Catherine the Great Collector – A Piece of Royal History
11 Jun / 10
|In April this year Christie’s in New York sold this historic jewel known as the Catherine the Great Emerald and Diamond Brooch, which once belonged to Catherine II of Russia who ascended to the Russian throne in 1762. This magnificent Imperial gem was a treasure amongst a vast collection of jewels belonging to one of the greatest collectors of all time, Catherine the Great. |
Catherine the Great was born a princess in 1729 in Germany and was baptised as Sophia Frederika Augusta. At the age of just 14 she was chosen as a bride for her cousin Peter, heir to childless Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Sophia went to St Petersburg in 1745 where she married and took the name Yekaterina –Catherine becoming the Grand Duchess of Russia.
Although Catherine had no legitimate claim to the throne only six months after Peter III’s accession she ousted her half witted husband to rule in her own right. Peter was assassinated a few days later and no one knows if she had anything to do with his murder.
Catherine found herself to be the ruler of the world’s largest and wealthiest empire, although she had not a single drop of Russian blood in her veins she was named the ‘beloved mother’ of her people.
She was very fond of collecting all kinds of gemstones and was one of the greatest collectors of all time. Catherine would literally cover herself with dazzling gems and even had her skirts sewn with diamonds. She proclaimed her power and her rank as Empress by displaying her jewels which were renowned for not only their quality but also their size. This beautiful emerald and diamond brooch was part of her private collection and was kept in her Diamond room, where she often gathered her court so they would all be surrounded by gems.
The hexagonal cut emerald of Colombian origin weighs between 60 and 70 carats and is unique in terms of size and quality. The emerald is set within a double row of rose-cut diamonds and old mine-cut diamonds mounted in silver topped gold.
In October 1776, Catherine gave this brooch to her daughter-in-law the future Empress Maria Feodorovna, as a wedding present when she married Catherine’s son and successor Paul I. It was passed down to Catherine’s grand-daughter and great grand-daughter.
It remained in the Prussian house of Hohenzollern until 1959 when Prince Friedrich Leopold died and his private secretary Baron Fritz Cerrini inherited the Prince’s entire fortune. In 1972 it was bought by an American private collector who wore this historic emerald and diamond brooch to a state dinner hosted by President Nixon at the White House in 1973.
On 22nd April 2010 Christie’s in New York sold the Catherine the Great Emerald and Diamond Brooch for $1.65m to a private Middle Eastern buyer.
The Catherine the Great Emerald and Diamond Brooch is a rare imperial jewel that evokes the history of the Russian empire and would truly be the beauty of any collection.
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