Royal Jewels Sparkle in Geneva
By Amber Michelle – Chief Curator & Storyteller

Set against the pristine backdrop of Geneva, Christie’s and Sotheby’s held a week of jewelry sales that sparkled as brightly as the crisp November days.

The week started at Christie’s at the posh Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. The 302-lot sale had something for everyone, from big rocks to tiaras and highly coveted signed jewels. Bidding was busy and the afternoon session morphed into the evening session with barely a break in the action. The sale tallied up an impressive $110,214,250 (all prices include buyer’s premium).

The most talked about item of the sale also happened to be the top lot of the day when — after a heated round of bidding — the venerable jewelry house Harry Winston purchased the 18.96-carat Pink Legacy, renaming it the Winston Pink Legacy. It’s a fitting tribute that the jewel was bought by Winston as it had at one time been with another diamond dynasty — the Oppenheimer family. The fancy vivid pink, VS1, rectangular-cut diamond sold for $50,375,000 setting a world auction record price per carat for a pink diamond of $2,656,909.

“The Pink Legacy Diamond was special in every way. From its original Oppenheimer provenance to its incredible size and sensational color, this was a diamond that collectors dream of and Winston made a dream come true by adding it to their Legacy collection,” said Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry, Christie’s.

An orangey pink, rectangular-cut VVS1 diamond weighing 8.79 carats also set a world auction record price per carat of $452,424 when it sold to a private client for $3,732,500.

The sale showcased some beautiful signed jewels that drew lots of interest. One of the most notable was an Art Deco Egyptian revival sautoir by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1924. It was jewelry art at its best. When King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in the early 1920s, it sparked a desire for all things Egyptian. The sautoir pendant features hieroglyphs, while the chain focuses on a repeating falcon motif. Falcons were said to be protectors of royalty in ancient Egypt. It sold to a private client for $4,332,500.

“The Van Cleef & Arpels Egyptian revival sautoir was a masterpiece of the Art Deco period, encapsulating the obsession and imagination of jewelry designers with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922,” stated Kadakia.

A Bulgari Serpentini bracelet-watch comprised of tiger’s eye, a brown diamond and ruby eyes was highly coveted, with bidders driving the price up from a high estimate of $180,000 to a selling price of $560,441. Once again proving that the rare and beautiful is always in demand.

Natural pearl and diamond pendant that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette

A glamorous evening sale of Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family at the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel was a bubbling start for Sotheby’s. The sale was comprised of 100 lots and — in a very rare occurrence — all 100 lots sold for a total of $53,138,046.

For royal watchers and history lovers, this sale was unsurpassed, showcasing ten jewels that had once belonged to the legendary Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was famous for her love of beautiful things, especially jewelry. One of the most historically important pieces in the sale was the top lot, an 18th-century natural pearl and diamond pendant that had once belonged to the ill-fated Queen. It was estimated at $1 million to $2 million and ultimately sold to a European private client for $36,165,090, setting a new auction record for a natural pearl.

“The Bourbon Parma collection had the perfect recipe for an auction success, with its combination of impeccable Royal provenance — including the legendary Marie Antoinette — jewels of fabulous quality in great condition which had never before been on the market, and one of the greatest historic pearls known,” commented David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division.

Adding to the cachet of the sale France’s Museum of the Legion of Honor and the Orders of Chivalry acquired a plaque of the Order of the Holy Spirit, which once belonged to the last King of France, King Charles X, for $39,712. When a museum purchases a piece for its collection, you know it’s an important sale.

Diamond and velvet pansy brooch

My favorite piece in the auction was a diamond and velvet brooch with a pansy motif that was formerly in the collection of Archduchess Marie Caroline of Austria. Made in the late 19th century, the brooch has a simplicity of design that is compelling and timeless. And the juxtaposition of the diamonds and velvet adds a dimension of texture and modernity that belies its age. While estimated at $3,000 to $5,000 it sold for $22,478.

The excitement at Sotheby’s continued the next day with another 570 lots of Magnificent and Noble Jewels going on the block. This portion of the sale garnered a total of $59,860,581 with colored diamonds and gemstones leading the sale.

Of note was a 69.99-carat Burmese sapphire ring by Cartier, which sold for $3,831,060, and a 21.19-carat,VVS2, cushion-shaped fancy light pink type IIa diamond ring that was a delightful shade of powder puff pink and sold for $7,365,673.

Overall the Geneva sales for Christie’s and Sotheby’s combined tallied up a very healthy $223,252,296.