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Nice Ice Baby! Super Jewels in Geneva

May 15, 2012

Lot 594. Diamond tiara.

A couple of magnificent prices at Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels” sale today in Geneva.  Lot 594 (above and below), which was greeted with applause when it appeared (on the head of a Sotheby’s staffer), sailed through it’s high estimate to sell for CHF 3.150 million (or CHF 3,610,500 with buyer’s premium).

The next lot, The Beau Sancy diamond (below), worn around the neck of  Sotheby’s staffer opened at CHF 1.5 million and steadily proceeded upwards at CHF 200,000 increments to CHF 7.4 million.  Two determined bidders continued at CHF 100,000 increments before the hammer was brought down at CHF 8 million (or CHF9,042,500 with buyer’s premium).

Lot 595. The Beau Sancy diamond.

The diamond was once owned by Maria de Medici’s and the Sotheby’s catalogue entry is quite entertaining:

The first royal owner was Marie de Medici’s , (1573-1642) the richest heiress in Europe, who in 1600 married Henri IV, considered the greatest king ever to rule France. She was not only wealthy but very grand, being descended from the Medici through her father, Francesco, Grand Duke of Tuscany and from the Habsburgs through her mother Joanna, daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria. Proud of these dynastic connections, brought up in the Florentine splendour of the Pitti Palace, surrounded by ceremony and etiquette, she dreamt of becoming a queen, an ambition fuelled by the prediction of a Sienese nun that she would indeed have a kingdom of her own. When the nun was eventually proved right, Marie de Medicis was well prepared to assert her royal authority by displaying magnificent jewels. These, even more than works of art, were undoubtedly her passion1 .From her father, Francesco, a connoisseur of gems, she had learnt that no other precious stone conveys the desired aura of majesty more effectively than the diamond. This is because the beautiful colours of the ruby, emerald and sapphire cannot be seen from afar, whereas the diamond, by absorbing light and then reflecting it with intensity and brilliance has the power of drawing the distant eye towards itself with the speed of lightning. It therefore makes the wearer stand out from a crowd, demonstrating rank, and commanding awe and respect. She therefore determined to acquire the largest diamonds then known, the Sancy and the Beau Sancy, respectively weighing 55.132 and 34 1⁄2 carats, named after the diplomat and financier, Nicolas Harlay de Sancy. Probably acquired in Constantinople, they came from the legendary river beds and rocks of Golconda, on the East side of the Deccan plateau, now the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and the sole source of diamonds until the discovery of mines in Brazil in 1725. Although both stones are pear-shaped and display the new rose cut, the smaller and more numerous facets of the Beau Sancy are centred on an eight pointed star, which gives it a very distinctive character. In 1604, angry and disappointed after losing the Sancy, which had been bought by James I of England to wear in his hat, Queen Marie hastened to acquire the Beau Sancy for her private collection. In homage to its importance, she had it set at the top of the pearl and diamond crown she wore to marvellous effect for her coronation at St. Denis in 1610.

Lot 595. The Beau Sancy diamond.
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