Jewellery aficionados will be delighted to learn that not one, but two important auctions are taking place in March. One offers a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the gilded world of British aristocracy, while the other is inspired by the delightfully whimsical and colourful world of jeweller Michele della Valle.
The first jewellery auction is part of a larger sale, entitled The Family Collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma, which is taking place at Sotheby’s London on March 24. In what will undoubtedly be a blockbuster auction, it offers the furniture, artworks, jewellery and objets d’art belonging to Lady Patricia Mountbatten, the daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, and Britain’s last Viceroy of India.
The sale is of the contents of Newhouse, an 18th-century Kent manor house that was the home to Lady Patricia and her husband John Knatchbull, the 7th Baron Brabourne. The jewellery pieces include gifts from family members, with some even being passed down from Queen Victoria.
Lady Patricia had the title of 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and was the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the great niece of Russia’s last tsarina, and was first cousin to Prince Philip.
At her marriage in 1946 to Knatchbull (who later became an Academy Award-nominated film producer, who worked on the films A Passage to India and the Agatha Christie adaptations Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express,) Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were her bridesmaids, and Prince Philip was an usher.
A glimpse into Lady Patricia's life can be seen in a chain bracelet with Girl Guides gold and enamelled medallions, which was gifted by her father for her 21st birthday. A member of the 1st Buckingham Palace Company as a child, itself created in 1937 to allow Princess Elizabeth to be a Girl Guide, Lord Mountbatten had the golden "badges" made into a bracelet for his beloved daughter. He also designed a circular white diamond brooch for her, pavé-set with waves of single-cut diamonds, centred with a single brilliant-cut diamond.
Another piece, Lot 326, is a gem-set bracelet, which was possibly a wedding gift from her father Lord Louis Mountbatten to her mother Lady Edwina Ashley in 1922. Made of coloured sapphires and zircons, it is also set with circular-cut diamonds.
Lady Edwina, was a great collector of jewellery, in particular, the colourful Tutti-Frutti style of the Art Deco period. A 1930s jabot pin decorated with a tiny bird perched in a tree, that has leaves of carved emeralds, flowers of carved sapphires and rubies, and branches of white diamonds, appears at the auction, as does a necklace from the same period, which was designed as a wreath of articulated rubies, emeralds and sapphires, with collet-set diamonds and sapphire beads, inset with single-cut diamonds.
Also offered for sale for the first time is a set of four mourning brooches that belonged to Queen Victoria. Passed down through the family, one was a gift to the Queen Victoria in 1861, from her husband Prince Albert, to offer solace on the death of her mother. It gained extra significance in the queen's life when her beloved husband also died that same year. When her daughter Alice died in 1878, the queen wore three brooches made in black agate and set with her name in diamonds. These personal items have been passed down through the family, and this is the first time any have come into the public domain.
Michele della Valle jewels at Christie's online
The second auction is an online sale at Christie’s, of 65 pieces by storied jewellery designer Michele della Valle.
Entitled Colourful Whimsy: Jewels by Michele della Valle, the collection has been curated by the jeweller himself. Known for his love of coloured gemstones and nature, this collection is a whimsical journey through tiny, dazzling parrots, delicate earrings shaped like ripe cherries, and even a rabbit brooch made from blue topaz, ruby and diamonds.
For the romantically inclined, there is a heart shaped pendant made from round-cut white diamonds, carved emerald beads, sapphire cabochons, and bead-cut rubies.
A four-leaf clover bracelet has been fashioned from round-cut emeralds, peridots and diamonds, and set into 18k yellow gold, while a huge blue tanzanite ring, in the same dazzling colour as the sea off Capri, edged with cabochon rubies and white diamonds is also on offer.
Lot 31 meanwhile, is a colourful multi-gem and white diamond necklace, made from faceted blue topaz, amethyst, prasiolite, citrine and lemon quartz, and set into 18k white gold with round-cut diamonds. Another pair of drop earrings is made to look like miniature lemons hanging from garnet and diamond stems, with the fruits made from pavé round-cut yellow sapphires.
With online bidding taking place for two weeks, between March 3 and March 17, the entire collection is offered without reserve prices.