Dating from the mid-19th century, one of the lots on offer is a diamond parure comprised of a necklace, a brooch and a pair of earrings with an estimate of $3m-5m.
Its coloured diamonds are believed to have formed part of a gift given to Sultan Ahmed III (1673-1736) by Empress Catherine I of Russia (1684-1727), wife of Peter the Great, to negotiate the end of the siege of Pruth in 1711.
According to an account by Voltaire in his History of the Russian Empire under Peter the Great (1759), Catherine urged her husband to pursue a peaceful outcome to the stalemate of the siege. Knowing the importance of the Oriental custom to bring gifts, Catherine gathered all the jewels she had brought with her and offered them to the Sultan. He accepted and a peace treaty was agreed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, ending the siege.
These jewels then passed into the Ottoman treasury, were made into jewellery, and were eventually presented to the wife of the Khedive Teufik of Egypt, possibly for the birth of the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan in 1874.
Worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division David Bennett believes the coloured diamonds are Indian and the jewellery set may have been made in Alexandria.
From The Collection Of Catherine The Great
The second piece has an equally interesting history.
Estimated at $3m-5m, a diamond choker with bow is thought to have been part of the collection of Catherine the Great.
It was originally designed as two separate jewels, crafted around 1760-80, and are likely to have been worn sewn directly onto a dress.
During the First World War, the Imperial treasure of Russia was moved from St Petersburg to Moscow, and were stored in the Kremlin. A number of jewels – including this necklace and bow brooch – were taken to London and offered at auction at a sale of The Russian State Jewels in 1927 to raise money for the Soviet cause.
They have only been in two private collections since the 1927 sale, including the current owner who has now decided to sell.
Bennett added: “These two stunning jewels carry with them a fascinating insight into the luxury and opulence of the Russian court in the second half of the 18th century. It is difficult to overstate their rarity and historical importance.”
Alongside the sale of the jewels is a rare copy of a catalogue that was commissioned after the war which itemised the jewellery collection of the Romanovs from the early 17th century onwards. This copy of Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones has an estimate of $38,000-51,000. It is rare as many of these catalogues were destroyed by the Bolsheviks.
The Sotheby’s auction on November 16 will also feature a fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 8.01 carats. This carries an estimate of $15m-25m. The diamond has recently been cut and polished and set in a ring by Cartier.