Top Tens

Top Ten Most Expensive Private Jewelry Collections Sold at Auction

Top Tenn

When jewels from a notable private collection come up for auction, a frenetic buzz of excitement ensues.  As long as auction houses have existed, so too have auctions featuring property from the estates of prominent figures.

The world’s largest auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, date back to the 18th century.  Initially, Christie’s rose to fame selling fine artworks, while rival Sotheby’s traces its roots to the rare book business.  Over time, both houses expanded into other luxury auction markets, eventually coming to also specialize in  jewels and rare gemstones.

Historically, jewelry was simply one element of much larger estate auctions.  Christie’s first sale of fine jewelry came in the aftermath of the French Revolution when, in 1795, it auctioned the magnificent jewels of Madame du Barry, King Louis XV’s mistress.  The sale realized £8,791 ($1.3 million today), which was the record for the most expensive jewelry collection sold at auction for nearly two centuries.

From Sotheby’s historic sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry in 1987 to Christie’s recent auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels, there have been a number of private jewelry collections auctioned for in excess of $10 million.  The collections include many of the most famous jewelry pieces ever created.  Without further ado, I’ll present the ten most expensive jewelry collections ever sold at auction.

1.  The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor:  The Legendary Jewels – $137,235,575 

Christie’s New York, December 13th & 14th, 2011

Known for her prodigious love affair with jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor amassed an astounding collection of jewels over her lifetime.  This legendary collection, along with other personal possessions, was sold at Christie’s New York in December 2011.  The two-day sale of 270 lots realized a staggering $156.8 million, with the jewelry portion accounting for $137.2 million of the total.

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Shattering records left and right, the sale garnered worldwide attention with its sensational jewels by major jewelry houses, including Bulgari, David Webb, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, as well as specially commissioned pieces by JAR.

The sale was headlined by La Peregrina, a 16th century pearl necklace, which sold for $11,842,500. The necklace set two world auction records: for an historic pearl piece (obliterating the $2.5 million record set by La Regente at Christie’s Geneva sale in 2005) and for a pearl jewel more generally (surpassing the $7 million record paid for The Baroda Pearls at Christie’s New York sale in 2007).

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La Peregrina – A Natural Pearl, Diamond, Ruby and Cultured Pearl Necklace, by Cartier
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Other notable highlights from the landmark sale include:

The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, a 33.19 D-color, potentially Internally Flawless diamond that sold for $8,818,500 and set a record price per carat at $265,697.

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The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond Ring
A gift from Richard Burton in 1968, The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond was a constant in Ms. Taylor’s life and became the ring that she wore virtually every day for more than three decades. Bought at auction as the Krupp diamond, for $300,000, it was renamed in homage to this spectacular gem’s most glamorous owner.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The Taj Mahal Diamond, an Indian diamond and jade pendant necklace (attached to a matching ruby and gold chain designed for the piece by Cartier), was a gift from Richard Burton on Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday. This historic jewel soared above its pre-sale estimate of $300,000-500,000 to an astounding hammer price of $8,818,500, representing a record price for any Indian jewel ever sold at auction.

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The Taj Mahal Diamond
Set with an inscribed heart-shaped table-cut diamond, within a red stone and jade mount set with table-cut diamonds, the reverse decorated with an enamel latticework motif, from a gold neckchain set with cabochon rubies and old mine-cut diamonds, mounted in gold, inscribed heart-shaped table-cut diamond bearing the Islamic date 1037 [1627-1628], gold and enamel cage of later addition, neckchain circa 1972, length adjustable, pendant suspends 17½ ins. at longest
Neckchain by Cartier, no. 53559
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The Bvlgari Emerald Suite, composed of wonderful matching emerald and diamond jewelry (lots 26-31) fetched a total of $24,799,000.  Taylor acquired the suite between 1962 and 1967, selecting the majority of the jewels over many repeat trips to the Bvlgari boutique on the Via Condotti in Rome.

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Elizabeth Taylor’s Emerald and Diamond Bulgari Suite (flower brooch not pictured)
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The Bulgari Sapphire Sautoir, set with a magnificent sugarloaf cabochon sapphire of 52.72 carats sold for $5,906,500. This bold Art Deco-style sautoir was a gift from Richard Burton again for Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday in 1972.

Bulgari Sautoir

The Bulgari Sapphire Sautoir, now part of Bulgari’s permanent collection
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The Richard Burton Ruby and Diamond Ring, of 8.24 carats, by Van Cleef & Arpels, was a Christmas gift from Richard Burton in 1968. Burton had promised to buy his wife a special ruby, with perfect red color (“But it has to be perfect”, he warned at the time). Four years after making the promise, he tucked a small box into the bottom of Elizabeth’s Christmas stocking – so small that she missed it when opening her gifts. This ring sold for $4,226,500, setting a record for a ruby per carat at $512,925.

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The Richard Burton Ruby and Diamond Ring by Van Cleef & Arpels
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

2.  The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor – $50.3 million

Sotheby’s Geneva, April 2nd & 3rd, 1987

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In April 1987, the two-day sale of the jewels of the Duchess of Windsor at Sotheby’s would forever change the jewelry auction business.  An international celebrity and fashion icon, the Duchess, or Wallis Simpson as she was once known, had famously – and somewhat scandalously – lured King Edward of England away from his throne in favor of marrying her.  Throughout their 35-year marriage, the Duke showered his wife with custom made jewels from the world’s major jewelry houses.

The pin was made to commemorate the couple's 20th Wedding Anniversary in 1957, designed by Cartier, Paris. Of heart-shaped design, applied to the centre with a monogram of the initials W and E set with calibré-cut emeralds, above the Roman numeral XX set with calibré-cut rubies, surmounted by a Royal Duke's coronet similarly set, to a background pavé-set with brilliant- and single-cut diamonds, measuring approximately 34mm x 38mm x 10mm, Cartier maker's mark and numbered, French assay marks.

The pin was made to commemorate the couple’s 20th Wedding Anniversary in 1957, designed by Cartier, Paris.
Of heart-shaped design, applied to the centre with a monogram of the initials W and E set with calibré-cut emeralds, above the Roman numeral XX set with calibré-cut rubies, surmounted by a Royal Duke’s coronet similarly set, to a background pavé-set with brilliant- and single-cut diamonds, measuring approximately 34mm x 38mm x 10mm, Cartier maker’s mark and numbered, French assay marks.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

The remarkable collection of just over 300 pieces included iconic creations by Cartier, Suzanne Belperron and Van Cleef & Arpels, many of which are one of a kind jewels that defined the Duchess’s unique and fashion-forward sense of style.  With bidders from 24 countries, notable buyers of the her jewels included Elizabeth Taylor, the Cartier Museum, Calvin Klein and jeweler Laurence Graff.

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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Photo: GETTY

According to Christie’s, the highest sum previously achieved at an auction for a private collection jewelry was $8.09 million- for the collection of Florence Gould, the widow of railway magnate Frank Gould.

To give you an idea of the bidding frenzy that pushed prices higher and higher at the Duchess of Windsor sale, here are a few of the highlights:

  • A Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and ruby feather brooch estimated at $112,000 fetched a staggering $806,000
VCA Diamond and Ruby Brooch

The “feuilles de houx”, a double feathered brooch, one set with rubies and the other baguette diamonds, are recorded in the archives of Van Cleef & Arpels as one of the first invisibly set ruby jewels created. Purchased by King Edward VIII in 1936 it was gifted to Mrs. Simpson for Christmas.

  • A diamond and ruby necklace by Cartier sold for $2,603,308
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Van Cleef & Arpels, Necklace 1938, platinum, rubies, diamonds, design by Rene-Sim Lacaze for the Duchess of Windsor (from Sylvie Raulet: Bijoux des annees 1940 – 1950, Editions du Regard, Paris 1987)

  • An 18 karat gold and gem-set cigarette case inscribed “David from Wallis Christmas 1935,” with an etched map tracing a joint holiday tour of Europe, sold for $266,000, almost 100 times its appraised value.
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18 carat Gold and Gem-Set Cigarette Case, by Cartier, London, 1935, the front decorated with a map of Europe in yellow and red gold, inscribed with the names of various locations, each represented by a cabochon gem or diamond.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • The Duchess’s 19.77-carat emerald engagement ring by Cartier sold for $2.1 million (4.5 times its estimate).
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The Cartier engagement ring of the Duchess of Windsor, featuring a 19.77-carat emerald.

  • A pair of yellow diamond lapel clips, weighing 40 and 52 carats, achieved four times their estimated price for a total of $2,273,000 (the winning bidder was Laurence Graff).
A pair of pear-shaped, fancy yellow diamonds,  weighing 40.81 and 52.13  carats and incorporated into lapel pins  were sold by Harry Winston to the Duke in 1948.

A pair of pear-shaped, fancy yellow diamonds, weighing 40.81 and 52.13 carats and incorporated into lapel pins were sold by Harry Winston to the Duke in 1948.

  • The flawless Winston diamond weighing 31.26 carats sold for $3,122,746, a 378 percent inflation of its estimated worth.
  • A 206-carat sapphire pendant sold for $350,000
This 206.82-carat sapphire pendant encrusted in diamonds was created by Cartier in 1951.

This 206.82-carat sapphire pendant encrusted in diamonds was created by Cartier in 1951.

  • A Cartier amethyst, turquoise and diamond bib necklace sold for a total of $373,996
Draperie necklace, Cartier Paris, 1947. Twisted gold, platinum, briliant and baguette-sized diamonds, a heart-shaped amethyst, 27 emerlad-sized amethysts and one facetted oval-shaped and turquoise cabochons. Designed and made to an order from the Duke of Windsor, who provided all gemstones apart from the turquoise. N.Welsh, Collection Cartier

Draperie necklace, Cartier Paris, 1947. Twisted gold, platinum, briliant and baguette-sized diamonds, a heart-shaped amethyst, 27 emerlad-sized amethysts and one facetted oval-shaped and turquoise cabochons. Designed and made to an order from the Duke of Windsor, who provided all gemstones apart from the turquoise. N.Welsh, Collection Cartier

  • A suite of blue chalcedony, sapphire and diamond jewels by Suzanne Belperron: the ear clips sold for $88,000 at Sotheby’s Geneva “The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” sale in 1987, and more recently sold at Christie’s New York in 2004 for $54,970; the necklace sold for $183,000 at Sotheby’s in 1987 and later for $119,500 at Christie’s in 2004; and the pair of matching bangle bracelets originally old for $146,000 in 1987 at Sotheby’s and then were resold at auction for $117,110 in 2004 at Christie’s.
The Duchess of Windsor’s Belperron chalcedony suite of jewels

The Duchess of Windsor’s Belperron chalcedony suite of jewels
Photo courtesy of Verdura

  • The custom-made onyx and diamond panther bracelet from Cartier sold for five times its estimate for a total of $1.27 million.
Onyx and Diamond Panther Bracelet, by Cartier, Paris, 1952.

Onyx and Diamond Panther Bracelet, by Cartier, Paris, 1952.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • A matching Cartier sapphire and diamond panther clip earned $933,000, or seven times its estimate.
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Cartier Paris, 1949. Platinum, white gold; Single-cut diamonds; two pear-shaped yellow diamonds (eyes); one 152.35-carat Kashmir sapphire cabochon Sapphire cabochons (spots).
This panther is the second three-dimensional example that Cartier made for the Duchess of Windsor.

  • Elizabeth Taylor bought the diamond clip designed as the plumes and crown of the Prince of Wales for $623,327. The clip sold again for $1,314,500 at Christie’s New York sale of Taylor’s collection of Legendary Jewels in December 2011.
The Prince of Wales Brooch

The Prince of Wales Brooch – Designed in 1935, by the then-Prince of Wales for his future bride, a plume-shaped diamond brooch was sold to Elizabeth Taylor, who was a close friend of the Duchess and Duke of Windsor.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • A natural pearl necklace with diamonds made by Cartier, and formerly belonging to Queen Mary, was purchased by Calvin Klein for $733,333 in 1987 – a record for natural pearls at the time.  Two decades later, the Kleins sold the necklace at Sotheby’s for a sale price of $3,625,000.
Duchess of Windsor Natural Pearl Necklace by Cartier

A Single Strand Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace, Cartier, Paris
Composed of 28 natural pearls graduating from approximately 16.8 to 9.2 mm., completed by an oval clasp set with 2 emerald-cut diamonds weighing approximately 2.00 carats and 2 fancy-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 1.00 carat, bordered by 20 small round diamonds weighing approximately .70 carat, length 14 inches, clasp signed Cartier, Paris.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

In 2010, twenty-three years after the landmark auction, Sotheby’s regrouped 20 items from the original sale into a second auction, Exceptional Jewels and Precious Objects Formerly in the Collection of The Duchess of Windsor, the sale achieved a total of $12.5 million.  The ‘White Glove Sale’, in which 100% was sold by lot and 100% sold by value, included four of the Duchess’s most iconic Cartier jewels:  the exceptional ‘Panther Bracelet’ (sold for $7 million), the ‘Flamingo Clip’ ($2.7 million), the ‘Cross Bracelet’ ($935,786) and the ‘Heart Brooch’ ($319.451).

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Designed as a flamingo in a characteristic pose, the plumage set with calibré-cut emeralds, rubies and sapphires, the beak set with a cabochon citrine and sapphire, the eye set with a similarly cut sapphire, the head, neck, body and hinged legs pavé-set with circular-, brilliant- and single-cut diamonds, measuring approximately 95mm x 65mm x 22mm, signed to the clasp MONTURE Cartier and indistinctly numbered, French assay and maker’s marks.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

And most recently, Sotheby’s auctioned yet another group of jewels and precious objects celebrating the lives and tastes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  The December 2013 sale of assorted pieces earned a respectable $1.02 million at Sotheby’s London, led by a sapphire bracelet, by Cartier, circa 1945, that achieved $377,697.

 

3.  Jewels for Hope:  The Collection of Mrs. Lily Safra – $37,924,551

Christie’s Geneva, May 14th, 2012

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‘Jewels For Hope: The Collection of Mrs. Lily Safra’
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

With all the profits from the sale benefiting 32 charitable institutions, the 70-lot sale of jewels from the collection of Mrs. Lily Safra marked another historic auction of the 21st century.  The incredible collection included a group of 18 jewels by JAR; the JAR collection alone brought in $11,473,920 and became the most important private-owner collection of JAR jewels ever sold at auction.

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Mrs. Lily Safra Photo: © Eric Megret

Formerly in the collection of Luz Mila Patiño, Countess du Boisrouvray, the sale’s top lot was a 32.08-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring, by Chaumet, sold for $6,742,440, renamed “The Hope Ruby”.

A ruby and diamond ring, by Chaumet

The sale’s top lot: a ruby and diamond ring, by Chaumet
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Setting another record was the auction catalog’s cover star, a ruby Camellia brooch by JAR (made in 2003), which sold for a total of $4,319,591 – a world record price for a JAR piece sold at auction.  The JAR Camellia was followed by yet another flower jewel by JAR, a tourmaline and diamond flower brooch, by JAR (made in 1982), which fetched $1,272,245.

A Tourmaline and Diamond Flower Brooch, by JAR Designed as two green and pink tourmaline poppy flowerhead and bud, linked by a green tourmaline scrolling stem centering upon a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 37.23 carats, mounted in gold, 1982, 9.9 cm Signed JAR - Photo Denis Hayoun - Diode SA.

A Tourmaline and Diamond Flower Brooch, by JAR Designed as two green and pink tourmaline poppy flowerhead and bud, linked by a green tourmaline scrolling stem centering upon a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 37.23 carats, mounted in gold, 1982, 9.9 cm Signed JAR – Photo Denis Hayoun – Diode SA.

Another highlight, not by JAR, was a Belle Epoque diamond and emerald ‘Egalantine’ necklace, by Cartier, circa 1906, that sold for $1,168,653.

Designed as a graduated dog rose garland, the five flowerheads with pavé-set diamond petals, old-cut diamond collet stamens and emerald detail, linked by pavé-set diamond twigs and leaves, enhanced by emerald berries, mounted in platinum and gold, 1906,

Designed as a graduated dog rose garland, the five flowerheads with pavé-set diamond petals, old-cut diamond collet stamens and emerald detail, linked by pavé-set diamond twigs and leaves, enhanced by emerald berries, mounted in platinum and gold, 1906
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Though the entire sale consisted of highlights, one last jewel of note from the sale is an emerald and diamond necklace that fetched a total of $1,129,806.

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The two strands of thirty-three and thirty-one graduated emerald beads, measuring approximately 17.0 to 7.4 mm and weighing a total of approximately 598.71 carats, gathered by an oval-shaped bombé clasp set with emeralds in a diamond-set foliate surround, mounted in platinum and gold
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

4.  The Royal House Sale – $31,360,932

Christie’s Geneva, November 14th, 2006

Composed of 317 extraordinary lots, the magnificent collection of jewelry and watches, from an anonymous royal house included an exquisite selection of natural pearls and diamonds as well as stylish jewels and watches created by the world’s major jewelers.  With 100 percent sold by lot and by value, the remarkable sale earned a total of $31.3 million, the largest single owner jewelry sale worldwide since the Duchess of Windsor’s 1987 sale.

The star lot of the sale was “The Gulf Pearl Parure”, a unique and magnificent natural pearl and diamond parure, by Harry Winston, which sold for $4,189,165.  The opulent parure comprises a total of 193 natural pearls of which 128 weigh a total of almost 1,300 grans (325 carats) and 166 diamonds of which 66 weigh a total of almost 160 carats.

natural pearl parure harry winston

A UNIQUE AND MAGNIFICENT NATURAL PEARL AND DIAMOND PARURE, BY HARRY WINSTON
The necklace designed as a graduated fringe of eleven natural pearl drops weighing from 122.84 grains (30.71 carats) to 33.00 grains (8.25 carats) suspended from an elaborate, articulated necklace comprising one row of brilliant-cut and pear-shaped diamonds, one row of paired natural pearl drops, one row of brilliant and marquise-cut diamonds to the single-row of fifty-seven natural pearls measuring from 9.1 to 5.1 mm, bracelet, detachable ear pendants and ring en suite, necklace 36.5 cm long, bracelet 19.5 cm long, ear pendants 5.5 cm long, ring size 6, in fitted black suede Harry Winston case
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Other sale highlights include:

important diamodn bracelet by Gerard

A HIGHLY IMPORTANT DIAMOND BRACELET, BY GÉRARD
The rectangular-shaped diamond weighing 29.01 carats to the two-row brilliant-cut diamond sides, 17.5 cm long, with French assay mark for gold, in fitted blue leather Gérard case
Signed M. Gérard for Gérard, no. 2760
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

A SPECTACULAR DIAMOND SET AND A PAIR OF EAR PENDANTS, BY GÉRARD, AND A DIAMOND RING, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

The necklace designed as seven graduated pear-shaped diamonds, the three largest weighing 15.37, 4.87 and 4.64 carats, to the brilliant-cut diamond scrollwork surround and sides, bracelet en suite, necklace 37.0 cm long, bracelet 19.5 cm long, with French assay mark for gold,; the ear pendants each designed as a cascade of brilliant and marquise-cut diamonds, 6.0 cm long, with French assay mark for gold, the three jewels in fitted blue leather Gérard case; the ring designed as a stepped lozenge-shaped bezel of brilliant and baguette-cut diamond, ring size 5¾, with French assay mark for gold
The necklace signed M. Gérard for Gérard, the bracelet and ear pendants signed M. Gérard for Gérard, nos. 3341, 2869; the ring signed VCA for Van Cleef & Arpels, no. 29107
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • A magnificent and highly important natural pearl and diamond parure, by Gerard, including an exceptional button-shaped natural pearl and diamond eternity ring, sold for $1,467,666.  The total number of natural pearls in the parure is 721.
MAGNIFICENT AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT NATURAL PEARL AND DIAMOND PARURE, BY GÉRARD INCLUDING AN EXCEPTIONAL BUTTON-SHAPED NATURAL PEARL AND A DIAMOND ETERNITY RING

The choker necklace comprising eight rows of 71, 64, 62, 52, 54, 51, 48 and 49 natural pearls measuring from 11.4 to 5.8 mm to the pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamond floral cluster spacers, the bracelet of similar design comprising a central button-shaped natural pearl measuring 21.5 x 21.2 x 14.5 mm and weighing 202.26 grains (50.56) carats within a diamond cluster surround to the six-row natural pearl bracelet comprising 31, 29, 27, 27, 29 and 31 natural pearls measuring from 6.5 to 4.5 mm, the ear pendants each designed as a natural pearl measuring 13.3 or 13.1 mm within a diamond cluster surround suspending a tassel comprising a total of 92 natural pearls measuring from 6.1 to 3.3 mm, the ring designed as a button-shaped pearl measuring 15.4-15.7 x 13.0 mm within a diamond surround, necklace 36.0 cm (shortest row) and 53.0 cm (longest row) long, bracelet 18.0 cm long, ear pendants 8.5 cm long, ring size 6¾, with French assay mark for gold; the eternity ring designed as a band of marquise-cut diamonds, ring size 5½
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

 5.  The Magnificent Jewels of Luz Milo Patiño, Countess du Boisrouvray – $31.2 million

Sotheby’s New York, October 26th, 1989

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The breathtaking collection of jewels belonged to the late Count and Countess Guy du Boisrouvray and were inherited by their daughter, the Countess Albina Boisrouvray. The collection included exquisite rubies, diamonds, pearls, emeralds and sapphires of the finest cuts and quality, as well as her other inherited family possessions, ranging from pre-Columbian gold artifacts to gorgeous antique furniture, silver, Faberge carved animals, tableware and artwork.  The jewels sold for $31.2 million, an auction record at the time for any single-owner sale of jewelry in the United States and second to the 1987 Windsor sale.

A ruby and diamond ring, by Chaumet

A 32.08 Burmese Ruby and Diamond Ring, by Chaumet
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The leading lot of the sale was a 32.08-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Chaumet that sold for $4.62 million, a world auction record for any colored stone at the time.  The ring recently came up for auction again in 2012 at Christie’s Geneva “Jewels for Hope:  The Collection of Mrs. Lily Safra” sale for $6,736,750.

Another highlight, the jewel gracing the catalog’s cover, was a sapphire-and-diamond necklace which sold for $3.52 million,  setting auction records at the time for a necklace and for a single lot of sapphires.  Several jewels sold for over $1 million:  $3,080,000 for a diamond and ruby necklace; $3,080,000 for a diamond and emerald necklace made in 1937 by Cartier of London; a ruby and diamond necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels of New York knocked down for $1,705,000; and a pair of diamond pendant ear clips went for $1,430,000.

 

6.  Jewels from the Personal Collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan – $27,682,601

Christie’s Geneva, November 13th, 1995

Among the great jewelry collections of the late 20th century, the jewels of Princess Salimah Aga Khan hit the auction block in 1995 following her divorce from His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.  The regal beauty, a former model, commissioned dazzling suites from the world’s finest jewelry houses, including Boucheron, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.  The collection was comprised of over two hundred and fifty pieces of important jewelry, which Princess Salimah inherited from her grandmothers and fabulous pieces which she received as gifts.  With 100 percent of the lots sold, the sale took in a total of $27,682,601.

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The sale’s starring jewel, the “Begum Blue,” a 13.78-carat deep-blue heart-shaped diamond set in a diamond necklace valued at $7 million, went for $7,790,708 to diamond king Laurence Graff.

Aga Khan necklace set with the "Begum Blue" diamond

Aga Khan necklace set with the “Begum Blue” diamond

Other highlights from the sale included:

  • A 78.86-carat unmounted pear-shaped diamond of D-color and VS1-clarity sold for $4,268,529.
  • suite of emerald and diamond jewelry by Cartier fetched $2,523,575.  The suite was comprised of:
    • A lavaliere necklace, designed as a graduated marquise-cut diamond line set with three cabochon emeralds to the front, one weighing 29.01 carats, suspending two detachable marquise-cut diamond tassels, each with an emerald drop terminal weighing approximately 51.5 and 51.9 carats
    • A clip brooch set with an emerald weighing 36.21 carats
    • A pair of ear-pendants each set with two cabochon emeralds and two emerald drops weighing approximately 26.1 and 27.5 carats
    • A ring set with an emerald weighing 20.33 carats en suite
  • A suite of impressive emerald and diamond jewelry, by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $662,290 and was composed of:
    • A pendant sautoir, the detachable pendant designed as a fluted emerald bead and diamond collet tiered cluster suspending a series of tassels of similar design to the fluted emerald bead and circular-cut diamond cluster necklace with circular-cut diamond and diamond collet quatrefoil spacers
    • A  pair of ear-pendants
Special order of the Indian necklace by H.H. Prince Aga Khan, 1971, Private Collection

Special order of the Indian necklace by H.H. Prince Aga Khan, 1971, Private Collection

  • suite of important diamond and yellow diamond jewelry, by Boucheron, sold for $633,207 and was comprised of a choker necklace, the front section designed as a pavé-set yellow diamond, circular-cut and pear-shaped diamond cartouche, the centre with a briolette-cut diamond to the pear-shaped, circular and briolette-cut diamond two-row flexible necklace suspending a graduated diamond briolette fringe, with a pair of earclips en suite.
HH Princess Salimah Aga Khan's important Boucheron suite  Photo courtesy of Christie's

HH Princess Salimah Aga Khan’s important Boucheron suite
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

7.  Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Ellen Barkin – $20,369,200

Christie’s New York, October 10th, 2006

Following an abrupt divorce to financier Ronald Perelman in early 2006, Hollywood actress Ellen Barkin exposed their lavish marriage by putting up for auction her extravagant jewels from Perelman.  More than 100 pieces were sold at Christie’s for a total of $20 million, with 100 percent sold by lot and by value.  That figure placed the sale among the top four private jewelry auctions ever worldwide at the time.

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Ellen Barkin wearing JAR-designed earrings of Imperial topaz, rubies and diamonds Photo courtesy of Christie;s

Having successfully purged her jewelry box of unwanted memories, the superb collection of jewels included 17 pieces by JAR.  Among the JAR jewels in the sale, and its top lot, was a 22.76-carat elongated oval-cut diamond ‘Thread” ring, which sold for $1,808,000.

A DIAMOND "THREAD" RING, BY JAR

Set with an elongated oval-cut diamond, weighing approximately 22.76 carats, within a diamond-set two-tiered threadwork gallery and hoop, mounted in platinum, in a JAR pink leather fitted case
Signed JAR, Paris
With report 14150450 dated 18 January 2005 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamond is D color, VVS1 clarity
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

A pair of diamond bangles, by JAR, sold for $1,136,000, well above their $500,000 high estimate.  The bracelets are each set with a colorless or faint pink cushion-cut diamond.

A PAIR OF DIAMOND BANGLES, BY JAR

PAIR OF DIAMOND BANGLES, BY JAR
Each set with a colorless or faint pink cushion-cut diamond, to the pavé-set diamond surround and band, mounted in platinum, 2¼ ins. diameter, with French assay marks and maker’s marks, in a JAR pink leather case
Signed JAR, Paris
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Another now famous JAR jewel, which has since reappeared and sold at auction for $650,500 at Christie’s in 2010, is a pair of imperial topaz, ruby and diamond ear pendants, by JAR, which sold for $710,400 in the Barkin sale, soaring way above its conservative $80,000 high estimate.

JAR-Imperial-Topaz-Ruby-and-Diamond-Earrings-Ellen-Barkin

A PAIR OF TOPAZ, RUBY AND DIAMOND EAR PENDANTS, BY JAR
Each set with an elongated oval-cut topaz, within a circular-cut diamond surround, enhanced by circular-cut ruby clusters, to the diamond-set link and hoop, mounted in silver and 18k rose gold, with French assay marks and maker’s marks, in a JAR pink leather fitted case
Signed JAR, Paris
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Ellen Barkin’s collection also included jewels of notable provenance, including a pair of emerald coronet bangles made for the Duchess of Windsor, which sold for $86,400, and an emerald necklace that once belonged to Doris Duke, which fetched a final price of $553,600 (the Doris Duke necklace had sold for $589,900 when Christie’s New York auctioned the late heiress’s collection of important jewelry in 2004).

A MAGNIFICENT SINGLE-STRAND EMERALD NECKLACE

A Single Strand Emerald and Diamond Necklace
Composed of fifty-three graduated emerald beads, measuring from approximately 6.78 to 15.44 mm, joined by an old European-cut diamond pierced plaque clasp, centering upon a sugarloaf cabochon emerald, mounted in gold and silver, circa 1935.
The total weight of the emeralds is approximately 224.90 carats
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Made more famous by the ‘Sex and the City’ movie, Barkin’s exceptional diamond ‘Garendia’ ring, by JAR, sold for $486,400, well beyond its $150,000 high estimate.  Currently, the ring can be viewed at the Met’s ‘Jewels by JAR’ exhibition.

JAR Gardenia

A DIAMOND “GARDENIA” RING, BY JAR
Designed as a sculpted gardenia blossom, pavé-set in diamonds, mounted in silver and gold, with French assay mark and maker’s mark, in a JAR pink suede pouch
Signed JAR, Paris

 

8.  Property from the Collection of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon: Jewellery and Faberge– $17,659,731

Christie’s Geneva, June 13th, 2006

princess-margaret-birthday-portrait

Princess Margaret wearing the 5- row pearl and diamond necklace on her 19th birthday

With jewelry spanning the life of Princess Margaret, this historic auction sold a collection of jewels of important and historic provenance.  Alongside the jewelry, a collection of rare Fabergé works was included in the sale, including the sale’s top lot:  a Russian Jeweled Two-Color Gold-Mounted Guilloche Enamelled Silver Clock, marked Faberge with the Imperial Warrant, Moscow, 1896-1908, with scratched inventory numbers 28288 and 361802.  The Imperial clock sold for $2,281,600, almost $1 million more than its $1,472,000 high estimate.

A RUSSIAN JEWELLED TWO-COLOUR GOLD-MOUNTED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMELLED SILVER CLOCK

Rectangular, of upright form, overall enamelled in translucent pale mauve over a wavy ground, on four ball feet, with foliate mounts, the lower section of the body separated by a dot and dash mount, applied with laurelsprays with rose-diamond set flowerheads above and below the circular white enamel dial, with black arabic chapter and pierced gold hands, within ribbon-tied reeded bezel, on rayed enamel ground, the reverse with single gold cover to the three key-holes, marked under enamel on reverse and under base, 11.8 cm. high, in fitted red leather and silk & velvet lined case stamped ‘Wartski’, with key
A gift from H.M. Queen Mary to H.R.H. Princess Margaret
Displayed above the fireplace in the bedroom of the private apartment of H.R.H. The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002) at Kensington Palace.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Other sale highlights include:

  • Queen Mary’s Diamond Riviere, one of Princess Margaret’s favorite jewels, the historically important diamond necklace sold for $1,828,224, almost quadruple its high estimate of $552,000.
QUEEN MARY'S DIAMOND RIVIERE

QUEEN MARY’S DIAMOND RIVIERE
Designed as a graduated line of 34 old-cut diamonds, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1900, 35.5 cm. long, in fitted turquoise velvet Tessiers Ltd., 26 New Bond Street, case
Accompanied by three handwritten notes, each in a different unidentified script. The first reads ‘Row of Diamonds from Lady Mount Stephen. 34 inc. snap.’; the second ‘Special Bequest H.M. The Queen (Later Queen Mary) Diamond Collet Necklace’; and the third ‘Lady Mount Stephen’ 34 stones in all The Princess Margaret’.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • The ‘Poltimore Tiara’ was originally made in 1870 by Garrard for Lady Poltimore, the wife of the second Baron Poltimore and Treasurer to Queen Victoria’s household 1872-74.  Sold by public auction in 1959 for 5,500 GBP, It was acquired that same year before the official announcement by H.M. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 26th February 1960 of the engagement of H.R.H. The Princess Margaret to Mr Antony Armstrong-Jones.  The tiara sold for $1,704,576, more than four times its high estimate of $368,000.
THE 'POLTIMORE TIARA'

THE ‘POLTIMORE TIARA’
Designed as a graduated line of cushion-shaped and old-cut diamond clusters alternating with diamond-set scroll motifs, each surmounted by old-cut diamond terminals, to the collet-set diamond line, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1870, 19.2 cm. maximum diameter, convertible to a necklace and eleven brooches, with screwdriver and brooch fittings, in fitted blue leather case
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • An Art Deco Pearl and Diamond Necklace, given by H.M. Queen Mary to her granddaughter, H.R.H. The Princess Margaret for the 18th Birthday, sold for $509,312, well above its conservative high estimate of $36,800.  According to the Lot Notes, The Princess was particularly fond of these pearls and is pictured wearing them in many famous portraits from 1948 onwards, including her sittings for Baron and Cecil Beaton for her 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays.
AN ART DECO PEARL AND DIAMOND NECKLACE

AN ART DECO PEARL AND DIAMOND NECKLACE
Comprising five graduated rows of pearls to the vari-cut bombé plaque clasp, mounted in platinum, circa 1925, 39.0 cm. long, in fitted green leather Asprey & Co. Ltd., New Bond Street, London, case, the lid embossed with H.R.H. The Princess Margaret’s ‘M’ monogram beneath a coronet
Accompanied by report No. 979893 dated 3rd March 2006 from the Precious Stone Laboratory London, stating that the pearls were found to be natural
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • A Diamond Rose Brooch, by Cartier, made by Cartier London in 1938, sold for $282,624, soundly more than its $36,800 high estimate.  H.R.H. The Princess Margaret wore this brooch to the Coronation of her sister H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey.
A DIAMOND ROSE BROOCH, BY CARTIER

A DIAMOND ROSE BROOCH, BY CARTIER
The three dimensional pavé-set rose in full bloom to the openwork leaves and stem set with baguette, single and circular-cut diamonds, 1938, 7.0 cm. high, in red leather Cartier case
Signed Cartier London
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

9.  Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman – $15,541,188

Sotheby’s New York, December 5th, 2012

Mrs. Charles B. Wrightsman in 1956 - photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Mrs. Charles B. Wrightsman in 1956 – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

As a socialite, collector, museum patron, and wife of Charles Wrightsman, Jayne Wrightsman mastered the art of collecting along with her late husband, a successful oil executive.  Together they amassed an exceptional collection of European paintings and decorative arts, earning recognition as important art collectors on par with J.P. Morgan and Henry Frick.

Known as one of the last remaining grande dames of a bygone era, Mrs. Wrightsman is one of the undisputed leaders of New York society.  Initially using art as a means to break into society, Mrs. Wrightsman’s reputation for style undoubtedly goes hand in hand with her love of and expertise in French decorative arts, spurring the growth of her incredible collection now a part of the Met’s permanent collection.  A dear friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she served as the First Lady’s mentor during the 1961-63 restoration of the White House, attesting to her impeccable taste and knowledge in the area.

Whereas her appreciation and understanding of French decorative arts and European paintings remains indisputable, her exquisite eye for jewelry has only recently enjoyed the public spotlight with Sothbey’s Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman sale in New York on December 5th, 2012.  Between the one-of-a-kind JAR pieces and impressive Verdura jewels, her talent for selecting some of the finest jewelry from the best jewelers in the world is astounding.  Bulgari, Cartier, Suzanne Belperron, Van Cleef & Arpels are among the talented list of designers whose jewels comprise her highly coveted collection.

The sale totaled $15,541,188, well in excess of its $9 million high estimate, with a very strong 95.2 percent sold by lot.  Leading the sale highlights was a Natural Pearl and Diamond Corsage Ornament, circa 1910, which sold for $2,042,500 – almost double its high estimate of $1.2 million.

MAGNIFICENT PLATINUM, NATURAL PEARL AND DIAMOND CORSAGE ORNAMENT, CIRCA 1910

Of Oriental inspiration, centered by a button-shaped natural pearl measuring 10.79 by 10.63 mm, surmounted by a cushion-cut diamond weighing 8.67 carats and flanked by two pear-shaped diamond drops weighing 9.59 carats and 8.78 carats, completed by a natural pearl drop measuring 11.88 by 11.69 mm, accented throughout by numerous old European, old mine and rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 19.50 carats, length approximately 4 inches.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Another piece exemplifying the strong market for natural pearls, the corsage ornament was followed by an exquisite natural gray pearl and diamond brooch, which fetched more than triple its high estimate of $600,000 with a final sale price of $1,874,500.

PLATINUM, NATURAL GRAY PEARL AND DIAMOND BROOCH

The button-shaped natural gray pearl measuring approximately 21.2 by 21.1 by 12.0 mm, framed by eight old European and old mine-cut diamonds weighing approximately 7.45 carats, alternating with eight marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 3.60 carats, further accented by 16 small round diamonds weighing approximately 3.20 carats; fitted with a pendant loop.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Other highlights include:

  • silver-topped gold and diamond bow brooch, circa 1850, formerly in the collections of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna and HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, sold for $842,500, more than double its high estimate of $300,000.
SILVER-TOPPED-GOLD AND DIAMOND BOW BROOCH, CIRCA 1850

The double ribbon bow centered by an oval-shaped diamond weighing approximately 3.50 carats, accented by numerous pear-shaped and old mine-cut diamonds weighing approximately 38.00 carats, further set with numerous smaller old mine and rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 64.25 carats, one small rose-cut diamond missing. With fitted box.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • An emerald, diamond and enamel rosary, German, late 17th century, sold for $842,500, more than triple its high estimate of $250,000.  The historic rosary’s provenance hails from the Saxon Royal Family.
EMERALD, DIAMOND AND ENAMEL ROSARY, GERMAN, LATE 17TH CENTURY

Composed of 70 emerald beads spaced by gold rondelles set with table-cut diamonds, suspending a pendant set with five double-cabochon emeralds and numerous table-cut diamonds, within gold surrounds applied with black and white enamel, length 17 inches including the pendant.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • briolette diamond ring, by JAR, featuring a 10.28-carat briolette diamond suspended from a diamond band, sold for $566,500, double its low estimate of $250,000.
PLATINUM AND BRIOLETTE DIAMOND RING, JAR, PARIS

The briolette diamond weighing 10.28 carats, suspended from a band set with 20 rose-cut and numerous single-cut diamonds, size 3¼, unsigned, with workshop marks and stamped PT950. With signed pouch.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

 

10.  Jewels from the Princely Collection of Thurn und Taxis – $13.7 million

Sotheby’s Geneva, November 17th, 1992

After marrying the man who was said to be Germany’s richest aristocrat, her distant cousin Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis, the young Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis made a name for herself in the 1980s with her wild hair and equally outrageous outfits.  Soon, she came to be known as the “Punk Princess” and  “Princess TNT, the dynamite socialite.”

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis on her wedding day to Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis on her wedding day to Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis

However, the good times came to a end when her husband, 33 years her senior, died in 1990 and Gloria had to act to preserve the family fortune from debt and inheritance taxes.  Luckily, she had an incredible collection of jewels, silver, art and other near-priceless objects to put up for auction, which she did in November 1992 at Sotheby’s.

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis at the 36th Annual April in Paris Ball Photo: WireImage

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis at the 36th Annual April in Paris Ball
Photo: WireImage

While the more than 300 items auctioned constituted only a tiny percentage of Princess Gloria’s property, the sale – which in total earned more than $20 million – proved a great achievement for Sotheby’s.  Among the notable and rare pieces, her jewelry included a pearl and diamond tiara that was commissioned in 1853 by Napoleon III for his bride, Empress Eugenie, and worn by Princess Gloria at her wedding to Johannes von Thurn und Taxis.  The historic tiara sold for 935,000 Deutsche Marks ($649,537) to the Louvre Museum in Paris where it remains today.

Empress Eugénie's Pearl and Diamond Tiara

Empress Eugénie’s Pearl and Diamond Tiara

Other jewels sold at the auction included:

Golden Fleece Bracelet TNT

rare 18th century diamond Golden Fleece bracelet
Designed as an old-cut diamond neck badge of the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece to four rows of old-cut diamond oval links to the three- line diamond clasp, closed back setting, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1770
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The square-shaped emerald within an old mine and European-cut diamond surround, mounted in 18k gold and silver, circa 1780

The square-shaped emerald within an old mine and European-cut diamond surround, mounted in 18k gold and silver, circa 1780
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

  • A diamond belt of the Golden Fleece

TNT Diamond Belt

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Phaedra
    January 13, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    amazing research, Natalie! ♥♥♥♥♥

  • Reply
    nancy revy
    January 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Great article about so many exquisite collections.

    I wonder what Princess Gloria von T und T’s jewelry collection would go for now at auction.

  • Reply
    Christie’s to Sell Two Iconic Cartier Tigers Formerly Owned by the Duchess of Windsor
    September 24, 2014 at 11:56 am

    […] these seven pieces were auctioned with the rest of her collection at Sotheby’s in 1987, they earned figures well into the millions. The sale itself fetched $50.3 million in total, making […]

  • Reply
    Jess Canadian
    November 24, 2014 at 4:00 am

    So once again Duchess of Windsor dominates the list.
    Awesome collection, thanks for sharing.
    Some of those pieces are like the sum of my life’s earnings.

  • Reply
    LOK NATH VERMA
    July 20, 2015 at 10:04 am

    really rare jewellery but my rare art expensive .

  • Reply
    amna
    November 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    these are so beautifullll

  • Leave a Reply