Thursday, January 30, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: 2007 Amsterdam Auction of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's Jewellery

A Point de Vue picture of jewellery supposed to be sold in a cancelled auction in 2006
The recent auction of former property of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte has caused quite some interest and revived an old topic when it comes to the Grand Ducal Family, the proposed and later cancelled auction of some 200 pieces of private property of the late Grand Duchess in 2006. After her death in 2005, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's husband and children decided to put most of their wife's/mother's personal jewellery as well as other distinctive pieces such as a set of 12 gilt silver and enamel tea spoons with a tea strainer and sugar tongs and a collection of 15 fans up for sale.

The proposed auction caused a public outcry in the Grand Duchy. Old stories of a strained relationship between Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa resurfaced and rumours of tensions between the siblings and in-laws evolved. In addition, the finances of the Grand Ducal Family as a whole as well as judgement by individual members (or lack thereof) were questioned. In the end, Grand Duke Henri cancelled the auction stating that he had underestimated the strong symbolic value these properties had to the people of Luxembourg and that he had simply wanted to share his mother's legacy with his siblings.

While the first sale was officially cancelled and saved some of the most prominent pieces, most jewellery still ended up on the auction block and with all the interest in the recent auction, we thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the other auctions that followed the cancelled one. During the course of this and the upcoming weeks, we will have a look at three different Sotheby's auctions that included some of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's jewellery. Let's start off with an auction titled "Property from Aristocratic Families including Coaches from a Royal Stable" held in late October 2007 in Amsterdam.
Among the pieces included in the auction was a amethyst and diamond brooch formerly belonging to Luxembourg's late Grand Duchess. Consisting of a wonderfully deep coloured rectangular amethyst surrounded by circular-cut diamonds, the brooch was estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 euros. In the end, it sold for 1,750 euros. The brooch came in a fitted case by Josef Netter & Co.
Also sold was an emerald and diamond flower brooch. Believed to be of French origin, the brooch is made out of a central diamond weighing 1.38 carats surrounded by pear-shaped emeralds set en tremblant to create movement. The central element is surrounded by brilliant-cut diamond leaves and a baguette diamond stem. Estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros, the brooch fetched 6,850 euros.
Made by Parisian jeweller Verger & Cie, this aquamarine and diamond pendant, as well as an unpictured fine chain and an unpictured bracelet, were also included in the auction though it did not sell. Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wore this pendant consisting out of a fancy-cut aquamarine enhanced with three brilliant-cut diamonds at each cardinal site during the early years of her marriage; see here. The three pieces were estimated to be worth between 3,000 and 4,000 euros.
Also included in the auction was a pair of pendent diamond earrings, each designed as an articulated line of brilliant-cut and single-cut diamonds terminating into a brilliant-cut diamond weighing respectively 1.98 and 1.86 carats. Estimated between 9,000 and 14,000 euros, the earrings sold for 14,650 euros.
Estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros, this brooch fetched 4,750 euros for the unknown seller. Designed as a butterfly, the body is set with cabochon turquoises and the wings are adorned with another few cabochon turquoises as well as rose-cut diamonds. The brooch, whose fitting can be unscrewed, is believed to have been made in the 1900s.
One of the less noticeable pieces being sold was a pearl pendant consisting of a grey and a white pear-shaped cultured pearl on two circular-cut diamond tassels. After having been estimated to be worth between 5,000 and 7,000 euros, the piece already found a new owner for 4,000 which is a little odd but anyway.
The seventh and final lot of the former property of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte consisted of a bracelet, a pair of earrings as well as a brooch or pendant including a fine chain. Each of the clusters is made out of three circular-cut emeralds alternating with circular-cut sapphires set around brilliant-cut diamonds. The lot sold for 4,750 euros after originally having been estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros.

Especially the last few lots of auction include a few pieces of jewellery that seem quite familiar. It's entirely possible that those lots also include jewellery formerly owned by Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. To be honest, we can't tell anymore if they seem familiar because they were worn by ladies of the Grand Ducal Family or because we have looked at thousands and thousands of Sotheby's auction lots over the past few days and weeks so that previously unfamiliar jewellery now has become familiar.

As with all of the auctions following the cancelled one, it is not entirely clear who the seller of the above six lots of jewellery was though we can be rather sure that they are to be found among the descendants of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte with the prime suspects being her husband, Grand Duke Jean, and her five children, Archduchess Marie-Astrid, Grand Duke Henri, Princess Margaretha, Prince Jean and Prince Guillaume. Of course they have every right to do with their mother's property as they please though to be perfectly honest, these "secret auctions" do leave a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth considering the statement made when the original auction was cancelled in 2006.


  1. I won't get why they need to sell a 1750-dollar brooch while one of Grand Duchess MT's hats would probably cost the same!

  2. This is only the first of 3 posts on the "secret auctions."

    We don't get why a lot of items were sold either. We are glad we haven't been able to find the dragonfly brooch and the seed pearl choker because these both have a long history of being given as gifts by royal women. It would be a shame for them to be auctioned off.

    We do suspect, however, that most of the items being sold are probably the property of Henri's siblings and their families. Although, he could be auctioning off property he owns, too. It is difficult to tell.

    Some of the pieces sold didn't fetch a lot and wouldn't have even if the royal connection had been listed. I don't get why they were sold.

    I do know that much of MT's clothing must be paid for from the civil list or by different gov departments (depending on the event, like state visits). His siblings do not benefit from owning the family trust, receiving funding from the Gov or being able to send the bills for their clothing to the gov.

    It is sad to see most of these pieces auctioned. We do suspect that many non-jewelry items and other less well known jewels were included in the various auctions.

  3. I had no idea these secret auctions took place after the initial outrage died down! All very cloak and dagger and ultimately a bit sad :(

  4. The Point de Vue picture is just gorgeous! The choker/bandeau top left with the blue fabric looks a lot like the emerald choker sometimes worn with the chaumet emerald tiara... is it the same piece but with a delicious sapphire instead of the emerald?

  5. Yes, it is the same. It's actually also with an emerald in the Point de Vue picture, the quality of the photo just isn't very good.

    Both Maria-Teresa and Joséphine-Charlotte have worn the piece as a necklace though it's actually intended to be a bracelet. It was given to Queen Astrid, JC's mother, by her mother-in-law Queen Elisabeth on the occasion of JC's birth. Thankfully, it has remained in the family.

  6. I love emeralds and chokers and art deco so unsurprisingly I LOVE IT!! And I would love to see it as a bandeau too! Thanks for the info :)

  7. Queen Astrid also wore it as a dress ornament. She had it sewed onto a dress at her hip at least once. She was imaginative with her jewels.

  8. Amsterdam Auction of Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte Jewellery, I love emeralds jewellery and art design.

  9. Are the diamond earrings the same ones that were given to Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte by the Belgian people when she got married?