RELEASE: Jewels - Dazzling Aristocratic Splendour



Christie’s announce the historic sale of The Rosebery pearl and diamond tiara, bracelet and brooch, three of the most important jewels that belonged to Hannah, Countess of Rosebery (1851-1890) née de Rothschild, which will lead the London auction of Important Jewels on Wednesday 8 June 2011. Victorian ancestral jewels of the first rank, they were made in the opulent grand Victorian court style and comprise a series of large natural pearl and diamond clusters. These jewels will be sold as two lots: The Rosebery pearl and diamond tiara which is expected to realise between £1,000,000 and £1,500,000 and The Rosebery pearl and diamond bracelet and brooch (estimate:£300,000-400,000).

Keith Penton, Head of Jewels Christie’s London: “The Rosebery pearl and diamond tiara, bracelet and brooch were at the heart of Lady Rosebery’s vast array of magnificent jewels, which rivaled those of the crowned heads of Europe at the time. They are a rare survival of 19th century English aristocratic splendour, as so much ancestral jewellery has been sold anonymously, remounted or broken down. Having descended through various branches of the family and survived the vicissitudes of fashion, the jewels are being offered for sale from a private collection for the first time since their creation nearly 140 years ago. As jewellery market leaders for 17 consecutive years, Christie’s are proud to offer these spectacular examples on an international stage at a time when pearls are once more appreciated for their great beauty and rarity.”

The only child of Mayer Amschel de Rothschild and his wife Juliana, née Cohen, and granddaughter of Nathan Mayer Rothschild founder of NM Rothschild & Sons - the English branch of the Rothschild’s banking empire – Hannah was born into a world of great wealth and luxury. When her father died in 1874, she became the wealthiest woman in England, inheriting important properties, two million pounds in cash, and an impressive art and jewellery collection.

It is likely the Rosebery jewels were acquired at the time of her marriage to the handsome and intelligent Archibald, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), on 20th March 1878. Writing to a friend shortly before his wedding, Rosebery described Hannah as: ‘very simple, very unspoilt, very clever, very warm hearted and very shy…I never knew such a beautiful character’. The guest of honour was the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, gave the bride away.

The exquisite Rosebery tiara is a particularly potent symbol of the Rosebery’s wealth and status. It is accompanied by seven pearl and diamond drops that can be attached to the band to form a coronet, or hung beneath each detachable circular cluster when they are worn as brooches. An earlier English precedent had been set by the crown jeweller Garrard when in 1854 they created an imposing tiara for the Marchioness of Londonderry, which incorporated the celebrated drop shaped family pearls as detachable finials. Empress Eugenie also encouraged the use of pearls in the mid-nineteenth century, and regularly wore a magnificent pearl and diamond parure composed of pearls which had been held in the state treasury  since the reign of Henri IV and Marie de Medicis.

A devoted wife, who was committed to her husband’s success, Lady Rosebery was an influential hostess. Political and social leaders mixed with royalty and famous authors of the day such as Oscar Wilde and Henry James at her salons in London. Lady Rosebery did not live to see her husband appointed Prime Minister in 1894.

Upon the impending marriage of his son and heir Harry Primrose, Lord Dalmeny, Lord Rosebery decided to divide his late wife’s jewels amongst their children. The Rosebery pearl and diamond tiara was among the gifts to the bride. On 18th April 1909 The New York Times reported on the wedding in great detail: ‘chief in importance was the collection of jewels that belonged to the late Lady Rosebery, which had lain unworn in their cases for nearly twenty years. Parures, tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, pendants, earrings and clasps composed of diamonds of great size and of pearls formed a collection of sufficient quantity and quality to make the coronation ornaments for a dozen Queens. One tiara formed of a semi-circle of pearls as big as walnuts, contained about 150 diamonds of the first water. This gorgeous headdress is convertible into a necklace, to which may be fitted seven magnificent diamond pendants, each one centered with a pear shaped pearl.’ Subsequently the jewels descended through the family and the Rosebery pearls now form part of a private collection.


Elsewhere in the London sale of Important Jewels, highlights are led by an exceptional Art Deco ‘Tutti Frutti’ bracelet, circa 1928, by Cartier, (estimate: £300,000-400,000) which exemplifies the very best of Cartier's  imaginative designs. It is clear to see why few jewels have captured the enthusiasm of connoisseurs and collectors as the Tutti Frutti creations. The bracelet is designed as an undulating diamond vine with black enamel border mounted with alternating carved emerald leaves and ruby bead flowerheads. This is one of 47 jewels by Cartier offered in the sale alongside other important signed jewels, fine gems and natural pearls.


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