Christie’s New York will auction two historic jewels this month – the Catherine the Great emerald and diamond brooch and the Emperor Maximilian diamond.
Announcing the jewels’ sale at Christie’s on April 22, Christie’s New York head of jewellery Rahul Kadakia said the auction house was honoured to present “two legendary gems not seen in public for decades”.
“Aside from their exceptional rarity, these large stones bear a fascinating history and provenance that renders them truly priceless in the world of fine jewels,” he said.
The Catherine the Great emerald and diamond brooch(estimated to sell for US$1-1.5 million) features a hexagonal-cut Colombian emerald weighing between 60 and 70 carats set within rows of rose and old mine-cut diamonds.
The gem originally belonged to Catherine II of Russia, who ascended to the Russian throne in 1762. In 1776, Catherine gave the brooch to Sophie Dorothea, Princess of Württemberg, as a wedding gift on the occasion of her marriage to Catherine’s son and successor Tsar Paul I.
It was subsequently handed down to the Princess’s descendents, and remained the property of the noble house of Hohenzollern for the next three generations.
In 1972, the brooch was sold to a private American buyer whose estate now offers the historic jewel for the first time in nearly 40 years.
THE EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN DIAMOND
The 39.55 carat Emperor Maximilian Diamond(estimated to sell for US$1-1.5 million) is one of two large diamonds the Archduke Maximilian acquired in Brazil in 1860, in the years just before he was named Emperor of Mexico at Napoleon’s urging.
In 1866, under pressure from the United States, Napoleon backed away from financial and military support for Maximilian, effectively abandoning him. Soon thereafter, republican forces captured and court-marshalled the young emperor and sent him before the firing squad.
The diamond was returned to his wife, Princess Charlotte of Belgium, who later sold the jewel. Its whereabouts remained unknown until 1919 when it was purchased by a Chicago gem dealer who kept the diamond until 1946.
The cushion-shaped diamond appeared at auction at Christie’s in July 1982, where it was purchased by London jeweller Laurence Graff.
The following year, Graff sold the Emperor Maximilian diamond to Imelda Marcos, wife of the President of the Philippines. Subsequent private transactions followed, until it was acquired by the present owner.