Rare Kashmir sapphire glitters in Geneva auctio

The largest Kashmir sapphire ever auctioned and
a royal tiara which everyone can try on via Instagram are the stars of this
year’s May magnificent jewels sales in Geneva.

Gems worn by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s adopted daughter also
dazzle among the historic treasures being sold by Sotheby’s and Christie’s
auction houses on May 11 and 12.

The Kashmir sapphire, a 55.19 carat gem, was formerly in the collection of
Maureen Constance Guinness, a marchioness of the aristocratic Anglo-Irish
brewing family, who died in 1998.

Kashmir sapphires of over 30 carats are very rare. It is being sold
alongside a cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire weighing 25.97 carats and the pair
are estimated to fetch 2-3 million dollars.

Following their discovery in the early 1880s, the mining of Kashmir
sapphires only lasted from 1882 and 1887, making such gems some of the most
coveted on the market, according to Sotheby’s.

They have a rich cornflower blue hue with a soft, velvety texture, and
retain their lustre in any light.

“Kashmir sapphires are among the rarest coloured gemstones known to man,”
said Benoit Repellin, head of magnificent jewels sales at Sotheby’s in Geneva.

“These gems have over the years acquired an almost legendary status.”

Instagram tiara

Among the other historical pieces on sale is a tiara kept for more than 150
years in the Italian House of Savoy royal dynasty.

The diadem, containing 11 natural pearls and diamonds, dates from the
second half of the 19th century and is estimated at 1-1.5 million dollars.

The tiara is also a masterpiece of ingenuity as it can be separated into
two parts, allowing it to be worn as a necklace, Repellin told AFP.

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Sotheby’s said it was witnessing unprecedented global demand for royal
jewellery, particularly from younger clients in Asia.

Collectors from that continent have bought a third of the tiaras sold by
the auction house in the past five years.

Keen to attract the interest of a new generation, Sotheby’s created an
Instagram filter that allows people to create a picture of themselves wearing
the Savoy tiara in a sumptuous Italian palace.

In the big gems category, Christie’s is offering a rectangular white
100.94-carat diamond called the Spectacle, valued at 12-18 million dollars.

The internally flawless diamond is the largest stone ever to have been cut
in Russia and was cut from a rough stone unearthed in the remote northeastern
Yakutia region in 2016.

Other standout items include a pendant set with a 104.40 carat pear
emerald, mounted by US jeweller Harry Winston, offered by Sotheby’s for 1-1.5
million dollars.

It is a “really exceptional weight for emeralds, which are more fragile
stone”, said Repellin.

Napoleonic treasures

Marking the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, Christie’s is selling
nine imperial jewels adorned with sapphires and diamonds, from the collection
of his adopted daughter, Stephanie de Beauharnais.

The nine pieces, including a tiara valued at up to 275,000 dollars and a necklace
estimated at up to 350,000 dollars, “have remained in the same family since they were
offered to Stephanie de Beauharnais, on the occasion of her wedding at the
Tuileries Palace” in Paris, said Marie-Cecile Cisamolo, a jewellery specialist
at Christie’s.

Some 38 sapphires from Sri Lanka were used to create the set in the early

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Besides their historical value, the jewels are also prized for their
natural blue, as sapphires usually undergo heat treatment to accentuate the

Cisamolo also noted the growing Asian market for such gems.

“At the moment, we see a lot of Asians who like to wear these important
jewels, for major events in their life,” she said.

The Christie’s sale also includes a sapphire crown worn by queen Mary II of
Portugal, who was twice the country’s reigning monarch before her death in

The crown, set with a Burmese sapphire in the centre, is estimated at
190,000 – 385,000 dollars.(AFP)


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