A “once-in-a-lifetime” collection of royal Indian jewellery fetched over $109 million in the United States, with a 17-carat Golconda diamond, a ceremonial sword of the Nizams of Hyderabad and a bejewelled huqqa setting world records, according to global auction house Christie’s.
The items included a 17-carat Golconda diamond “Arcot II”, once owned by the Nawab of Arcot, that sold for $3.37 million. The Arcot II is a pear-shaped, brilliant-cut, 17.21-carat diamond, found in India’s Golconda region in the late 18th century. The stone was given to Queen Charlotte of Great Britain by the regional ruler of India, the Nawab of Arcot.
The sale also included an antique 33-diamond necklace once owned by the Nizams of Hyderabad, which sold for nearly $2.41 million, Christie’s announced on Twitter.
Several pieces from treasure house of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of erstwhile Hyderabad state, were sold by globally-renowned auction house last month.
These items, among 400 objects from the Al-Thani Collection of the Qatari royal family, went under the hammer at the “Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence” auction.
The set established “the highest total for any auction of Indian art and Mughal objects, and the second highest auction total for a private jewellery collection”, Christie’s said a statement.
“Once-in-a-lifetime collection, and a specially designed New York exhibition, the ‘Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence’ auction in New York achieved $109,271,875, establishing the highest total for any auction of Indian art and jewelled objects, and the second highest auction total for a private jewellery collection,” the global auction house said in a statement.
Christie’s had earlier said that this collection was poised to be the most valuable auction of jewellery and jewelled objects. The total auction value of $109.2 million, however, fell short of the current auction record held by “The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” auction, which totalled $144 million in December 2011.
Nonetheless, it featured among the “most storied private collections ever featured at auction”, as per Christie’s. The auction had bidders from 45 countries, including India.
The auction started with the “Indore Sapphire Taveez Bead Pendant Necklace, Mounted By Cartier” that owes its provenance to Indore’s Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II. The royal necklace achieved $206,250, surpassing an estimate of $60,000, Christie’s said.
Another major sale was of enamelled and jewelled ‘huqqah’ set from 1680-1720, “almost certainly made in the imperial Mughal workshop” as per Christie’s, which went under the hammer for $759,000 as compared to its higher limit estimate of $350,000.
The carved emerald brooch, and interchangeable ‘Jigha’ mounting depicting Lord Rama, Sita and Hanuman has sold for $735,000.
Other notable items included The Mirror of Paradise, a rectangular-cut, 52.58-carat, D-color, type IIa, internally flawless diamond ring, which sold for $6.5 million, below its low-end estimate of $7 million.
The Shah Jahan dagger, named for India’s fifth Mughal emperor, sold for $3.4 million, and set a record price for an Indian jade object and a record price for a piece with Shah Jahan provenance. A Mughal masterpiece, it features scrolling designs inlaid in gold at the top of the blade, and an inscription in ‘Nastaliq’ script with a title the monarch had taken.
Signed pieces by Cartier and contemporary jewels by JAR and Bhagat also did well, greatly exceeding their estimates, Christie’s noted, with all items on offer selling.
A five-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace and a diamond brooch created by Mumbai-based jewellery house Bhagat sold for high prices as well — $1.69 million and $212,500 respectively.
Experts said that this sale was widely expected to set records as it was one of the most comprehensive collections of Indian royal jewellery.
“The Al-Thani Collection is known to be one of the most important and comprehensive collections of Mughal jewellery and objects as well as important pieces of jewellery made over the last 200 years by leading Western jewellery houses for erstwhile Indian royalty, and of course, contemporary Indian jewellery designers. The prices achieved demonstrate the increasing attention collectors pay to provenance, history and rarity as some of these pieces are impossible to find,” said Mallika Sagar, auctioneer for Pundole’s, the Mumbai based auction house.
The sale also ranks as the second-highest auction total for a private jewellery collection, coming from the Al-Thani dynasty, the ruling family of Qatar. The highest total for a private collection is held by The Legendary Jewels — the Elizabeth Taylor’s collection — which garnered $115.9 million.
The sale’s big winners were the collectors able to invest in jewels with historical provenance and guaranteed resale value. Another key beneficiary is the Al Thani Foundation, the owner of the 400 objects which were auctioned by Christie’s.
Established by the ruling family of Qatar, the House of Thani, the foundation is led by Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani and comprises one of the most extensive art collections in the Arab world, estimated at 6,300 pieces. As the foundation prepares to open a museum at the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris next spring, this sale has helped offload pieces that have already been exhibited around the world and raise cash to diversify its collection for 2020.
The Al Thani collection was built in just a decade and has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert in London and Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage.
This level of exposure has helped strengthen the secondary market for the wares.