Under The Hammer

Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence Makes History

Not as Christie’s top grossing jewellery auction, but as the best performing auction of any Indian jewellery and art.

Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence Makes History
Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence Auction Emerald, ruby and diamond gold state pen case and inkwell

Christie’s much anticipated Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction on June 19 came in more than $US6 million short compared to the US$115.9 million sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels in December 2011, still its top-grossing single-owner jewellery auction to date.

While not quite living up to its much-touted reputation as the jewellery sale of the century, results were hardly disappointing: The marathon 12-hour auction of almost 400 lots achieved an eye-watering US$109,271,875, with 93 per cent sold by lots and 92 per cent sold by value. According to Christie’s, this sale recorded the highest total for any auction of Indian art and Mughal objects.

This belle epoque diamond Devant-de-Corsage brooch by Cartier sold at Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence Auction for over US$10m

The top lot was a Cartier Belle Époque Devant-de-corsage, estimated between $10 mill to $15 mill and eventually sold for $10,603,500 to a private collector. The 17.21-ct D-IF Arcot II, a Golconda diamond once owned by Queen Charlotte, consort of King of Great Britain George III, went under the hammer at US$3.75 mill; again, well within its estimated value of between US$2 mill to US$4 mill. The other publicised rock however, a 52.58-ct Golconda diamond on the Mirror of Paradise diamond ring, was sold below its estimated US$7 mill to US$10 mill, at US$6,517,500.

  • The Arcot II diamond
  • The Mirror of Paradise diamond

Among the top 10 lots, two stand out for having almost doubled their estimates: The Baroda pearl canopy, a carpet complete encrusted with over 500,000 pearls, as well as numerous diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds sewn on silk; and a Cartier ‘Imperial Moghul’ necklace and earrings set adorned with spinel, diamonds, emeralds and natural pearls.

It’s no surprise that all the top 10 lots were jewellery (bejewelled objects included), given that it ranks as the fastest-growing category in the luxury goods market. Jewels with provenance remain as trophy assets for the discerning collector because of their guaranteed resale value.

  • The Baroda pearl canopy
  • Cartier ‘Imperial Moghul’ necklace

“Beginning with the sale announcement in April, there has been an overwhelming response to this exceptional collection with momentum building from the international tour to the New York exhibition culminating with the excitement witnessed in the saleroom. Today we witnessed a record total for the world’s greatest collection of Indian jewels and jewelled objects to ever be brought to auction. The impressive prices realized for the jewels ranging from early Mughal pieces to the significant designs by Cartier through to contemporary pieces by Bhagat and JAR illustrate the sophisticated buying tastes of our clients.” – Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewelry at Christie’s.

The auction offers a comprehensive and retrospective perspective of Mughal art from the 17th century onwards. It also provided insight into the spectacular collaborations between the opulent maharajas and some of the world’s most acclaimed jewellery brands, such as Cartier, Bvlgari, and JAR. All objects were from the Al Thani Collection, an extensive art collection owned by the House of Thani, the ruling family of Qatar. The sale was a partnership between Christie’s Jewellery and World Art departments, along with independent art advisory firm The Fine Art Group.

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