Thursday, April 11, 2019

Breathtaking Jewels, Elizabeth Taylor, Wallace Simpson, Christie’s Auction - A Closer Look

"...The sight of the 206-carat sapphire pendant would have sent me straight to the bar..."

Admittedly, I’ve never owned “Big” jewels, for me they’re simply unaffordable. But that doesn’t stop me from gawking at them whenever I have the opportunity. Frequently when traveling, I stroll into posh jewelry shops solely to look at fine jewels. Athens is a comfortable place to do that, sales staff tend to be welcoming. Rome is OK. Paris on the other hand, you might encounter condescending scrutiny. That rarely stopped me. The fact is, I’m drawn to these objects’ exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.

I’m particularly intrigued by ultra-fine jewels that are owned by famous women. There is always a fascinating underlying story. Consider for instance Elizabeth Taylor’s possession of “La Peregrina,” a gift from Richard Burton.

Even if he was sloshed a great deal of the time, Burton was no dummy, he clearly understood the significance of owning the world’s most famous natural pearl, once worn by Spanish King Philip II’s wife Mary I of England, seen in her 1554 portrait, worn by Philip III’s wife Margaret of Austria, worn by Philip IV’s two wives, Elisabeth of France and Mariana of Austria, their portraits with the pearl painted by Velazquez. In 1625, Rubens also painted Elisabeth of France with the pearl.

Napoleon III by contrast was self-proclaimed royalty. The Corsican ultimately declared himself Emperor of France in 1852, however his imperial gig ended when he was clobbered by the Prussians, and lost the bloody Empire. Forced into exile in England, Napoleon III naturally squirreled away some of the crown jewels, including the famous pearl. Napoleon must have needed money, because he sold La Peregrina to an English Duke whose family flipped it at Sotheby’s Auction in 1969, from whom Burton snatched it for $37,000. After Taylor’s death in 2011, her estate sold the pearl at Christie’s in New York for $11.8 million.

The Duchess of Windsor banked a fortune in jewels, gifts from her besotted Duke who failed to hand her the throne, which may account for his desire to gift her pieces from the Royal Collection. In 1987, Sotheby’s in Geneva sold Wallis’ hoard of over 300 sparkly objects, for $50 million, with Elizabeth Taylor phoning in from her home in Los Angeles to nail a piece. The sight of Wallis' 206-carat sapphire pendant would have sent me straight to the bar. Auction buyers cheered like at a hockey game when the 19-carat emerald and diamond engagement ring Edward slipped her at the time of his abdication brought 1.98 million.

So you can understand why I find it fun to mention Christie’s Auction’s up-coming Magnificent Jewels sale, to be held on April 16, 2019 in New York. At 10am, Lots 1-146 will be auctioned, at 2pm, Lots 147-292, viewing times are April 12, 13, 14, 15 10am to 5pm. Here are a few pieces I thought were lovely.  All of the images were taken from Christie’s website.

A Sapphire and Diamond Ring, Estimate at $200,000 - $300,000. The octagonal step-cut sapphire is 50.55 carats, surrounded with baguette-cut diamonds. (See above)

A set of Rubellite Tourmaline and Diamond Necklace and earrings, Estimate $15,000 - $20,000. Rubellite tourmalines are oval cut, diamonds circular-cut, set in 18K white gold.

A Pair of Sapphire and Sapphire Colored and Diamond Earrings, Bulgari, Estimate $30,000 - $50,000. Pear shaped and oval, blue, yellow and pink sapphires, square cut diamonds, and 18K yellow and white gold.

Those beauties had comparatively lower estimates. Below are two lots with estimates of up to $1 mill. Can you imagine?

A Diamond Ring, Estimate $700,000 - $1 million. Rectangular-cut diamond 21.06 carats, circular-cut diamonds, platinum.

A Pair of Diamond and Yellow Diamond Earrings, Estimate $700,000 - $1 million. Deep yellow rectangular-cut diamonds of 7.55 and 7.51 carats, pear and marquise-cut diamonds, 18K white gold.