Late-19th-century necklace under hammer

Christie’s jewellery specialist Marie-Cécile Cisamolo marvels at the wonderful gemstones and possible royal connections of this ‘incredibly rare’ late-19th-century necklace. On 16 May it is offered in our Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva.


‘Tiffany is well-known today for its amazing designs. It is also passionate about gemstones. This Tiffany & Co. necklace is an amazing design, with amazing gemstones in the middle,’ observes Marie-Cécile Cisamolo, jewellery specialist at Christie’s in Geneva.


Offered on 16 May at Christie’s in Geneva, the diamond-and-emerald necklace was made between 1880 and 1890, a decade after the jewellery house had opened what The New York Times  called a ‘palace of jewels’ at 15 Union Square in Manhattan. With black-walnut counters and ebony cases holding watches, fans, opera glasses and other articles in wood, leather, silver, cloisonné, enamel, bronze and rosewood, the building was reported to have cost half a million dollars to erect.


Mounted with old-cut diamonds and unusual circular-cut emeralds from Colombia, this necklace is testament to Tiffany & Co.’s early commitment to superlative craftsmanship. ‘The central largest emerald has had no treatment whatsoever,’ says Cisamolo, indicating the stone’s brilliant clarity.


According to the specialist, the distinctive green gemstones may have come from the famous collection of Queen Isabella II of Spain, who in 1878 had auctioned some of her emeralds in Paris. At the time Tiffany & Co. was on something of a buying spree in Europe, importing royal and imperial gems to America where families such as the Vanderbilts, the Morgans and the Stanfords were eager to acquire these tokens of a bygone era.


For Cisamolo, the most eye-catching feature of the necklace are its upside-down fleur-de-lis motifs, a design traditionally used in the heraldry of the royal House of Bourbon, and which would therefore have made it particularly appealing in the American market of the late 19th century.


To modern collectors as well, this necklace has just about everything. ‘It is incredibly rare for a necklace with such amazing gemstones to still be intact after more than 100 years,’ says Cisamolo. ‘The quality of it is extraordinary. And it is also very wearable and super-flexible.’


  • Late-19th-century necklace under hammer