World's most expensive tiara sells for £7.8 million

At Sotheby's Geneva sale of Magnificent and Noble Jewels on the 17th May 2011 a stunning emerald tiara considered the most important to come to auction in 30 years broke auction records and sold for  CHF 11,282,500/ $12,736,927, the highest price ever achieved for a tiara at auction. Read on to find out the other results.

May 12, 2011

At Sotheby's Geneva sale of Magnificent and Noble Jewels on the 17th May 2011 a stunning emerald tiara considered the most important to come to auction in 30 years broke auction records and sold for  CHF 11,282,500/ $12,736,927, the highest price ever achieved for a tiara at auction. Read on to find out the other results. Commenting on this evening's sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby's Jewellery Department for Europe and the Middle East, said: "Sotheby's was honoured to be able to offer perhaps the grandest piece of jewellery to come to sale in over 30 years and the market responded with enthusiasm. This evening's results, across the board -- in Noble Jewels, diamonds, coloured gemstones, and pieces signed by the world's greatest jewelers - show the extraordinary appetite among connoisseurs for rarity, quality and provenance." The total for the entire sale of Magnificent and Noble Jewels was CHF 78,944,900/ $89,121,687 (est. CHF 41.9 - 69 million / $ 47.3 - 77.9 million Lot 443 (est 4,600,000 - 9,200,000 CHF ) SOLD FOR  CHF 11,282,500/ $12,736,927 was the star of the show. It is a majestic emerald and diamond tiara commissioned for Princess Katharina Henckel Von Donnersmarck in early 1900. The family's jewellery collection was apparently on the same level as many of the key royal figures of Europe at the time. Six bidders competed for the magnificent and extremely rare emerald and diamond tiara and the price it fetched also represented an auction record for a piece of emerald jewellery. The emeralds on this tiara are truly amazing, partly because of the sheer size of them and partly because of the richness of colour. When you look at them it is almost as if they are actually producing light they are so vibrant. The emeralds are from the best source of which is Colombia. These eleven large stones are pear shaped and collectively weigh over 500cts. It is believed that they may have previously belonged to a Maharaja who held emeralds in a very high regard. Emeralds were incredibly respected because none were mined in India so it was very prestigious to own them as they would have come from South America, which in those dates was no mean feat. Hear what David Bennett has to say about the history of this magnificent head jewel by clicking here. A Geneva auction would not be complete without a splendid 10.99 carat fancy intense pink diamondlot 491 . The stone is a classic emerald cut and type IIa which is a type of stone that less than 2% of the worlds diamonds fall into the category of. Type IIa diamonds have an incredible optical transparency and these stones are chemically the purest of diamond crystals. International jewellers Levievoutbid four underbidders to purchase a superb fancy intense pink diamond, weighing 10.99 carats, for CHF 9,602,500/$10,840,358, the third highest price for a pink diamond (the ninth highest price for a diamond at auction). The last few months has seen quite a few coloured diamonds coming up at auction, however this does not mean that there are a lot of them. They are very rare, especially of this size and clarity. Lot 485 (est 110,000 - 165,000 CHF)SOLD FOR 554,500 CHF is a fine art deco diamond and platinum bracelet by Boucheron, circa 1925. It is a beautiful example of how the properties of platinum allow such an intricate and elegant design. Platinum is the hardest metal and therefore requires a lot of work and crafting. It was first discovered in South America by the Spanish during the 16th Century.  This flexible bracelet demonstrates how despite the amount of metal the bracelet still seems delicate and light due to the fantastic skill in piercing the metal and setting the diamonds. This is rather unique as other art deco bracelets feature  geometric design whereas this one suggests more movement. Stylized roses that embellish the four rows of diamond-set square links. What we think is one of the most stunning lots in this sale is lot 447 (est 95,000 - 185,000 CHF).SOLD FOR CHF 338,500) This is an absolutely show-stopping pair of JAR (Joël Arthur Rosenthal) earrings. Mounted in gold and silver are tourmalines, sapphires, garnets and spinels arranged in coloured sections with diamonds sparkling around the edge, to create two different stylized feathers. It is impossible to see in the photograph really how remarkable this is. The earclips are very large and when worn come down to the nape of your neck. It is amazing for jewels of this size to be so light. The use of colour through the gemstones is exceptional and you cannot feel or see the vibrancy of these in the photograph. Without seeing these earclips you could imagine the colours to be gawdy, but they are not. They really are just pure style. It is not unusual to see earrings that aren't symmetrical like this, but for them to be of this size is a really bold statement. JAR has executed these so well, they are beautifully articulated and so thin, meaning that they move effortlessly and really sing when they are worn. JAR is very collectable and contemporary and has followers who like to hang on to their pieces, therefore it is very rare to see his work on the auction market. You may have already read a little about Lot 411 (est 46,000 - 63,000 CHF), SOLD FOR CHF 362,500 a spectacular platinum and diamond watch by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1936.  Another beautiful and intimate piece of jewellery that was The Duchess of Windsor's. This watch was given by the Duchess of Windsor to the Condesa Viuda de Romanones, the American WWII spy who later married the Spanish aristocrat. The watch is very iconic of that period from Van Cleef & Arpels. The piece tells us more of the famous love story between Wallis Simpson and The Duke of Windsor; the case is engraved with 'For their 3 anniversary, 12.III.36, and our tub, 17.III.36'  in replica of the Duke's handwriting.  Through a jewellers' loupe you can also see the letters 'TUB' on the clasp of the watch. This is quite tiny when on, so The Duchess of Windsor must have had small delicate wrists, it is only about 170mm long. The design of the watch may seem unusual when you look at it here. This is a great example of a piece of jewellery that really comes to life when it is on your wrist. It is unusual to see jewellery made of platinum during this period as it was rationed because of the war efforts. Due to the great strength of this metal it was used in guns, weapons and machinery for war. Therefore this would have been a valuable and expensive commission during this time. Lot 259(est 6,000 - 8,500 CHF)SOLD FOR CHF 9,375 is another watch from Van Cleef & Arpels circa 1940. This watch is in gold which is much more usual for the time rather than platinum. It is set with caliber-cut rubies which work so well with yellow gold. Van Cleef & Arpels really excelled in the 1940's and 1950's with design and lot 302 (est 28,000 - 38, 000) SOLD FOR 134,500 is a further illustration of this. This multifunctional jewel called the Passe-Partout can be a necklace, bracelet or clip, or worn as either a necklace or bracelet and a clip.  It comprises of a gold 'gas pipe linking chain' adorned with two flower heads that have yellow and blue sapphire petals surrounding ruby encrusted pistils. The war era provided surprising  inspiration for jewelers including this 'gas pipe' linking inspired by the chains in bicycles, tank tracks and war machinery.  We can also see that the sapphires used here are fairly pale and pastel coloured. Gemstones were obviously quite difficult to source at this time so not always the highest quality stones were used. People began to use stones not just for their rarity and top quality characteristics, they would use what was available. Watch Sotheby's video of the tiara by clicking here featuring David Bennett, Chairman Sotheby's Europe and Middle East, Jewellery.

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