A rare colored gem from one of the world’s most distinguished collections set a world record Thursday at Bonhams London Fine Jewellery Sale.
The 50.13-carat Hope Spinel fetched $1.4 million at the auction, setting a world record for achieving a price of $30,000 per carat, nearly double the previous record. It also shattered its high estimate of $310,000.
The octagonal step-cut gem was owned by London banker Henry Philip Hope whose collection of approximately 700 gems included the Hope Diamond (The 45.52-carat blue diamond that is part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian National Natural History Museum). He kept the collection until his death in 1839. It’s been 98 years since the spinel was last offered for sale.
The gem is set within decorative old brilliant and rose-cut diamond claws, framed by larger old brilliant-cut diamonds (total diamond weight 6.50 carats), mounted in silver and gold and worn as a brooch/pendant with detachable fittings. There’s a handwritten note in the case describing it as a “spinel-ruby” from the Hope Collection.
“It was an exceptional gemstone with a priceless provenance and these pieces just don't come to the open market often,” said Jean Ghika, director of Bonhams Jewelry for the UK and Europe.
Based on its color and large size, the gem was traced to the ancient Kuh-i-Lal mines, in Tajikistan, where some of the most celebrated ancient spinels were found.
“These historic mines are geographically difficult to access and by the 20th century they weren't used due to political reasons,” Ghika said. “Spinels of this size and quality are therefore exceptionally rare even without the provenance of the Hope Spinel.”
Other top lots from the auction include the following:
* An Art Deco enamel, gem-set and diamond “Tutti Frutti” bracelet, by Cartier, New York, 1929 that sold for $700,599. The articulated geometric strap, with carved emerald and ruby and black enamel vine motifs, against an old brilliant and single-cut diamond ground, mounted in platinum, diamonds approximately 10 carats total, signed Cartier. The luxury jeweler’s Indian-inspired Tutti Frutti jewels are some of its most celebrated designs.
* A sapphire and diamond necklace, ring and earring suite that sold for $315,537. The necklace is designed as a graduated series of claw-set oval-cut sapphire clusters, within double and single-tier brilliant-cut diamond surrounds, alternating with pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamond cluster floral motifs. With the earrings and ring, the sapphires totaled 128 carats and the diamonds approximately 84.80 total carats.
* A natural pearl ring in a circular shape between baguette-cut diamond shoulders that sold for $315,537.
* A diamond “Torsade” bangle, by Suzanne Belperron, circa 1932, sold for $251,360. The jewel consists of a “gadrooned” cuff of alternating pavé-set old brilliant-cut diamond and polished platinum sections (diamonds approximately 20.70 carats total).
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