Diamonds are a girl’s best friends and there’s no denying that. Over the years, there have been many legendary jewelry sales in the history, when uber-luxurious pieces were sold that belonged to some of the wealthiest in the world. From pure gold to flawless gems, they are worth a fortune and positively breathtaking to behold. You’ve got everything from Madame du Barry’s jewels from 1795 to Elizabeth Tailor’s collection sold in 2011, pieces from duchesses and princesses, magnificence abound that has been traded through auctions and passed down through history.
The Maharani of Baroda Sale, Monaco, 1974
The Maharani of Baroda sale included one of the most splendid creations in the history of jewels, comprised of 13 emerald cabochons, 13 Colombian pear emeralds, and diamonds galore. The Colombian stones alone weighed a total of 154.70 carats. Every last stone was supplied by the Maharani through the Hindu Crown Jewels. Nicknamed “The Indian Wallis Simpson”, Maharani Sita Devi Sahib of Baroda was also the wife of the Maharaja of Baroda, and had an insatiable passion for jewelry that had been the inspiration for her fabulous collection of over 300 pieces stretching back to the Mughal era. From her jewels emerged the Chalk Emerald ring that would have the legend continue forwards.
The Duchess of Windsor Sale, Sotheby’s, 1987
Van Cleef and Arpels not only created some of the Maharani pieces but also had sets made for the Duchess of Windsor along with Cartier. Called the “most important jewelry collection of the 20th century,” the death of the duchess meant that her prized possessions would be auctioned off at a whopping $50 million. Among this collection was a gorgeous flamingo clip by Cartier adorned with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines and diamonds from around 1940. King Edward VIII would lavish these gifts on the woman he loved, though his wish to see the pieces dismantled after her death were not adhered to and the price of the pieces only shot up with this declaration. Instead of the expected $7 million the collection was expected to rake in, that number was raised 7 times over!
The Princess Salimah Aga Khan Sale, Christie’s, 1995
It wasn’t just the duchess of Windsor’s jewels that sold for an unimaginably high price. When Sally Crocker-Poole became Princess Salimah Aga Khan IV in 1969, she accumulated quite a collection of jewelry that she then turned to auction after her divorce in 1995. She parted with her most beloved of pieces, including the Boucheron collar necklace, her Van Cleef & Arpels Indian-style transformable emerald set and the heart-shaped Begum Blue diamond, all of which sold at such high prices that even the extravagance of the Duchess of Windsor’s sale was left overshadowed.
The Maria Callas Sale, Sotheby’s, 2004
Known as La Divina, Maria Callas was an astounding world-renowned opera singer, who saw her career slope downwards after a dramatic weight loss. She was the talk of the town, from her rivalries to her love affairs. She is forever the definition of the true diva as an artist and her pearls and diamonds drew attention wherever she went. Her prized jewelry collection included a diamond and ruby fleur clip bought in 1967, and was among the 11 items put on auction in November 2004, many years after the illustrious opera singer’s death. The sale raised a grand total of $1.86 million.
The Princess Margaret Sale, Christie’s, 2006
The Princess Margaret sale is not one that can be easily forgotten, particularly since about a century after Queen Victoria’s esteemed jewels were auctioned off in 1901, the Princess Margaret’s collection of 800 royal pieces found their way into the market on June 13-14, 2006. She was quite elegant in her days and her many admirers swept in for a bite of the royal cake, which included a number of Faberge items, heirlooms from the Queen Mary, as well as the famous Poltimore Tiaro, which had been worn on the royal’s wedding day in 1960, one which had been made nearly a century before in 1870.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewelry Sale, Christie’s, 2011
Nothing says extravagant jewelry sale quite like Elizabeth Taylor’s collection that finally reached a time for sale after travelling around the world for months on end. If we thought the $50 million revenues from previous sales were in any way a showstopper, we’re quite unsure as to how to describe the $137.2 million made from the Elizabeth Tailor jewelry collection including The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, an extraordinary 33.19 carat stone that was given to the actress by Richard Burton in 1968. The diamond wasn’t all that could be found in her collection, which also comprised of the pearl and ruby Peregrina redesigned by Cartier, The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara, The Taj Mahal Diamond and an abundance of ruby and emerald Bulgari gifts that had been received from Richard Burton.
Lily Safra’s Jewelry Sale, Christie’s, 2012
It wasn’t so long ago that Lily Safra’s treasures made it to the market, including the Camélia gold and silver ruby pavé brooch belonging to Lily Safra, and made by JAR Paris, weighing a whopping 173.09 carats. The best part is that the proceeds of the sale went to charities that Lily Safra, a Brazilian philanthropist and social figure, held close to her heart. After four marriages, her collection of jewelry most certainly watched her net worth of $1.2 billion, making her one of the richest people in the world.
The Gina Lollobrigida Sale, Sotheby’s Geneva, 2013
The love of Bulgari wasn’t lost on Luigina “Gina” Lollobrigida, an Italian actress, photojournalist and sculptor, who was one of the mot renowned European actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s, during which time she was considered to be quite the sex symbol. In May of 2013, her collection was put on sale and caused quite the flurry, particularly among those keen on obtaining her diamond and emerald Bulgari earrings from around 1964.
The Hélène Rochas Sale, Christie’s, 2013
The year 2013 was quite the time period for legendary jewelry sales and we cannot fail to include the Hélène Rochas collection, which included the Nid d’Abeille René Boivin articulated full gold bangles set with rubies, sapphires and diamonds from around the year 1950. On Novemebr 12, 2013, this was among the many spectacular pieces put on auction, which is warmly said to have brought collectors a little closer to reliving the golden age of Paris café society.
Photos courtesy of Vogue Paris
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