Eyes are on Geneva: it is here, in the Swiss city that a quartet of gems with royal provenance make for star lots as Christie’s is revisiting the structure of its much-followed Magnificent Jewels auction.
Introducing a new format that links the auction house’s brick and mortar salesroom – or, in this case its five-star space at the Four Seasons Hotel des Berges – with its online equivalent, Christie’s is bridging the gap between digital and IRL sales. It’s a move that, and this is perhaps more to the point, also gives us a chance to marvel at even more gems.
Highlights abound on- and off-screen. Scheduled for 9 November, the Geneva sale counts 77 lots of gems curated by Christie’s experts. Rare finds include a floral motif brooch by Manhattan maker Harry Winston, centred on one fancy light pink coloured diamond surrounded by a quartet of white diamonds, and a bright yellow diamond of 42.98 carats which, in adoration by its master cutter has been nicknamed ‘The African Sunflower’.
And online, where 251 lots are offered at auction between 2-11 November there are designs by marquee brands – Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari – and niche names, such as the Indian Bhagat Jewellers, a family business whose small treasures have been on display at national institutions including The Victoria & Albert Museum, Venice’s The Palazzo Ducale and the Kremlin State Museum (Moscow). On christies.com: a Bhagat brooch detailed with white diamonds and a duo of pearls.
Now to the four jewels with royal lineage spanning across several centuries, all offered at the live auction. In chronological order: a pair of bracelets set with 112 diamonds, both purchased in 1776 by Queen Marie-Antoinette of France, and an Ears of Wheat tiara once worn by Pauline Bonaparte, the second sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and from 1803 onwards, wife to Camillo Borghese, Prince of Sulmona. A ruby and diamond brooch also comes with a Napoleonic connection.
In 1816, the gem was recast by Paul-Nicolas Ménière – court jeweller following the Bourbon Restauration – from stones of a ruby and diamond set originally commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte from François-Régnault Nitot (who forms part of Chaumet’s heritage) in 1810. It’s a rare find, as the brooch last changed owners at the Paris’ Louvre, during the 1887 auction of the French crown jewels.
Rubies and diamonds also feature in a more recent creation with royal lineage. In the art deco style, the modern bangle was a gift from the Duke of Windsor to the Duchess of Windsor, ordered from Parisian master jeweller Cartier in time to make the couple’s first wedding anniversary in 1938. The Duchess of Windsor received the present whilst on vacation at Antibes Villa La Croë, in the South of France. A personal dedication marks the day: ‘For our first anniversary of June third.’