FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Formed as a crown of foliate and floral inspiration, the base set with a central row of eleven larger cushion-shaped diamonds, each collet set between pairs of muguets, above a line of laurel leaf motifs and surmounted by festooned ribbons, pierced and millegrain set throughout with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds, surmount by a row of eleven polished pear-shaped emeralds, totalling approximately 500 carats, graduated in size from the centre, each emerald drilled and held in diamond set cusp motifs, the nine largest tipped by rose diamonds, mounted in silver and gold, later detachable tiara fitting.
Accompanied by Gübelin report no. 11030069 stating that the emeralds are of Colombian origin, with indications of minor clarity enhancement.
This magnificent emerald and diamond tiara is possibly the most important to have appeared at auction in over 30 years - since in fact it was sold at Sotheby's Zurich in 1979. It is also probably the grandest tiara to exist outside Royal, State and museum collections.
When this tiara was first offered at auction at Sotheby's in Zurich, on 15th November 1979, lot 823, the catalogue footnote stated that family tradition linked the eleven pear-shaped emerald drops to the French Imperial Crown Jewels. In Paris in 1887, seventeen years after the fall of the monarchy, the French government sold the Crown Jewels at public auction. Despite the fact that Empress Eugénie adored emeralds, there were very few jewels set with emeralds in the illustrated catalogue of the sale, and none set with stones similar to the pear-shaped drops of this tiara. However, in 1872, the sale of Empress Eugénie private collection of jewels had included 25 polished emerald drops. An annotated copy of the sale catalogue is held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where the buyer of each lot is identified. At the time of the sale no one single buyer bought sufficient emerald drops to create this tiara, but it is entirely possible that at a later stage a group of 11 emeralds originally purchased at the 1872 sale, was put together to crown this superb jewel commissioned by Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck for his second wife Katharina Wassilievna de Slepzoff. The Imperial provenance of the stones would have been a perfect fit to the grandeur of the commission and the status of the Donnersmarcks: as it is known Count Henckel von Donnersmarck also bought Empress Eugénie's pearls for his wife La Païva through two different agents on the occasion of their marriage in 1871.
The eleven exceptionally rare emerald drops are truly outstanding Colombian specimens of superb colour and size. They would originally have been drilled and polished in India, probably during the 17th or 18th century, and would almost certainly, have adorned the neck of a Maharaja.
The tiara is not signed and does not bear any mark, however in quality of design and manufacture, it is in line with the best creations of the great Parisian Maisons of the time. Boucheron and Chaumet were the favoured jewellers of fin de siècle European nobility and the Henckel von Donnersmarck were patrons of both firms. Chaumet in particular, in 1896, had been commissioned by Count Henckel von Donnersmarck to produce a crown of diamond leaves and ribbons which could be surmounted by five emeralds or pearls, and is entirely possible that the same firm created the tiara offered here, with its line of laurel leaves, swags and lily-of-the-valley motifs.
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