Sapphire Jewelry Linked to Russian Royal Family Hits Auction Block at Sotheby's

November 9, 2021

Sapphire-and-diamond jewelry linked to the Imperial Romanov family and smuggled to Great Britain at the onset of the 1917 Russian Revolution will be offered for sale at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Nobel Jewels auction in Geneva on November 10.

The sapphire-and-diamond brooch and matching ear clips were originally owned by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the aunt of Czar Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia.

Pavlovna was known as the "grandest of the grand duchesses" because of her attractiveness and sense of style. Her fabulous collection of jewelry included at least 242 items.

Fearing that her valuable jewels might be pillaged during the revolution, she entrusted British dignitary Albert Stopford to ferry her jewels to the safety of England. The hundreds of items were folded into old newspaper and stuffed into two shabby leather bags. The perilous 10-day voyage by steamer across the heavily mined North Sea was a success.

Stopford put the jewels in a safety deposit box in a bank in London, where they remained for more than two years — the time it took Pavlovna to finally flee Russia and reach Western Europe. She never made it to London to collect her jewels. She died in Paris in 1920.

The jewelry was bequeathed to her daughter, Princess Elena of Greece and Denmark. Sotheby's reported that Pavlovna's sapphire ensemble was put up for auction by a European princely family, who purchased the items at auction in 2009.

Designed circa 1900, the brooch is centered by an oval sapphire weighing 26.80 carats and bordered with cushion-cut and rose-cut diamonds. The ear clips are set with step-cut sapphires weighing 6.69 and 9.36 carats respectively, within a border of cushion-cut and rose-cut diamonds. The presale estimate for Lot 279 is $306,000 to $525,000.

In addition to the imperial jewelry, Sotheby's is showcasing a number of head turning items. They include the following:

Lot 292. Set with a cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant-cut fancy orangey-pink diamond weighing 25.62 carats, this 18-karat gold ring is accented with shield-shaped diamonds weighing 1.06 and 1.18 carats respectively. The colored diamond has a clarity of VS2 and the side diamonds are internally flawless. The presale estimate is $3.9 million to $5.9 million.

Lot 287. The perfectly matched pair of diamond earrings are literally perfectly matched. Each 18-karat gold earring is set with a square-cut diamond weighing exactly 25.88 carats, along with a suspended brilliant-cut diamond weighing 1.04 carats. Sotheby's expects the pair to sell in the range of $4.5 million to $5.5 million.

Lot 297. Designed by Mouawad, this 18-karat gold bracelet features a pear-shaped modified brilliant-cut diamond weighing 59 carats. The lavish piece is set with step-cut, oval and square diamonds weighing an additional 76 carats. The main stone boasts a D color and VVS1 clarity, while the rest of the diamonds range in color from E to G and VVS to SI in clarity. The presale estimated price range for the piece is $4 million to $4.6 million.

Lot 241. A pear-shaped fancy intense pink diamond weighing 4.53 carats is at the center of this 18-karat gold ring adorned with pink and near-colorless brilliant-cut diamonds. The featured diamond is graded VS1 in clarity and the piece is signed by Chopard. The presale estimate is $2.8 million to $4.2 million.

Credits: Jewelry images courtesy of Sotheby's. Maria Pavlovna photo by Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.