Rothschild Gems, Frost’s Wine, Michelangelo Boost Sales

An emerald and diamond necklace, part of a "parure,'' comprising a necklace, a bracelet and earrings, with emerald and diamond weights of 213 carats and about 135 carats respectively. It was included in the inaugural jewel auction to be held by Phillips de Pury & Co. at Claridge's Hotel in London. Source: Phillips de Pury & Co. via Bloomberg

Jewels that once belonged to the richest woman in England sold for $2.9 million at auction today as collectors buy gems with historical value.

A pearl-and-diamond tiara worn by Rothschild heiress Hannah, Countess of Rosebery, sold for 1.2 million pounds with fees. It was estimated at as much as 1.5 million pounds at hammer prices. Her bracelet and brooch sold for 577,250 pounds, beating an estimate of 400,000 pounds at Christie’s International in London.

Sellers of diamonds are offering them at auction again as the stones fetch higher prices than those achieved before the 2008 financial crisis.

“The Rothschild connection adds to the value,” Duncan Semmens, a director at the London-based jeweler Hancocks, said in an interview before the sale. “Buyers at the top end of the market want quality pieces with a history that can be traced.”

The Rosebery pieces have been in an unidentified private collection for more than 130 years. The Countess (1851-1890) was the granddaughter of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the founder of the English branch of the banking business. The Christie’s sale totaled 7.5 million pounds from 286 lots, 74 percent of which were successful.

Bidding was selective for modern jewelry with unidentified provenances at a Phillips de Pury & Co. sale last night. The auction raised 1.6 million pounds with fees against an upper estimate of 12.2 million pounds with 32 percent of the 370 lots finding buyers.

The auction coincides with a week of Russian-art sales in London -- Phillips was acquired by the Moscow-based luxury retail company Mercury Group in 2008.

Claridge’s Shop

It was the first of two events that Phillips plans to hold each year at Claridge’s, a five-star hotel in London’s Mayfair.

“It is the first jewels sale after several years in London and we are very pleased with the set-up and structure at Claridge’s, which we aim to build on as we knew the return to the jewels market would take time to develop,” Giulia Constantini, Phillips’s head of communications, said in an e-mail after the event.

The New York- and London-based auction house has leased a 750-square-foot (69 square meter) retail space behind a shop front by the Art Deco hotel’s Brook Street entrance.

Finn Schouenborg Dombernowsky, Phillips’s European managing director, wouldn’t specify the lease’s length or cost. The space will alternate between auction previews and selling displays of contemporary design.

Phillips opened its European headquarters in a former Post Office sorting station in Howick Place, Victoria, in 2008. The location, in an enclave south of St. James’s Park, has proved a taxi ride too far for some clients, said dealers.

Frost’s Wine

A bottle of Chateau Lafite dating from the year that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated is among the wines that television interviewer David Frost is selling tomorrow.

The 1865 Lafite is one of more than 300 bottles from the cellar of Frost’s house in Chelsea, west London. The 81-lot entry may raise as much as 120,000 pounds, Christie’s said.

Lafite has become the must-have Bordeaux for Chinese wine buyers. In October, three bottles of the 1869 vintage sourced from the chateau each made HK$1.8 million ($230,000) in Hong Kong, auction records for single bottles of wine. Frost’s 1865 vintage is estimated at 3,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds.

“These bottles have been lovingly collected by an enthusiast of older wines,” Christie’s specialist Carolyn Holmes said. “They’re very dusty and the labels aren’t great, though the levels are good.”

The 1865 Lafite, one of the chateau’s more highly rated 19th-century vintages, was tasted in magnum in 2002 by Master of Wine Nick Bulleid, who said it was perfectly preserved.

Frost is also selling bottles of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1853 -- the first vintage -- and Chateau Margaux 1870, estimated respectively at 500 pounds to 700 pounds and 3,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds.

Michelangelo Fresco

Drawings for a fresco that Michelangelo was to paint in a head-to-head competition with Leonardo da Vinci may fetch as much as 5 million pounds at Christie’s London on July 5.

The double-sided sheet of black chalk studies of male nudes probably dates from 1504 when Michelangelo was working on “The Battle of Cascina,” commissioned for a wall opposite Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari” in the Palazzo della Signoria, Florence. The fresco commemorating a Florentine victory over Pisan troops in 1364 went unfinished when Michelangelo was called to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1505. Neither painting survives.

Private Collection

The sheet is the last of 24 surviving preparatory studies for the fresco that remains in private hands and has been in the same private collection for more than 30 years, said Christie’s.

Owners of trophy-name Old Master drawings have been encouraged after a series of record prices, such as the 29.2 million pounds ($47.6 million) paid for Raphael’s black chalk “Head of a Muse” at Christie’s in December 2009.

The record auction price for a Michelangelo drawing is the 8.1 million pounds paid for a pen-and-ink study of “The Risen Christ” at Christie’s in July 2000. The successful bidder on that Michelangelo and Raphael’s “Muse” was the New York collector Leon Black, said dealers.

“It’s an interesting drawing,” London-based dealer Jean-Luc Baroni, who underbid the record-breaking Raphael, said of the work for sale in July. “Still, it doesn’t have the intensity of some the artist’s other studies.”

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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