Auctions

Emerald with Ties to Catherine the Great Headed to Christie’s

AuctionsApr 23, 2019

Emerald with Ties to Catherine the Great Headed to Christie’s

The 76-carat gemstone is headlining the auction house’s Magnificent Jewels Geneva sale next month.

This emerald originally belonged to Catherine the Great of Russia and was passed down through the Russian imperial family for over 100 years.

Geneva—Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May and, fittingly, next month an emerald with a spectacular provenance will be available at Christie’s.

Headlining Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva this May is an emerald and diamond sautoir, the origin of which can be traced to Catherine the Great of Russia.

According to Christie’s, the emerald was a part of Russia’s imperial jewelry collection for over 100 years, though not in its current form.

The 75.61-carat pear shaped Colombian stone was once a 107.67-carat rectangular-shaped emerald. Its first known owner was Catherine the Great, who possessed the stone at some point in her lifetime until her death in 1796, when it began making its way through the royal family.


The Imperial Emerald of Grand Duchess Vladimir in its current setting.It belonged to Tsar Paul I from 1796 until his death in 1801; Tsar Alexander I from 1801 to his death in 1825; Tsar Nicholas 1 from 1825 until his death 1855; and Tsar Alexander II from 1855-1874.

In 1874, Alexander II gave the emerald to his son Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia’s new wife, Grand Duchess Vladimir, born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir is believed to have been in possession of one of the largest private jewelry collections of the early 20th century. She was born in 1854 and died in 1920, when her collection was dispersed among her children.

Her son, the Grand Duke Boris, received all of the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s emeralds, including the 107.67-carat emerald, which he sold to Cartier in 1927.

It was Cartier that mounted the stone into a diamond pendant and hung it from a diamond necklace that famous gemstone dealer and lapidary Raphael Esmerian had acquired from the Payne Whitney family.

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Based on Esmerian’s advice, Cartier re-cut the stone to its current 75.61-carat pear shape in 1954 to improve its clarity, before re-mounting it into a diamond pendant setting and again stringing it from the Payne Whitney diamond necklace, which it lengthened.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased the finished piece of jewelry that year, and it later re-surfaced at auction in Switzerland in 1971, when Esmerian acquired the piece for CHF 430,000.

Now, the emerald has re-emerged on the auction scene from a family’s private collection, with a new and more contemporary diamond setting.

The Imperial Emerald of Grand Duchess Vladimir is
expected to fetch between $2.3 and $3.5 million at the Magnificent Jewels sale, taking place May 15 at Geneva’s Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, with viewings held May 10-15.
Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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