T he Vienna 1900 auction, which garnered worldwide attention after weeks of touring Sotheby's key locations and showcasing the Imperial and Royal Collection hammered down as white glove sale, with 100% of lots sold, with 100% of lots sold, with 82% sold above their pre-sale high estimates, and achieved over 9.6 million CHF. The success of this auction demonstrates the persistent interest and demand for remarkable jewels of Imperial and Noble provenance continues to go from strength to strength.
With unrivalled expertise and detailed knowledge of the great collections of the European Royal houses and Dynasties, Sotheby’s are firmly leading the charge in this area of the market, as outlined by Andres White Correal: “Vienna 1900 is a triumphal culmination of centuries of collecting by some of the most respected and legendary Imperial and Royal Houses in Europe. This exceptional group has been deeply personal for me, stirring my passions for jewels with the greatest provenance and likewise inspiring bidders around the world to compete to own a piece of this treasured past.” Hundreds of bidders from across Europe and North America demonstrated the enduring appeal of noble and antique jewelry, and the flourishing nature of the category, particularly in Geneva's Luxury Week auctions.
The top lot of the sale was Biedermann’s spectacular natural pearl and diamond Devant-de-Corsage which spurred on by a flurry of bids achieved 1.1 million CHF against an estimate of 270,000-450,000 CHF. Other notable highlights include a superb natural pearl and diamond brooch by Emil Biedermann from the collection of the Archduchess Marie-Thérèse of Austria-Teschen, Duchess of Württemberg which sold for 863,600 CHF against an estimate of 270,000-450,000 CHF, and a suite of star motif diamond brooches or pendants by Wilhelm Haarstrick, offered with an estimate of 9,000 - 14,000 CHF, that soared to 165,100 CHF.
A Sparkling Dinner Party Celebrates Vienna 1900: An Imperial & Royal Collection, By Gemma Champ
W hen a collection of beautiful and historic jewels has been hidden in a bank vault for nearly 80 years, their re-entry into high society is something to celebrate. To this end, Andres White Correal, Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman, Jewelry EMEA and Head of Noble Jewels, recently hosted an intimate dinner for 62, in a magnificently-restored Parisian residence, the Hôtel du Duc de Gevres. And the occasion? A small preview of the highlights from the upcoming sale in Geneva, Vienna 1900: An Imperial & Royal Collection. “It was the perfect trifecta. The most stunning venue, beautiful and glamourous guests and museum quality jewels.” says White Correal.
Inviting six of his greatest friends and jewelry lovers to wear pieces from the collection during the evening, his plan was to offer the other guests a rare opportunity to see their beauty in movement, not just in a display.
“It's a fantastic way to contextualise jewelry, to see it being worn,” says White Correal. “When you see jewelry inside a cabinet, it doesn't sparkle as it does when it's being worn and moving and capturing the light. It suddenly comes alive, it sparkles and it gives energy.”
The six ladies who were invited to wear the jewels – designers, entrepreneurs, producers, art collectors – each received a piece to wear for the evening, selected by White Correal himself. And his choices brought a modern context to jewellery that had passed through generations of Central European emperors and royals, before being hidden for safety after World War Two.
Although Andres White Correal began planning this exquisite event months in advance, the final choice of jewellery was made mere days – and in some cases moments – before the dinner. And some of those decisions surprised even White Correal.
“It's uncanny to see how people react differently to certain jewels and they go straight for one that the person next door has not looked at ” he says. “And probably neither of them is the one that I would have proposed for them. It’s as if they could hear the jewel saying, ‘I want to be yours; wear me’. It's a very beautiful and intimate moment between the person and the jewel.”
So how did the ladies find the experience of wearing pieces more usually found in a collector’s vault than a softly-lit dining room?
“A great jewel is always timeless, even if it comes from a certain era. That's why these very modern women could make very old pieces look contemporary”
“A great jewel is always timeless, even if it comes from a certain era,” says White Correal. “That's why these very modern women could make very old pieces look contemporary.”
Among the most surprisingly effective pieces was the golden gem- and diamond-set comb (Lot 1057), worn by perfumer and producer Carolina Adriana Herrera. Intricate and regal, it stands out from the diamonds and platinum so popular on the red carpet – and was a perfect fit with her lace dress.
“Historically speaking, it is a very interesting jewel, because it's modelled after the crowns of the Tsarinas of Bulgaria in the 17th century,” says White Correal. “But when I saw her wearing that dress and she was wearing her hair up, I immediately knew – voilà, you're wearing this one.”
Andres’s other highlights included a natural pearl and diamond brooch (Lot 1090) worn by Countess Isabella Borromeo-Arese-Taverna – who cleverly, attached it to a black silk ribbon choker to complement her Valentino dress, rather than wearing it the classic way.
“These pearls a marvel of nature. To have them this size, that quality, and that lustre, is extremely rare,” says White Correal.
And the Countess agrees. “The pearl is so big and heavy – the weight of it on your hand is astonishing,” she says. “I wore it like that because I was afraid it would pull down my dress.”
Parisian gallerist Victoire de Pourtalès chose to wear the most spectacular piece of the evening (Lot 1072) a splendid, but light-as-air necklace of diamonds and rubies, that can also be worn as a tiara or unmounted into brooches.
“The movement of the little leaves in this piece is so incredible, you feel the breeze is going through them – it is a tour de force of not only design, but of execution,” explains White Correal.
Yet the simplest pieces also sparked plenty of interest from the other guests – such as fashion designer Tatiana Santo Domingo Casiraghi’s fabulous diamond rivière (Lot 1080), and the diamond stars worn by entrepreneur Margherita Puri Negri Marenghi Vaselli (Lot 1075), and journalist and author, Princess Elisabeth Von Thurn Und Taxis (Lot 1073).
Even with the old-cut diamonds and antique settings giving away their age, many of these pieces looked so contemporary that, according to White Correal, guests wondered aloud which were the Imperial jewels and which were the ladies’ own. For Countess Isabella, that is the beauty of wearing antique jewelry.
“Whatever I wear, whether it’s modern or classic, it will always work with classical jewellery,” she says. “Its symmetry and elegance will enhance anything. It’s a special feeling to wear such unique jewellery. It is such a privilege.”
It was as much the sparkling conversation as the diamonds that kept the atmosphere heady till midnight – that, and a healthy supply of Chateau Ruinart Blanc de Blancs to fuel the happily socialising, eating and admiring of gorgeous gems. But as the witching hour approached, Andres White Correal, ever the consummate host, regretfully drew the evening to a close.
To discuss property valuation for upcoming Jewelry auctions please contact:
Andres White Correal
Deputy Chairman, Jewellery