Des O’Sullivan previews a sparkling sale poised to be a real jewel in the crown for Christie’s in New York
The Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence sale at Christie’s in New York on June 19 promises to be the most valuable jewellery auction ever — eclipsing that of Elizabeth Taylor (pictured) which totalled $144m (€129m) in December 2011.
The mystic east at its most fabulous is revealed in this unprecedented group of jewels, gemstones and decorative objects from The Al Thani Collection.
It consists of almost 400 lots spanning more than 500 years.
The Al Thani family rules Qatar and numerous pieces in the sale have been seen at exhibitions of the family’s collection at The Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Among many highlights are the Patiala ruby choker, created by Cartier, Paris, in 1931, which is considered by many to be the finest ruby necklace ever made, and a riviere necklace from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad with nearly 200 carats of fine Golconda diamonds.
Works from The Al Thani Collection will be shown at a new museum space due to open in central Paris next year.
The galleries intend to explore the lesser-known works of The Al Thani Collection, which extends to more than 6,000 objects across a rich diversity of cultures.
The collection begins in Mughal, India, and showcases the sophistication of artistic production from the royal courts of India from the 17th century onwards.
There are delicate jades, vivid enamels, opulent jewels, gemstones and royal portraits including a jade hilted dagger owned by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal.
There is a jade cup with an ibex head so realistically carved that the Chinese emperor Qianlong composed a poem in its honour; a gem set; and an emerald, ruby and diamond gold state pen case and inkwell.
There are carved Mughal emeralds from around 10 carats to over 200 carats, the Arcot II diamond presented to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, by Muhammad Ali Wallajah Nawab of Arcot, and the Mirror of Paradise D-colour internally flawless Golconda diamond of 52.58 carats.
Significant historical pieces are complemented by an important selection from the 20th century by the houses of Bulgari, Cartier, Janesich, LaCloche, Linzeler, Mauboussin, and Mellerio.
The Patiala ruby choker was commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, one of the Cartier’s most important Indian clients of the 1920s and 1930s. He often travelled to Paris with trunks of diamonds and gemstones from his treasury for Cartier’s workshops.