The first reference made by Cartier to this Royal 478 carat sapphire was in 1913 when the gemstone was added to a collection of seven other sapphires to form a magnificent sautoir. Later that year, the diamond necklace was altered to exclude the smaller sapphires in order to focus on the large sapphire drop attached to a pendant ring of calibré-cut sapphires.
The design for the sumptuous jewel changed again in 1919 and became Cartier's most valuable item exhibited in the Hotel Maria Cristina at their Autumn Show in San Sebastian. Being the talk of the town, the Queen of Spain, Victoria Eugenia, Queen Mother Maria Cristina and the Princess of Bourbon arrived to admire the display in all its splendour.
Two years after the Spanish exhibition, the sapphire drop suspended on the diamond necklace, was purchased by King Ferdinand of Romania. His beautiful consort Queen Marie (1875-1938), was at the time in her mid forties and famous as an ambassador for Romania's cultural interests (Queen Marie was a grand daughter of both Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Czar Alexander II of Russia). At the time of the purchase of the sapphire, she also acquired a pearl tiara from Cartier, which she wore in the 'Byzantine' style.
The Coronation of King Ferdinand took place on 15 October 1922 and as part of her jewels, Queen Marie wore her splendid necklace perfectly complementing the extraordinary sapphire tiara she had bought from Grand Duchess Vladimir when she fled from Russia. These were also the two jewels that the Queen wore for her portrait by Philip de Laszlo in 1924.
The sapphire was sold, possibly in 1947 when King Michael (grandson of Queen Marie) left Romania and was acquired by Harry Winston. The last pictures of the diamond necklace without the sapphire were taken at the wedding of exiled King Michael of Romania to Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in 1948. It was subsequently dismantled.
Of the worlds most famous and historic cut sapphires, the gem offered for sale on 19th November is by far the largest, weighing 478 carats. Second in size, the Logan Sapphire of 423 carats, was donated by Mrs. John A. Logan to the Smithsonian Institute in 1960.
The next two largest cut sapphires extraordinarily both weigh 337 carats. Catherine the Great's Sapphire was purchased in 1948 by Harry Winston and, as part of his 'Court of Jewels' exhibition toured the major cities of America from 1949 to 1953. It is currently on display in the Diamond Fund Exhibition, The Kremlin Armory Museum, Moscow.
Christie's Geneva sold the other sapphire of 337 carats in May 1991. It had been part of a private collection since circa 1910 when it was mounted by Cartier.
There are only two historic sapphires recorded that are larger than the one now being offered for sale, both of which are in museums. The 563 carat cabochon star sapphire, The Star of India, was donated to the American Museum of Natural History as part of the J. P. Morgan collection circa 1900. The 547 carat polished sapphire, curiously named 'Peter the Great's Nose' which was originally given by Peter I to Augustus the Strong in 1698, is displayed in the Green Vault in Dresden, Germany.
Queen Marie of Romania's sapphire is the largest sapphire ever presented at auction and with its genuine beauty and fascinating history becomes what can indisputably be termed a unique jewel.
The Hon. Mrs de Laszlo, who is compiling the Catalogue Raisonné of Works by Philip de Laszlo, would be pleased to hear from anyone who owns a painting or drawing by him. She can be contacted c/o Philip Harley, British Pictures Department, Christie's London