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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

The Art of Jewels: Fine Jewellery and Iconic Gems Auction at Bonhams

On Wednesday 9th December Bonhams Bond Street will host The Art of Jewels: Fine Jewellery and Iconic Gems. One of the major highlights of the sale will be a stunning pearl necklace, belonging to Lady Houston, the renowned philanthropist and benefactor.

Lady-HoustonThe impressive double-row necklace with graduated pearls is expected to fetch £30,000-£50,000. It is made up of large natural pearls of outstanding quality between 5.8-12.8mm.

Their erstwhile owner, Lady Houston, donated a considerable amount of her personal fortune in support of British aviation which would eventually lead to the design of the Spitfire, an integral part of our national defence during WW2.

The life of the famous adventuress was undoubtedly eventful. Born Fanny Lucy Radmall, daughter of a London box-maker, in 1857, she became a professional dancer before eloping to Paris with Frederick Gretton, of the Bass brewing family. In 1883 she married Theodore Francis Brinckman, the eldest son of a baronet. The couple divorced in 1895.

Her second marriage, in 1901, was to George Frederick William Byron, 9th Baron Byron of Rochdale and lasted until his death in 1917. During this period she campaigned as a suffragette and was appointed Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire for her support of a home for nurses who had served in World War One.

Her third and final marriage was in 1924 to Sir Robert Paterson Houston, a Conservative MP and Liverpool ship-owner. When he died, less than 18 months later, he left her £5.5 million (roughly £300 million in today’s money) making her one of the richest women in Britain.

After major contributions to aviation, Lady Houston died on 26 December 1936, months after the Spitfire’s first flight.

Other major lots within the sale include a pendant commemorating the Delhi Durbar of 1911, an event brought to recent attention by the current Maharaja exhibition at the V&A. Designed by Boucheron, the central band is set with rose-cut diamonds. It is expected to fetch between £3,000-4,000. The piece was presented to Miss Edith Hamilton by Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael, Baron Carmichael (1859-1926), governor of Madras.

A rare piece of Renaissance gold work will also be sold in the sale. Expected to fetch £15,000-20,000 this beautiful piece portrays a maiden bathing by a fountain in the foreground, with the water rendered in blue and white enamel, surrounded by her attendants.

Further lots include a rare gold and micromosaic necklace, by Castellani, circa 1875, expected to fetch £15,000-20,000; a private collection of works by Andrew Grima – the “father” of modern British jewellery design and a gem-quality emerald and diamond brooch/pendant which has been in the family since the early 19th century and was collected by an ancestor in India which is expected to fetch £30,000-40,000.

A rare art deco black lacquer bangle, by Cartier, circa 1935, will also be up for auction. The sprung black lacquer cuff is applied to the front with three detachable diamond floral clips and is the epitome of late art deco style. It is expected to fetch £20,000-25,000.

There is an outstanding selection of diamonds being sold, including a fancy-intense yellow diamond single-stone ring, weighing 9.12 carats, expected to fetch £100,000-150,000. A marquise-cut diamond ring, weighing 5.05 carats, E colour, loupe clean, is due to fetch £80,000-100,000 and a brilliant-cut diamond ring, weighing 5.01 carats, D colour, loupe clean, is estimated at £150,000-200,000.

Jean Ghika, Director of UK and Europe at Bonhams Jewellery department comments that: “We are delighted to be chosen to handle the sale of Lady Houston’s natural pearls. These fine quality, natural gems are of impeccable provenance and have never been seen on the open market. They are perfectly placed in a sale which includes many rare and exceptional jewels dating from the Renaissance to the present day and which makes our annual “Art of Jewels” auction such an exciting event”.