Juicy jewels on the block: what “precious” gems really look like

As we wait for the Magnificent Jewels to appear in New York – Christie’s preview opens tomorrow – let’s pause for a peek at the Geneva sale next month, which includes a scrumptious pair of JAR camellias. This is where the big rocks come out, and not just colorless diamonds – which, honestly, you have to see firsthand to get the full impact – but also the rarest, biggest, most flawless, and perfectly-cut colored gems in the world, often with a rich, storied history behind them.

I bring you a taste of what Christie’s will offer on May 13 in Geneva – and yes, there is a JAR jewel. Let’s start with that, since we cater to the cult following for his jewels here, and because – without even knowing it was his – my eyes went right to this first.

Part of a pair of tourmaline and agate camellia and agate brooches by JAR (Christies Images Ltd.)

Part of a pair of tourmaline and agate camellia brooches by JAR, 1985 (Christies Images Ltd.)

How juicy is that? Let’s just stare for a while. It’s not the first fabulous JAR camellia we’ve seen here but it’s the first with carved tourmaline petals, perfect for our spring-starved eyes.

Speaking of spring flowers, you may recall Christie’s sold that stunning JAR gold tulip bangle in their last Geneva sale for $3.6 million, second highest price ever paid for a JAR jewel at auction. It blew the pre-sale estimate of $190,000-290,000 out of the water. That bangle was extremely unique and spectacular, even for the ever-astonishing Joel Arthur Rosenthal, and had just received lots of attention in the Jewels by JAR exhibition at the Met. I doubt Christie’s anticipates that kind of surprise on this pair of tourmaline and agate brooches made in 1985, but they are lovely and will probably beat the estimate of $140,000-170,000.

[UPDATE 5/13/15: This pair of brooches made in 1985 went for a hammer price of $521,174, triple the high estimate. Nice that something made primarily of tourmaline and agate can fetch half a mil, isn’t it? And it wasn’t just the name – other JAR jewels sold within estimates today.]

Those particular JAR jewels also fit nicely with the strength of this sale, which is all about juicy gems. I’ll start with the classic giant pear-shape diamond and then follow my heart to the colored stones – in this case, the rarest and juiciest “precious” colored stones. As it happens, the highest price tag of the sale is on a vivid pink diamond that would knock our socks off if we could see it throw off that rainbow, the double whammy of a fabulous colored diamond.

55.52ct pear-shape diamond

This 55.52ct pear-shape D-flawless diamond is expected to sell for $8.5-10.5 million at Christie’s Geneva on May 13, 2015. UPDATE: Sold for $9mil – $162,711 per carat.

A 5.18ct fancy vivid pink diamond estimated at $9.5-12.5mil  at Christie’s Geneva, May 13

A 5.18ct fancy vivid pink diamond estimated at $9.5-12.5 million at Christie’s Geneva, May 13. UPDATE: Top lot of the day, this sold for $10.7mil – more than $2mil per carat.

Maria Christina of Austria, Queen of Spain. It wasn't easy for queens to breathe in the 19th century but they had nice nice jewels.

Sugarloaf cabochon emerald of 17.02 carats set in ring at Christie’s Geneva on May 13, 2015

Cushion?shaped 6.25ct Burmese ruby and diamond ring estimated at $1.8-2.5mil at Christie's Geneva May 13, 2015

“The Pride of Burma,” a cushion-shape 6.25ct Burmese ruby and diamond ring estimated at $1.8-2.5 million at Christie’s Geneva May 13, 2015

a 35.09ct cushion-shape Kashmir sapphire estimated at $3-4.2mil

A 35.09ct cushion-shape Kashmir sapphire estimated at $3-4.2 million at Christie’s Geneva. UPDATE: Sold for $7.4mil, $209,689 per carat, setting a world auction record for a Kashmir sapphire.

Nice, huh? Now here are highlights of the royal jewels of the sale, starting with a pair of antique Indian emerald bangles, believed to have descended from a prominent Indian royal family. Set with emeralds of exceptionally rare color, these are in their original condition, having escaped the usual dissection over the years – unusual for any antique jewels, but especially Indian jewels. They would have been worn stacked with other gem-set bangles, in the style of the 1920s and 1930s.

Antique Indian emerald bangles from the collection of the Queen of Spain

Antique Indian emerald bangles from the collection of the Queen of Spain sold for $1.7mil at Christie’s Geneva

Another royal jewel, even more valuable, this diamond brooch is a devant de corsage given by King Alfonso XII of Spain to his bride, then the Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, on their wedding in 1879.

Royal devant de corsage, wedding gift from King Alfonso of Spain to his bride in 1879

Royal devant de corsage, wedding gift from King Alfonso of Spain to his bride in 1879

Quite something, isn’t it? Just in case you’re feeling some royal envy, here’s a picture of Maria Christina around the time she would have been given that brooch. Could she breathe, do you think?

Maria Christina of Austria

Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, bejeweled and corseted to within an inch of her life, and soon to be Queen Consort and then Queen Regent (as opposed to simply Queen) of Spain

Just remember: It’s not easy being queen. (But it does come with some serious bling.)

Lots of wonderful antique jewels in this sale, along with the mouth-watering gems. In all, 351 jewels are expected to bring more than $80 million in Geneva next month.

All photos © Christie’s Images Ltd.

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1 comment for “Juicy jewels on the block: what “precious” gems really look like

  1. April 13, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Wow, the JAR camellia brooch is absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing!

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