One of the Most Important Royal Jewelry Collections in History is Coming to Auction

You could own a piece of history with Sotheby’s latest auction.

By |
Natural pearl and diamond tiara, Köchert, circa 1900

In a dazzling display of history and opulence, Sotheby’s has unveiled one of the most extraordinary collections of royal jewelry ever to grace the auction block. “Vienna 1900: An Imperial and Royal Collection” promises to transport us back in time, offering a rare glimpse into the lives of Central Europe’s influential ruling families during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Comprising over 200 pieces, this remarkable collection boasts impeccable provenance, with ties to the Austrian Habsburg dynasty and other prominent European royal houses. What sets this collection apart is not only its historical significance but also its astonishing state of preservation. In a story fit for a film, these treasures lay hidden in a bank vault for nearly a century, only recently discovered in their original splendor. 

The estimated value of this single-owner collection is nothing short of impressive, ranging from $3.3 million to $5.6 million. It will be presented to the world in two dedicated auctions on November 6th and 7th, as part of Sotheby’s Luxury Week in Geneva, alongside the Magnificent Jewels sale on November 8th. Before the auctions, this glittering assembly will embark on a global tour, stopping at Sotheby’s locations in New York, Cologne, Paris, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai, Taipei, and London.

Ruby and diamond necklace, Köchert, circa 1890-1895
Ruby and diamond brooch, Köchert, circa 1890-1895

The journey of bringing this exceptional collection to the world has been a collaborative effort, with Sotheby’s working closely with Philipp Württemberg Art Advisory GmbH. The company specializes in advising clients in the acquisition and sale of art. It covers a wide range from Old Masters to Contemporary Jewelry and Decorative Art.

Andres White Correal, Deputy Chairman and Jewelry Senior Director of Sotheby’s, said: “This collection is arguably the most important Noble Jewels auction since the landmark sale of the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family held by Sotheby’s Geneva four years ago. The collection is truly exceptional, a unique combination of magnificent ceremonial court jewels worn by members of Europe’s Royal Families, as well as an important assemblage of men’s dress accessories, cigarette cases, and objets de vertu. Presented together, in addition to their superior craftsmanship and exquisite design, they brilliantly showcase the style and grandeur of the Habsburg court and permit us a rich glimpse into the private lives of these European ruling Houses who gravitated around the court of Vienna.” 

Suite of diamond brooches and pendants, Wilhelm Haarstrick, circa 1900

The pieces in this collection illuminate the rise and grandeur of Viennese court life following the fall of the French monarchy and provide insights into the alliances, tastes, and styles of the Houses of Habsburg, Bourbon-Parma, Bourbon-Two Sicilies, and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. At the time, these houses were setting fashion trends that radiated across Europe from the early 19th century and for the next 100 years. During this period, Vienna radiated with awe-inspiring splendor and glory, welcoming royal families from across the continent. This collection is a faithful witness to that era, offering a tantalizing glimpse into the private lives of Europe’s ruling houses and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a piece of history. Remarkable jewels from the collections of figures like Archduchess Margarete Sophie of Austria, Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany, Archduchess Marie Therese of Austria-Teschen, Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, and Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma are featured.

Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth, affectionately known as ‘Sissi,’ played pivotal roles in shaping the era’s fashion trends. Sissi’s iconic star-shaped diamond jewels, captured by German court portrait artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1865, ignited a trend that spanned the late 19th century. Among the highlights of this collection is a charming suite of three natural diamond stars, versatile enough to be worn as brooches, hairpins, or on a tiara frame.

Natural pearl and diamond devant-de-corsage, circa 1865
Natural pearl and diamond brooch, circa 1865

Emperor Franz Joseph also left his mark by commissioning the Habsburg ruby and natural diamond parure in a fluid, naturalistic, floral style. This parure and a transformable ruby and natural diamond necklace created for Archduchess Margarete Sophie of Austria showcases Köchert’s masterful craftsmanship.

Natural pearls reigned supreme during the 19th century, and this collection features an extraordinary corsage ornament designed as a garland supporting exceptional natural pearls and diamonds. Gifted to Archduchess Marie Therese of Austria-Teschen in 1865, this piece is the most significant 19th-century jewel to come to auction in recent years. Other highlights include a brooch featuring a button- and drop-shaped natural pearl and diamonds, a natural pearl and diamond tiara by Köchert, and a five-strand natural pearl necklace with a diamond clasp. 

Natural pearl and diamond necklace, attributed to Köchert, late 19th century

“Vienna 1900: An Imperial and Royal Collection” is not just a jewelry auction; it’s a journey through history. It offers a rare opportunity to own a piece of the opulent past, where craftsmanship, elegance, and regal allure reign supreme. As these pieces emerge from their century-long slumber, they invite us to relive the grandeur of a bygone era – a captivating testament to the enduring beauty of royalty.