Sale of the Week, May 13-19: Marie de Medici and Lily Safra's Magestic Gems in Geneva

A Rare and Impressive Natural Pearl and Diamond Tiara, Chaumet 1920, is expected to fetch $1,500,000-2,500,000
(Courtesy Sotheby's)

SALE: Magnificent Jewelry

LOCATION: Sotheby's and Christie's Geneva


DATE: May 14-15

ABOUT: For the jewelry enthusiast out there, Geneva is the place to be next week. Sotheby's will offer the Beau Sancy, a giant 34.98-carat, modified pear double rose cut diamond that boasts a 400-year royal provenance and is expected to fetch CHF 1.85-3.65 million ($2-4 million).

The diamond's storied history begins in India, where it was probably harvested from the mines of Golconda. It was acquired in Constantinople at some point by Nicolas de Harlay, Lord of Sancy. In 1604 Henri IV of France bought it for his wife Marie de Medici (according to Sotheby's because the queen was envious of a larger stone  Sancy had sold to King James I of England a few years earlier). The unhappily married Marie, who frequently could be found using vulgar, unladylike language to confront Henri's many mistresses around court, wore the stone in 1610 during her coronation. Incidentally, the day after she was crowned Queen Consort her husband was assassinated. Marie was exiled to the Netherlands, where she sold her gems to get out of debt.

The Beau Sancy ended up in the hands of Prince Frederick Hendrick of Orange-Nassau. Later, the Beau Sancy was used to grease the wheels of the marriage deal between Willem II of Orange Nassau and England's Princess Mary Stuart (who was Marie de Medici's granddaughter, as that is how these things go). After a family fued, the stone made its way into the gem chest of Friedrich I of Prussia (a descendent of the Orange-Nassaus) in 1702, where it remained into the 21st century, until it made its way to Sotheby's Geneva.

In addition to the Beau Sancy, there will be more than 700 jewels auctioned off at the Sotheby's jewelry sale, including an emerald and diamond necklace by Bulgari circa 1970, which could bring CHF 1.4-2.8 million ($1.5-3 million), and a necklace with detachable pear-shaped D color 41.4-carat diamond that is estimated to sell for CHF 2.75-4.55 million ($3-5 million). Of course, having the royal diamond is in some ways better than having royal blood — there is most certainly less risk of hemophilia.

Meanwhile, Christie's in Geneva will offer the collection of socialite and philanthropist Lily Safra — known throughout the art world as the purchaser of Alberto Giacometti's "L'Homme qui marche I," one of the most expensive works of art ever purchased at auction (for £65 million, or $104.3 million), at Sotheby's London in February 2008. The collection includes three solitaire rings that weigh more than 30 carats, and a pair of pear-shaped diamond ear clips that weight 19.43 and 19.16 carats each (est. $3.5-5 million). The sale also includes the largest single-owner selection of jewelry by JAR and a number of antique and period pieces.

The proceeds of the Lily Safra collection will benefit 20 charitable institutions.


Sale: Watches
Location: Antiquorum Geneva
Date: May 13

Sale: Watches
Location: Christie's Geneva
Date: May 14

Sale: Watches
Location: Sotheby's Geneva
Date: May 15

Sale: American Paintings
Location: Christie's New York
Date: May 16

Sale: American Paintings
Location: Sotheby's New York
Date: May 17

Click the slide show to see more gems from this week's auctions.