Katherine Domyan’s rock crystal, diamond and ruby David Webb bracelet featuring black enamel chimera beads is expected to sell for between $60,000 and $80,000 next month.
New York—The fall jewelry auction season is getting ready to kick off, and Bonhams New York will start with a collection of pieces owned by an Olympic champion.

On Sept. 21, the auction house will offer jewelry from the estate of Katherine Domyan, two-time gold medalist, as part of its Fine Jewelry sale.

Domyan was destined for swimming greatness, it would seem; she was born in Budapest, Hungary, to two-time Olympic champion water polo player Marton Homonnai and Hungarian swimming champion Katalin Szoke.

She competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics at the age of 17, winning two gold medals and setting world records in the 100-meter freestyle relay and the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

She won gold again in the same two events two years later at the 1954 European Aquatics Championships in Turin, Italy.

Domyan and the man who would become her husband, Arpad, also an accomplished athlete, both competed in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia (he played for the Hungarian water polo team.)

That was the same year as the Hungarian Revolution, in which protestors took to the streets to demand freedom from the Soviet Union and a more democratic political system. The Soviets quelled the revolution after just 12 days, according to History.com, leading to thousands of Hungarians being killed and wounded and hundreds of thousands more fleeing the country.

20180831 Katherine and ArpadKatherine and Arpad Domyan in an undated photo
After the 1956 Olympics were finished, Domyan and 42 other Hungarian athletes sought political asylum in the United States, but the immigration quota in effect at the time had been filled. She and her fellow athletes were stranded in Australia until Sports Illustrated magazine stepped in to help (the events of the ’56 Games are recounted in this June 2012 article available on SI.com).

They were granted political asylum in the U.S. in late 1956.

Domyan moved to the United States in 1957 and married Arpad four years later. The two of them would eventually create a successful real estate development company, building office and apartment complexes across the country.

Katherine Domyan was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Swimming Hall of Fame also honored her and her three team mates as the relay team of the century.

She died in October 2017 at the age of 82.

Bonhams now will auction off more than 60 pieces of jewelry dating from the 1970s to the early 2000s purchased by Domyan and her husband throughout their 56-year marriage.

In the fall issue of Bonhams Magazine, author Nicholas Foulkes said the collection “speaks of a unique time in America’s history, a time that took two refugees on a rags-to-riches ride from facing Soviet tanks in war-torn Budapest to presidential inaugurations, fundraising galas, White House dinners, summers on the Côte d’Azur and first nights at the opera—a life that, as Arpad Domyan deftly puts it, ‘involved a lot of black tie.’”

So, not surprisingly, the Domyan collection includes pieces from some of the world’s top jewelry houses.

Highlights include a Van Cleef & Arpels late Art Deco ruby and diamond bracelet; 36 pieces of jewelry from David Webb, including a carved rock crystal chimera bangle and an emerald and diamond necklace; and a number of Harry Winston pieces, including a 23.13-carat emerald-cut diamond ring and an 86.30-carat diamond fringe necklace.

It is estimated the collection will sell for between $2.1 million and $3.2 million in total at the jewelry auction.


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