On 11 November, a “Magnificent jewels” sale will take place at Christie’s in Geneva. The catalogue already promises some magnificent surprises and we will be following the auction closely. I will, of course, propose a summary article of the pieces not to be missed during this brilliant sale. But today, I would like to draw your attention to a piece that will arouse the interest of collectors and for which the auction house hopes that the room will be ablaze. Indeed, the “Redcurrant Leaf” brooch that belonged to Empress Eugenie will be offered for sale and rumours say that it could well fetch 3 million dollars… . A look at the history of this piece!
The Empress Eugenie brooch will be offered on 11 November in Geneva. Photo: Christie’s
If, often, one notices in catalogues that jewels may have “belonged” to royal families, there is absolutely no doubt about this piece. Made of white gold and silver, it is entirely set with diamonds. Eugénie de Mojito, the last French empress, married Napoleon III in 1853. Her family was very wealthy and came from Granada in Spain. Her love for French culture is well known, as is her admiration for jewellery. Eugenie loved jewellery and diamonds and made it a point of honour to enrich the collection of the French Crown. In July 1855, she called on Alfred Bapst, the court jeweller, to make a set worthy of the greatest sovereigns.
In reality, it was a set of thirty “Redcurrant Leaves” pieces that were made to adorn the neck, the bust and also the dresses of the Empress. She regularly wore these pieces. In 1870, after the fall of the Second Empire, Eugenie and Napoleon fled to England leaving behind them, of course, many jewels. The French government debated for almost 20 years what to do with the collection and then decided to sell it. This was done in May 1887. The jewels were cut with pliers, dismantled in a hurry and sold in pieces for many. Many pieces are now lost…
Detail of the Berthaud catalogue on the sale of the diamonds of the Crown of France. On this page, we discover a part of the pieces which compose the “Feuilles de groseillier” set made in 1855. Photo: Jewel of the day.
On this day in 1887, many jewellers were in the room and Tiffany & Co. was the highest bidder. It was this firm that won the brooch of our royal Eugenie as well as other pieces of jewellery. The American firm spent almost $500,000 on the brooch (which would represent about $12 million today).
The brooch was later sold to the Astor family, and in 1936 Vincent Astor gave it to the famous opera singer Lucrezia Bori. She bequeathed it to the Metropolitan Opera of New York, where it was previously on display.
In April 2011, Doyle Auction offered a small brooch from the original set. This one, estimated at $50,000 to $70,000, sold for $332,000. Tiffany again was the buyer. It should be noted that the piece was originally purchased by Tiffany in 1887 and then sold to Mr. J.P. Morgan. The piece has since been cleaned and restored by the workshops of the famous American firm.
The brooch at Doyle Auction in 2011. Photo: Doyle
The brooch cleaned and as presented today by Tiffany & Co. Photo: Tiffany & Co
See you soon!