A host of dealers competed for a Victorian emerald and diamond bangle at Woolley & Wallis (26/20% buyer’s premium) on April 20-21; the primary appeal being a superb step-cut Columbian emerald weighing 5.67ct.
It was accompanied by a gemmological report from the SSEF stating that the stone was a ‘green of medium strong saturation’ with no indications of clarity enhancement. The auction house said the hue was ‘stronger and more vivid in colour than the catalogue photography can convey’ and noted ‘few obvious inclusions’.
This was quite possibly a ‘family’ stone, perhaps first cut and mounted in the Georgian or Stuart eras.
Claw-set in silver and gold within a radiating cluster of circular-cut diamonds, it came by descent from Lord Lucius O’Brien 15th Baron Inchiquin (1864-1929) and his bride Ethel Lady Inchiquin (1867-1940). The title Baron Inchiquin is one of the oldest in the peerage of Ireland and was created in 1543 for the Munster nobleman and soldier Murrough O’Brien (1614-73).
Many of the 17 phone bidders envisaged recutting and remounting the emerald. “It was a very functional stone”, said Woolley’s specialist Sam Hug. “It hit a sweet spot. It would be larger than five carats, even if recut, to make a ring or pendant.”
However, there were some who appreciated the jewel as a Victorian whole, complete with its history and provenance. Among them was antique and retro jewellery specialist Hancocks and it was the Burlington Arcade dealership that tendered the winning bid of £500,000 (estimate £60,000-80,000).
From the same source was a mid-19th century diamond parure comprising a devant de corsage brooch, a necklace, an impressive pair of drop earrings and a small clip.
The necklace was particularly attractive, alternating floral links with stylised ribbon bows, the whole set with cushion-shaped, rose-cut and pear-shaped stones with a total weight of around 70ct. Some of the gold and silver fittings had been altered and rhodium plated in the early 20th century.
Estimated at £50,000-70,000, it took £80,000.
This £2m sale was Woolley & Wallis’ highest-grossing event, surpassing even the sale in 2012 when a pair of natural pearl drop earrings sold for £1.6m.