GENEVA, SWITZERLAND.-A diamond necklace, background shot, from the collection of the Russian Imperial family SOTHEBY'S is delighted to be able to offer for sale one of the most historically important jewels to have come onto the market in recent years. The diamond necklace, from the collection of the Russian Imperial family, is estimated to fetch Sfr. 1,500,000-2,500,000 (£665,000-1,108,000/$1,176,000-1,960,600) and is set to be the star of Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva on Thursday, November 17, 2005.
The stunning diamond necklace with a detachable diamond bow clasp, is a rare survivor of the 18th century, when jewels were usually broken up to produce new jewellery in the latest styles. Its survival, in its original state, is almost unheard of outside royal or museum collections.
Daniela Mascetti, Head of Sotheby's Jewellery department in London, said: "We are delighted to have this unique opportunity to present - not only such an impressive jewel in its own right - but one that encapsulates the luxury and grandeur of the Russian royal court. Its history, survival, beauty and quality, make this a truly exceptional piece."
In 1719 Peter I (1682-1725), known as 'Peter the Great' created The Russian State Diamond Fund to house a collection of jewels that would belong to the Russian state for the permanent glory of the Russian Empire. Peter demanded that each Empress or Emperor bequeath a certain number of pieces acquired during their reign to the state. Throughout the centuries the Tsars accumulated a vast quantity of personal jewellery and although Peter himself practiced restraint, he did acquire many jewels for his consort, Catherine I and his daughter Elizabeth. During the reign of Catherine II 'the Great' (1762-1796), extravagance reached standards experienced neither before, nor since. She employed the skills of the best French and Swiss jewellers, such as Posier and Duval and consequently added the largest number of jewels to the Imperial Collection.
The collection was housed in the 'Diamond Room' in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Peter decreed that no piece could be sold, given away or changed. A keeper was appointed and no jewels were ever taken out of the room without a written sealed order and only in the presence of a trustee especially appointed by His Imperial Majesty.
The fear of German invasion at the outbreak of the First World War instigated a decision to move the collection to Moscow. This was done under the supervision of Mr. Bentichev of 'H.I.M. Wardrobe Service'. The removal of the strong boxes was carried out in such haste that no inventory was taken on the collection's departure from St. Petersburg. When the jewels arrived in Moscow they were confiscated and stored away until after the war. Agathon Fabergé was then persuaded to oversee a valuation of the jewels - a job which lasted from 1921-1923, with each piece being photographed and each stone weighed. A catalogue entitled: Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones was published in 1925, in Russian, English, French and German, under the supervision of Professor A.E. Fersman. This suggested that the Soviets wished to sell the collection, however the decision was later retracted, as was the catalogue. The first public exhibition of the jewels took place in Moscow in the same year.
Immediately after the publication of the catalogue, a number of the jewels were sold to a syndicate of British and American buyers whose identity is unknown, the state retaining the more valuable items of the collection as part of Russia's national heritage. A large portion of the collection was then brought to London and offered at auction in a sale entitled: The Russian State Jewels held by Christie Manson & Wood on March 16, 1927. Dispersed to a number of different buyers, some have subsequently resurfaced at public auction, notably: The Nuptial Crown, sold by Sotheby's Parke Bernet in 1966; a collection of ten flower ornaments, fashioned together to form a necklace, by the firm La Vielle Russie in New York, which sold at Sotheby's New York in April 1998; a floral brooch that sold at Sotheby's in London in December 2004 and a pair of floral ornaments that sold at Sotheby's, London in May 2005. The present necklace was among those jewels offered in the 1927 auction, when it was purchased by a London jeweller. It was subsequently sold to a collector and has remained in private hands ever since.
The necklace consists of a beautiful row of 27 large cushion-shaped diamonds within a border of stylized foliate motifs, close set with smaller similarly cut stones, embellished with a ribbon bow clasp, which can be worn separately. This historical jewel is sure to appeal to collectors of beautiful jewels, as well as those passionate about fashion and accessories.