20 October 2015

Royal Jewels of the Day: October 20

Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction on November 10th in Geneva holds some special royal (and should be royal) treasures. There are more than a few pieces that deserve a close look, so our weekly sparkly indulgence is here early to get you through your Tuesday.

The headline piece of royal provenance is a spectacular emerald and diamond necklace that belonged to Princess Hélène (Elena) d’Orléans (1871-1951), who was the daughter of Prince Philippe d’Orléans, Count of Paris, a claimant to the French throne. The young princess was considered a desirable candidate for marriage for several of Europe’s most eligible princes. She fell in love with Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria and eldest son of the future Edward VII, before her Roman Catholic faith put an end to their affair and she married the Italian Prince Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta instead.
The necklace is Lot 399, worn by Hélène
Like most royal brides at the time, her wedding gifts included a considerable amount of jewelry. From her godfather, Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, she received this diamond and emerald necklace along with an emerald and diamond tiara. Among other luxuries he collected, the Duke of Aumale had an eye for fine jewelry, and these pieces likely came from his own collection. The necklace may date from the early 19th century, and has similarities to others from the great French jewelers during the Napoleonic Empire; it particularly resembles the necklace from the Empress Joséphine Emerald Parure now worn by Queen Sonja of Norway.
High quality Colombian emeralds are the star of this piece, in graduated clusters of square green stones set in diamonds with a series of pendants between and below. At some point, both the wedding gift necklace and tiara left the Aosta family and were acquired by Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley (1894-1989), herself the owner of a significant jewelry collection. After the Marchioness passed away, the emerald necklace was among jewels offered for sale at Christie’s. It went into a private collection and has now surfaced once more, with an estimated price of $1.5-2.5 million. (Updated final sale price: $2,625,522)

Lot 398, worn by Queen Elena
Another high price tag is attached to a double strand pearl necklace of royal provenance. These large, natural saltwater pearls belonged to The Pearl Queen, a.k.a. Queen Margherita of Italy (1851-1926). (Her love of pearls has been seen here previously in her large and flexible Musy Tiara.) The pearls passed down through the family from there: to Margherita’s daughter-in-law Queen Elena (1873-1952), to Elena’s daughter Princess Maria of Savoy, and then to her daughter Princess Chantal of Bourbon-Parma. They are now offered with a pre-sale estimate of $500,000-$700,000. (Updated final sale price: $634,160)

Lot 396, worn by Princess Joséphine
Royal pearl earrings are also at this auction. This pair of natural button-shaped pearl pendants in old-cut diamond surrounds were favorites of Princess Joséphine of Belgium (1872-1958), the sister of King Albert I and wife of Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. They’re estimated at $48,000-$68,000. (Updated final sale price: $160,787)

Lot 369
This bangle has a simple elegance to it, and well it should, considering it was made by Fabergé. The yellow gold band has two trefoil motifs of diamonds and green demantoid garnets at either end. It was presented to the last Emperor and Empress of Russia, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, during a city visit in 1896, and it has an estimate of $26,000-$32,000. (Updated final sale price: $29,960)

Oh yes, I did save the best for last. Or at least the one that most makes me wish I had a few spare hundred thousand lying around…
Lot 397
We’ve talked about this one before, and it makes a splash whenever it comes up: the Chaumet Westminster Tiara. This beautiful tiara puts its own spin on the popular kokoshnik shape by using a background of curved translucent blue plique-á-jour enamel panels with lines of old-cut diamonds in forget-me-not floral motifs on top and lines of collet-set diamonds between. The Belle Époque design has a central motif with cushion-shaped diamond openwork and is mounted in platinum and gold.

The tiara was commissioned from Joseph Chaumet by the 2nd Duke of Westminster for his wife, Constance (1876-1953), who was known as Shelagh. The commission came in 1911, when the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and all its accompanying events would have brought out the finest gems the aristocracy had to offer. The tiara later left the family until it surfaced again and was returned once more to the Westminster collection. The tiaras of the current Duke and Duchess of Westminster (which we’ve covered here in the past) are still an impressive lot, despite pieces that have been sold over the years, such as the Rosebery Pearl and Diamond Tiara. It's hard to imagine letting this one go again, but it's also understandable given the rare occasions today for tiara use. I can only hope the enamel kokoshnik makes its way to another home that will continue to allow it to be exhibited and studied, because it is far too beautiful to be tucked away. The Chaumet Westminster Tiara is marked as “sold by the order of the trustees of the Duke of Westminster” and has a pre-sale estimate of $380,000-$550,000. (Updated final sale price: $676,104)

Photos: Courtesy of Christie's, with thanks to the Jewellery Department