Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence: The tastemakers

In a special collaboration with Christie’s, portrait photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank has teamed up with some of fashion’s most influential women, who model pieces from the collection and talk about what these historic jewels mean to them


Maya (left) wears an antique diamond, emerald and enamel sarpech; an antique ruby, diamond and enamel bracelet; an antique ruby, emerald and gold hawking ring; and a gem-set gold archer’s ring. Amanda wears an antique diamond and multi-gem sarpech; a pair of antique diamond and enamel bracelets; an antique diamond and enamel ring; and an antique diamond and gold paizeb. All photograhs by creative director and photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank. Make-up by Karina Montoya for Clé de Peau Beauté US. Hair by Yoichi Tomizawa

Lauren Santo Domingo 

The American entrepreneur is Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Moda Operandi, the only online retailer inviting clients to pre-order next season’s looks straight from the runway. You can follow her on Instagram @thelsd

‘I gravitate towards pieces with history, that tell a story. This collection tells a 500-year story, and to see it all together, for one last time, is so memorable.’

Teresa Lourenco

The Trinidadian model is best known for her work with Victoria’s Secret, Dior and Valentino. The dedicated yoga student is a mother to two children, and the wife of Juice Press founder, Marcus Antebi. You can follow her on Instagram @teresacijalourenco

‘My ancestors on my mother’s side are Indian Hindus so this photo shoot was very special for me in that it connected with my eastern Indian roots. The fact that the maharajas wore these jewels is so special; the energy is just powerful.’

Marina Rust

The mother, writer and novelist has been a contributing editor at Vogue  for 25 years. You can follow her on Instagram @marinarust

‘The chandelier earrings, and the diamond, ruby and enamel tiger head bracelet I wore are both set with table-cut diamonds. In India, tigers are an ancient symbol of power. The opposing heads on the bracelet appear to be the inspiration for every David Webb critter bracelet I coveted as a child.’

Erika Bearman

Formerly at Oscar de La Renta, Dior and Burberry, Erika is now an independent branding and communications consultant based in New York. You can follow her on Instagram @erikabearman

‘The emerald and diamond bracelet I wore was owned by the Maharahi Sita Devi Sahib of Baroda. There’s a story that she would stay at the Ritz in Paris and could be seen crossing Place Vendôme with bags full of jewels to be remounted by Van Cleef & Arpels. I love that image.’

Aerin Lauder

The Style and Image Director at Estée Lauder is also the founder of AERIN, a global luxury lifestyle brand inspired by Lauder’s signature style. You can follow her on Instagram @aerin

‘I love how a moment in history is being represented through these jewels and objects. Heirlooms have always been incredibly meaningful to my family and it was honour to represent someone else’s story.’

Maya Haile Samuelsson

Fashion model, philanthropist and co-founder of the Three Goats Organization, Maya is married to Marcus Samuelsson, the celebrity chef. You can follow her on Instagram at @mayahaile.

‘I use jewellery to express my heritage and my personality. I was born in Ethiopia, where jewellery can be a tattoo on your face or the neck or the arm. This jewellery, by contrast, can be considered to be works of art that you carry with you.’

Maria Duenas Jacobs

The Director of Brand Development at fashion website Stitch Fix is also a mother to three young girls under the age of five. You can follow her on Instagram @mduenasjacobs

‘I am a huge jewellery lover and really enjoy learning about the stories and design process, and adding personal sentiment to the jewels. I didn’t get to wear it but I adore the Cartier emerald ‘belt buckle’. I would wear it as a pin but the thought of it originally being a belt buckle blows my mind!’

Amanda Hearst

Fashion model, animal welfare activist and co-founder of ethical fashion company Maison de Mode, Amanda is dedicated to raising awareness around sustainable fashion. You can follow her on Instagram @amandahearst

‘One of the things I learned from this collection is how difficult it is to find pearls in nature that are the same size and colour. Part of the reason why the five-strand necklace is so valuable is because it was so painstaking to source pearls that could create that effect of a size progression.’

Amanda Alagem

The Accessories Director of Harper’s BAZAAR  oversees all accessories for the magazine, including handbags, shoes and jewellery. You can follow her on Instagram @amandaalagem

‘I loved wearing the sarpech —the scale and craftsmanship are truly unmatched, with a back as exquisitely finished as the front and an articulated structure so it bends to the right silhouette. I really enjoyed learning about the fact that these magnificent pieces were historically made for and worn by men.’ 

Veronica Swanson Beard

The American designer launched her fashion brand Veronica Beard with her sister-in-law nearly a decade ago. Now she balances the demands of a thriving business with three young children. You can follow her on Instagram @veronicaswansonbeard

‘I loved the diamond necklace over the bubble gum pink gown — very Gentleman Prefer Blondes. I was so honoured to wear such an incredible piece and have my sister shoot me for this feature.’ 

Patricia Herrera Lansing

Patricia is a creative consultant and an administrative board member for Memorial Sloan Kettering. Additionally she is on the Founder’s Circle for the non-profit, Every Mother Counts. You can follow her on Instagram @patricialansing

‘The headpiece was my favourite piece because it was whimsical and felt weighty, as though it had a lot of rich history attached to it. It had a real energy when I was wearing it.’

Xin Li-Cohen

A former runway model, Xin Li-Cohen is now Deputy Chairwoman at Christie’s New York where she works closely with important private collectors from Asia. You can follow her on Instagram @LiXin1228

‘What I found most interesting about this collection is that beyond the material value, every jewellery piece has also a symbolic significance, which gives a sense to the owner of belonging to its history, incarnation and transmission.’

Lauren Bush Lauren

Model, designer and founder of social enterprise FEED Projects, Lauren is committed to combatting world hunger and raising awareness around sustainable food production. You can follow her on Instagram @laurenblauren

‘The emerald necklace I wore in my portrait is truly stunning and clearly has a rich history. If jewels could talk I’m sure this piece would have so many stories to tell.’

Arielle Charnas

The fashion influencer and blogger is known for starting the blog and Instagram account Something Navy. She also designs a clothing line in partnership with Nordstrom. You can follow her on Instagram @ariellecharnas


Arielle wears an antique ruby, diamond and pearl sarpatti. Estimate: $100,000-150,000; a pair of antique ruby, emerald and pearl kadas. Estimate: $6,000-8,000; an antique spinel and gold seal ring with hidden key. Estimate: $60,000-80,000 and an antique imperial spinel, pearl and emerald necklace. Estimate: $1,000,000-2,000,000. Offered in Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence on 19 June 2019 at Christie’s in New York

‘It was incredible to learn about the history of the jewels. The spinel necklace had small encrypted notes on the gems that were signed by the ruling emperors that had once worn them. It felt really special knowing it had this much meaning behind it.’

Laila Gohar

The New-York based former art student is now one of the city’s most sought-after food artists. You can follow her on Instagram @lailacooks

‘It was amazing to be in a room with jewellery that was hundreds of years old and to imagine the lives of the people who had worn these pieces.’

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About Claiborne Swanson Frank

Portrait photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank was born and raised in California but began her career in New York, at Vogue  where she worked under Anna Wintour. She moved into photography full-time in 2010, and her first collection of portraits, American Beauty, was published by Assouline in 2012. Her third book, Mother and Child, came out last year.

As creative director for this project, Claiborne curated the list of sitters, styled and photographed them. ‘It was magical to tell a modern story of these jewels through this incredible group of inspiring women, who are all creating and contributing in the world,’ she says. ‘While all these women radiate beauty inside and out, I approached this project in a different way than usual, making the jewels the subject of the portraits with the women being the canvas on which to show them. Through my lens I set out to capture the beauty of these women while honouring these ancient jewels and this historic collection.’ 

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