European royal gems to fetch strong prices: Sotheby's

GENEVA Wed Nov 7, 2012 10:18pm IST

1 of 2. A model presents a conch pearl, enamel and diamond bracelet during an auction preview at Sotheby's in Geneva October 17, 2012. The bracelet, which once belonged to Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain (1887-1969) was made in the 1920's by Cartier and is expected to reach between CHF 750,000 and 1,300,000 (US$ 800,000 to 1,400,000) when it goes on sale November 14, 2012 in Geneva.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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GENEVA (Reuters) - A Cartier bracelet put up for sale by a member of the extended Spanish royal family is among top-quality jewels, many from aristocratic collections, that should fetch strong prices next week, Sotheby's (BID.N) leading expert said on Wednesday.

The late 1920s bracelet by the French jeweller, set with pink conch pearls and diamonds, goes on the block in Geneva alongside other rare gems whose European owners are parting with heirlooms in tough times, especially in the euro zone.

"Pieces with royal provenance are very seldom, for obvious reasons, on the market. This comes directly from the family of Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's Europe and Middle East jewellery department, told Reuters as he held the bracelet in a busy viewing room.

Sotheby's is not naming the "lady of title" parting with the bracelet that belonged to Queen Victoria Eugenia (1887-1969), grandmother of King Juan Carlos. It is estimated to sell for $800,000-$1.4 million, excluding commission, at its Nov 14 sale.

"It is one of the most important jewels by Cartier of the inter-war years. Great Cartier jewels are hugely in demand. The pearls are of different sizes set asymmetrically yet it is harmonious," Bennett said.

"I borrowed it from the owner to photograph it for my new book, but did not think it would eventually be offered for sale," he added, referring to his recently published lavish tome "Celebrity Jewellery: Exceptional Jewels of the 19th and 20th Centuries", written with colleague Daniela Mascetti.

In all, 70 of the 590 lots on offer at the "Magnificent Jewels" sale are of noble or aristocratic provenance.

A flawless blue diamond, graded fancy deep blue for its colour and weighing 10.48 carats, is the top lot valued at $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

"They only come from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, which is still mined," Bennett said, noting it was owned by Petra Diamonds (PDL.L).

The international jewellery market has many segments, including diamonds, coloured stones and antique jewels, but "the exceptional is highly sought after" in each, he said.

"The market interest is very strong at the top end and is becoming increasingly strong for period jewellery," he said. "What is unusual at this sale is the number of fine coloured stones - rubies, sapphires and emeralds."

RARE BURMESE RUBIES

A 1921 pair of ruby and diamond pendant ear clips, currently "property of a princess", feature perfectly matched Burmese rubies weighing more than 11 carats each. They were a wedding gift to Princess Max Egon zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg of Germany from her parents and are being sold by an unnamed descendant.

"Over 10 carats in itself is very rare but to get a pair of 11 carat rubies is really off the scale," Bennett said of the earrings, estimated to sell for $1.5 million-$2.5 million.

"The chromium in the ruby is highly fluorescent so they go crazy at night, they look like they are on fire," he said.

An unidentified European noble family is selling a ruby and diamond bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels, from around 1940, "very similar to the ones in the Duchess of Windsor sale", he said.

An oval emerald of 12.52 carats, fresh from the celebrated Muzo mine in Colombia, is estimated at $400,000 to $600,000.

Rival Christie's holds its semi-annual sale on Tuesday (November 13) where the top lot is the Archduke Joseph of Austria diamond.

The flawless white diamond, billed as the largest in private hands from India's fabled Golconda mines, weighs 76.02 carats and is estimated to fetch more than $15 million, according to the auction house owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault.

La u rence Graff, known as the "King of Diamonds", often attends the Geneva sales or bids by telephone. The London luxury jeweller Graff Diamonds pulled its planned $1 billion initial public offer on the Hong Kong stock exchange in May due to adverse market conditions.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

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