5 of the Most Valuable and Storied Jewels Sold at Auction in 2018
From pearls worn by Marie Antoinette to a bangle belonging to Andy Warhol, here are a few highlights from jewelry auctions this year
Some jewels are valued for their purity or weight when they hit the auction block, while others are coveted for the incredible circumstances that brought them there. As auction houses around the world tie up another year of blockbuster sales, Galerie looks back at some of the most exciting—and unusual—lots sold.
1. The Pink Legacy diamond
Price: $50.4 million at Christie’s Geneva
This breathtaking fancy vivid pink diamond set a new record for a pink diamond sold at auction when it went for $50.4 million (at 18.96 carats, that’s over $2.6 million per carat) at the Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie’s Geneva in November. Found in a South African mine roughly 100 years ago, the stone likely hasn’t changed much since it was originally cut in the 1920s, according to the BBC. The buyer, jewelry house Harry Winston, renamed the classic rectangular cut gem immediately after the sale to The Winston Pink Legacy. The intensity of the hue at this size is apparently very rare. As Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewelry, said prior to the sale, “It’s as pink as can be.”
2. Farnese Blue diamond
Price: $6.7 million at Sotheby’s Geneva
This spectacular 6.16-carat diamond was given as a wedding gift in 1715 to Elisabeth Farnese, the Queen of Spain. Since then, it has passed through several royal families before coming to market in May at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale, where it sold for $6.7 million. Making its story even more astounding, it narrowly survived a hurricane that sank nearly a dozen treasure-carrying ships in the 18th century. Due to the stone’s pedigree, Sotheby’s described its discovery as a “once-in-a-lifetime” occurrence.
3. René Boivin, Beribboned Heart bangle bracelet
Price: $125,000 at Christie’s New York
This gold-and-diamond bangle, which was sold at the Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie’s New York in December, doesn’t just boast the exquisite craftsmanship of the House of Boivin—it was also owned by artist Andy Warhol, who was known to scour antique stores, flea markets, and auctions in search of hidden treasures. Before coming into Warhol’s possession, the bracelet was in the collection of socialite and Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers, having been commissioned by her husband in 1939.
4. Pearl and diamond pendant once owned by Marie Antoinette
Price: $36.2 million at Sotheby’s Geneva
This pearl suspended from a bow made of diamonds was once owned by Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. The pendant was one of several jewels belonging to the doomed monarch, which were recovered in Austria by her daughter following the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette’s execution. They hadn’t been seen publicly for over two centuries before coming to auction at Sotheby’s Geneva in November. Though the auction house estimated that the gem would sell for $1–$2 million, after a bidding war, the pendant’s price soared way beyond that to $36.2 million.
5. Suzanne Belperron, Tube bracelet
Price: $852,500 at Christie’s New York
This beautiful and surprisingly modern bracelet, which sold at Christie’s in December, was created by one of the most important women jewelers of the 20th century. Belperron achieved early success designing exclusively under Bernard Herz, a well-known Parisian stone dealer, and gained an influential following in the 1930s that included Colette, Diana Vreeland, and Daisy Fellowes. With the onset of World War II, and Herz’s execution by the Nazi regime, Belperron declined over 13 offers to escape occupied France in order to preserve Herz’s company for his son, Jean. This piece came from the first few years of Belperron and Jean Herz’s postwar partnership, which would last until their retirement in 1974.