S ince pioneering dedicated Noble Jewels sales in Geneva in 2007, Sotheby's has offered jewels from the legendary collection of The Royal Jewels of the Bourbon Parma Family, the Duchess of Windsor, the historic jewels of the Princes von Thurn und Taxis, Doria Pamphilj, and from the glamourous treasures of Daisy Fellowes and the superb von Donnersmarck Tiara.
Adorned the elegant evening gowns of queens and distinguished ladies in the splendour of mansions, palaces and castles these jewels have a story to tell, reflect a lifestyle and encapsulate a bygone era.
Among this season’s noble jewels highlights is a piece from the collection of HIH Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, which has a unique story born out of Romanv turmoil. Maria Pavlovna’s jewels were secretly collected from Vladimir Palace in St Petersburg and stored in a safe. The jewels were then dismantled, folded the pieces into old newspaper, ready to be smuggled out of St Petersburg bound for London.
The Grand Duchess Vladimir entrusted her jewels to Albert Henry Stopford, a British antiques and art dealer specialising in Fabergé and Cartier jewels and a diplomatic courier to secretly carry her collection safely to London. During the war the safest way from Petrograd to England or France was by train first north through Finland, which at that time was in Russian hands, and so into Sweden and then on to either Bergen or Arendal in Norway. As German U-boats patrolled the North Sea and the coastal water were mined, the voyage from southern Sweden to Newcastle or Scotland was chosen as the shortest and safest journey for the steamer. The reality of these dangers is recalled in Stopford’s diary of 14thJanuary 1916 “Not too bad a crossing. As we neared Arendal, in Norway we nearly ran into a mine. The sudden veering of the steamer threw us all off our seats. All along the south coast of Norway, where there are many currents, loose mines are constantly being washed up.”
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Stopford left Petrograd on 26 September 1917 carrying Maria Pavlovna’s fabulous collection of jewels including the sensational sapphire brooch and earrings to embark on what must have been a very anxious ten day journey. On his arrival to England, Albert Stopford put the jewels in a safety deposit box in a bank in London where they remained for two years by which time Maria Pavlovna had reached Europe.
2018 saw a blockbuster success with the sale of Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family, a historic record for a sale of royal jewels achieving $53.1 million with a 100% sell through rate including Queen Marie-Antoinette’s Pearl which sold for $36.2 million, a world record for a natural pearl.