Will the Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence Auction Be the Jewelry Sale of the Century?



Too soon to tell—bidding starts tomorrow, June 19, at 10 a.m., at Christie’s New York. But here’s what we do know: The Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence sale is projected to break the current record for the auction house’s most valuable jewelry sale to date (the December 2011 sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels, which totaled $115.9 million, is the one to beat).

We also know that the auction is being talked about as a landmark event. Consisting of nearly 400  lots spanning more than 500 years, it traces the history of jewelry from the early Mughal period in India through the Maharajas and their collaboration with the world’s most renowned jewelry houses to create some of the most exceptional pieces of jewelry ever made. Included are extraordinary creations by Cartier (the outstanding Art Deco Patiala ruby choker is just one example), Bulgari, Mauboussin, and JAR.

In a nutshell? Heaps of important emeralds, a glittering group of Golconda diamonds, and marvelous finished pieces, including turban ornaments, elaborate gem-set headdresses, and strands upon strands of natural pearls.

In a formal statement, Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive officer of Christie’s, called the collection “the most significant collection of its type ever to come to auction,” adding  that “the sale…will therefore present a truly significant cultural moment and offers a milestone opportunity for collectors.”

But the scale of the jewels, and the gravitas (and in some cases, the unimaginable opulence), is best appreciated when you can picture wearing them in a modern context. This was most certainly Christie’s motivation to have portrait photographer and creative director Claiborne Swanson Frank capture some of fashion’s most influential women in a series of images, in which all sit modeling select auction pieces to dramatic effect.

Highlights from this special collaboration are featured below.

Amanda Alagem in Christies jewelry
Amanda Alagem, accessories director at Harper’s Bazaar magazine wears an antique diamond and multigem sarpech, a pair of antique diamond and enamel bracelets, and an antique diamond and enamel ring. 
Amanda Hearst in Christies pearls
Amanda Hearst, cofounder of the ethical fashion site Maison de Mode and the animal welfare group @finn2finnalliance, as well as contributing editor at Town & Country, wears a natural pearl and diamond necklace and a five-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace by Bhagat. 
Lauren Santo Domingo in Christies jewelry
Lauren Santo Domingo, cofounder of the fashion e-commerce site Moda Operandi, and contributing editor at Vogue, wears a Belle Epoque diamond jigha, an antique diamond rivière necklace, and an antique diamond ring. 
Maya Samuelsson in Christies jewels
Maya Haile Samuelsson, model and founder of the nonprofit organization Three Goats, which is dedicated to improving the well-being of families in Ethiopia, and wife of chef Marcus Samuelsson, wears an antique diamond and emerald sarpech; an antique ruby and diamond bracelet; an antique ruby, emerald, and gold ring; a gem-set gold archer’s ring; and a diamond, ruby, and gold bazuband
Lauren Bush Lauren in Christies jewelry
 Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO and cofounder of Feed, a program dedicated to feeding children around the world, and granddaughter of former President George H. W. Bush, wears an antique emerald, diamond, and pearl necklace. 
Maria Duenas Jacobs in Christies jewelry
Maria Dueñas Jacobs, director of brand development at online personal styling service Stitch Fix, wears a diamond and emerald necklace. 
Patricia Herrera Lansing in Christies jewelry
Patricia Herrera Lansing, creative consultant and daughter of fashion designer Carolina Herrera, wears an antique emerald and diamond sarpech and an antique diamond, emerald, and ruby collar necklace. 
Xin Li in Christies Jewelry
Xin Li, deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific, wears the Patiala ruby choker by Cartier and the pink Golconda diamond ring by JAR. 

Top: Highlights from tomorrow’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence sale of jewelry and precious objects at Christie’s New York, from left: Teresa Lourenco-Antebi, model, yogi, and wife of Juice Press founder, wears an antique diamond and spinel sarpech and an antique diamond and emerald necklace (all portraits by Claiborne Swanson Frank). Elephant brooch in diamonds, cacholong, sapphires, and titanium; JAR. Carved emerald brooch with two interchangeable emerald and diamond mountings in 18k white gold; Cartier.

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All That Glitters writer