NEW YORK — Christie’s has announced an unparalleled collection of period jewels from the 17th century through modern day in the April 15th evening sale in New York: Rare Jewels and Gemstones: The Eye of a Connoisseur. With 115 lots, this extraordinary collection expects to realize record prices for historical jewels, iconic emblems of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and also one of the most important pink diamonds ever to be offered for sale at auction.
François Curiel, Christie’s Chairman of Jewellery, commented, "When I reflect upon all that I have seen during my 40-year Christie’s career, both at auction and privately, this collection strikes me as unparalleled to virtually any other in the world for its provenance, breadth, size and rarity. Never before have I seen assembled together such a great number of quintessential jewels from the 17th and 18th centuries, all the way to the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, and into the 21st century. This unique ensemble represents a walk through some of history’s most prominent figures and their jewels."
Leading the historically prominent works offered in this collection is a sensational antique diamond bow brooch, by François Kramer, which was made for Empress Eugénie and later owned by the Astor family of New York (estimate: $4-$6 million), pictured at right.
A Spanish countess, Eugénie de Montijo—Doña María Eugénia de Guzmán Portocarrero, Countess of Tèba—was born in Granada, Spain, in 1826, and married Louis Napoleon in 1853 at Notre Dame. Eugénie was one of the most beautiful consorts of her time, and she was also considered a fashionista, commanding Europe’s attention.
In 1887, the French Government decided that the once exclusive property of French queens and kings would be made available to the highest bidder in a public auction. The Empress Eugénie bow brooch was bought by the jeweler Emile Schlesinger. Made in 1855 by the Parisian jeweler François Kramer, the large and impressive diamond bow was originally intended as a buckle for a diamond belt. Later, Eugénie asked one of her jewelers to make it more elaborate, and thus five diamond pampilles and a pair of diamond tassels were added. The rich style of the jewel was in accordance with the taste of the Empress and was transformed into a magnificent stomacher, a decoration pinned to the chest, extending down to the waist.
Schlesinger acquired the brooch for Mrs. William B. Astor, the undisputed queen of American society.
Caroline Astor insisted upon being called "The Mrs. Astor" by family and friends and also devised the famous “400,” a list of 213 families and individuals whose lineage could be traced back to at least three generations.
The Eugénie brooch, known as one of the most famous jewels of the Gilded Age, became commonly referred to as “Mrs. Astor’s diamond stomacher” and remained in the Astor family for over a hundred years.
On April 15th, Christie’s will allow another one of the world’s great collectors the opportunity to own a fabulous piece of history.
Also offered in the April 15 Christie’s sale will be a selection of rare colored diamonds, including the rarest of pink diamonds, and numerous examples of Art Nouveau pieces from master jewelers such as René Lalique (1860-1945), Henri Vever (1854-1942), and Georges Fouquet (1862-1957).
Also offered amongst the Art Nouveau works is an enamel, diamond and sapphire “Juno” pendant by Boucheron (estimate: $300,000-$500,000). Drawing upon mythology as inspiration, Juno, the queen of the gods is portrayed in white jadeite with gold hair and a purple, blue and green enamel headdress, and flanked by peacocks, a favorite Art Nouveau motif.
More information about Christie’s sale of Jewels can be found on www.christies.com.