Geneva Luxury Sales
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An invitation to view jewellery is always an adventure, but the one extended by Her Serene Highness Princess Gabriela zu Leiningen proved to be a spectacular experience, even for industry veterans.
The Princess hails from a successful German entrepreneurial and philanthropic family. A qualified lawyer, she was married to Prince Karl-Emich zu Leiningen for seven years, and became a consultant for UNESCO, advising on equality and women’s rights.
Princess Gabriela zu Leiningen wearing her 'Persepolis’ necklace by Cartier
Princess Gabriela zu Leiningen, wearing a magnificent emerald and diamond necklace by Cartier
In May 1998, Princess Gabriela married His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, 49th Imam of the Ismaili community, international entrepreneur, horse-breeder and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network.
During their 16-year marriage, the Princess held the title Begum Inaara Aga Khan and received superb and unique jewels from her then husband, a great art connoisseur, furthering her already extensive collection. Several of them are to be presented in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale in May.
The Pohl Diamond. An exceptional diamond ring, by Cartier. A rectangular-cut D, VVS1, potentially Internally Flawless diamond of approximately 36.09 carats, mounted by Cartier. Estimate: $3,800,000-5,500,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
So it was that on a crisp December morning, François Curiel, Pedro Girao and I, along with colleagues from our Swiss offices, made the trip to Zurich where we congregated in a meeting room in the beautiful Clariden Leu Bank Building at the Bahnhofstrasse.
Moments later, the Princess arrived, and we had a brief discussion about her collection and her vision for the sale. She shared images and particulars of the items, which were comprehensively documented with weights of the important gems, complete with images and reports from various laboratories.
‘Shall we go see the jewels?’ the Princess asked, and we made our way below ground to the vault. Awaiting us there was an impressive two-storey safe from the turn of the century. When it was opened, we glimpsed towers of neatly stacked boxes, and wondered how many more tables we would need to lay out their contents.
A five-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace. Estimate: $350,000-500,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
‘Here is a cultured pearl and diamond fringe necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, which used to belong to the Begum Mohamed Shah Aga Khan,’ explained the Princess, opening one box.
She then showed us a wonderful matching bracelet and earrings, revealing that they were commissioned for her at Van Cleef & Arpels ‘in order to match the existing necklace’. She recalled wearing this set at a private dinner dance that she and her then husband were hosting at the Château Chantilly.
The next item the Princess showed us was the famous Pohl Diamond. Found as a 287-carat rough stone, this D colour gem was sold to Bernice Chrysler Garbisch of the Chrysler family in 1943, and acquired for the Princess at Cartier in 1998.
A magnificent emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier. The detachable cushion-shaped emerald pendant weighs approximately 39.70 carats. Estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
Soon afterwards came a sensational emerald and diamond necklace by Cartier, suspending a Colombian emerald of almost 40 carats with matching ear pendants en suite. As we gathered to admire the necklace, the Princess opened another box: ‘And here you see the sapphire version with a 55-carat Burmese sapphire stone… the emerald is interchangeable and together with another diamond navette can be suspended from either diamond necklace.’
A 'Mystery-Set' ruby and diamond flower brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Designed as a mystery-set ruby flower, centering a circular-cut diamond cluster pistil, 6.3 cm, with French assay marks for gold, in beige suede Van Cleef & Arpels case. Estimate: $150,000-200,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
A 'Mystery-Set' ruby and diamond ring, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Of crossover design, one side mystery-set with rubies, one side pavé-set with diamonds, size 5 ½, with French assay marks for platinum and gold, in grey suede Van Cleef & Arpels case. Estimate: $40,000-60,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
A pair of 'Mystery-Set' ruby and diamond 'Poppy' earrings, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Each designed as a mystery-set ruby poppy flower, centering a circular-cut diamond cluster pistil, to the two diamond-set leaves, 3.6 cm, with French assay marks for platinum and gold. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels salee on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
Later, we got to admire a set of ruby and diamond mystery-set jewellery by Van Cleef & Arpels, a whimsical frog brooch by Cartier, a wonderful five-row natural pearl necklace interspersed with diamond beads and rondelles, and stacks of brightly coloured enamel bangles by Schlumberger.
The day progressed with boxes being opened one by one, revealing fabulous jewels set with superb gemstones. The Princess offered a commentary on the provenance of each of the pieces: where and when she wore them, and the joy they have brought her.
A ruby and diamond novelty brooch, by Cartier. Modelled as a violin, the calibré-cut ruby belly with diamond fingerboard and tailpiece, to the pavé-set diamond ribs, one side opening to reveal a watch with circular dial, Roman numerals and quartz movement, together with its bow, 1989, violin 6.8 cm, bow 8.0 cm, mounted in gold. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This lot is offered in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May at Christie’s Geneva
Princess Gabriela is an expert on jewels but also an enchanting storyteller, and for those few hours at the vault we were given an exclusive glimpse of her world: a life of beautiful memories, chronicled by the superb jewellery she has collected along the way.
Pieces from Princess Gabriela’s collection will be presented to collectors worldwide at the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 18 May, where, in her own words, she hopes they will ‘continue to bring joy and happiness to their new owners’.
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