argument based on whether you’re a fan of Art Nouveau or Art Deco, but 1900 to 1913 is considered the high point.
Do we have any notion of how many pieces of art glass Daum produced during its golden age? I’m sure the records are out there somewhere, but any number I could give you would be a guess. Daum was a big operation. It had 100 artists at one point, decorating the glass.
The lot notes describe the vase as having “iconic Prairie décor”. Was “Prairie” a specific line of art glass that Daum produced? Yes. This is a guess on my part, but it was not popular in its day, compared to the Daum Winter scenes. I might see one Prairie piece for every 100 Winter pieces. Because of that, Prairie is desired by collectors.
Do we know how many Prairie pieces Daum made, and how many survive? No, but I can tell you that over the last 15 years, eight have sold publicly that I know of.
Would this be the only Daum glass vase you’ve seen that’s in the Prairie style and has a bulbous stick shape? It’s the only one I know of.
How many different shapes did Daum offer in the Prairie line? There could have been 30 to 40 different ones. Most of the time with Prairie, they’re small.
The lot headline calls this Daum glass vase “rare”. What makes it so? Is it purely the Prairie decoration, or does its unusual shape play a role? It really wouldn’t make a difference what shape it has. It could be an ashtray and it would still get attention. This is one of the better ones I’ve seen as far as the shape. That should help it, but it’s the decoration that makes it rare.
Does this bulbous stick form vase show up only in the Prairie line, or do other pieces of Daum take this form? Other Daum pieces have this shape.
What can we tell, just by looking, how difficult this Daum glass vase was to make? As far as the enameling–and again, I don’t mean to downplay it–the decoration itself is not difficult to do. It wouldn’t have been that complicated. The difficulty is in getting the shape. When you consider that they were all hand-blown pieces, that’s saying something.
What challenges would the bulbous stick form pose to the glass-blower? Just the consistency. It’s difficult to do it consistently, but Daum, they were masters.
In looking at the shape of the Daum glass vase, it almost revels in its inability to function. Was it explicitly designed never to be used to hold flowers? Oh, come on! You could put one flower in it! [Laughs] I don’t think it was meant to be used. Tiffany, Gallé, and Daum were always made for the affluent of the day. It was always strictly a decorative piece.
What condition is the Daum glass vase in, and what condition issues do you tend to see with the bulbous stick form pieces? Anybody can crack or chip these. Once that happens, it takes 90 percent of the value out of the vase. The decoration can wear, and it’s usually worn by exposure to the sun. This one is very clean. On a one to ten scale, it’s about an 8.5. It has pretty strong decoration and not a lot of wear on it at all.
So the sun is the number one enemy of a piece like this? That, and if the owner is a klutz.
What is the Daum glass vase like in person? The delicate flowers on the bottom–I took a shot of the vase laying down so you could see it–I don’t know how you paint this on a piece of glass. The trees have definitive branches and the wildflowers are very delicately done. It doesn’t take a super artist, you just have to have the time to do it.
As we speak on March 25, 2021, the Daum glass vase has been bid up to $5,500 with the auction almost three weeks away. Is that meaningful at all, this far out? Yeah. It tells you there’s interest. Normally, most [lots] come close to two or three times their presale estimates. In my last sale, I had a Tiffany red flower form that was at $5,500 with three weeks to go, and it ended up doing $19,200. [The link reflects the Tiffany piece’s hammer price, or the price before the premium and attendant fees are added.]