Sotheby’s to auction off jewel with 96.62ct Walska yellow diamond.

A Van Cleef & Arpels brooch could fetch £5 million when it goes under the gavel at Sotheby’s in Geneva next month.

The brooch features a jewel-encrusted bird carrying a 96.62ct fancy vivid yellow briolette diamond in its beak known as the Walska Briolette Diamond.


The brooch will go up for auction as part of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale on November 13th. Sotheby’s has given it a pre-sale estimate of US$8 million (£5 million).

Van Cleef & Arpels bought the diamond, which once belonged to opera singer Ganna Walska, at Sotheby’s in 1971. A year later the jewellery house was comissioned by an American collectot to transform it into a brooch.

The resulting design was a bird of paradise crafted in yellow gold and set with yellow and white diamonds, emeralds and a cabochons sapphire, carrying the Walska diamond in its beak.

The Walska diamond can be detached from the brooch and worn as a pendant while the bird’s wings also detach to form a pair of earrings and the tail can be transformed into a separate brooch.

The brooch was exhibited in 2011 in a retrospective of Van Cleef & Arpel’s work titles Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, held at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt museum in New York. It was also shown a year later in another exhibition, The Art of High Jewelry at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewellery division in Europe and the Middle East and chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, said: “The Walska Briolette Diamond brooch is the perfect demonstration of how a great jeweller can emphasise the beauty of a spectacular stone by transforming it into a unique piece. This historic diamond, which is of an extraordinary size for an antique-cut briolette, comes back on the market after 42 years, in a fabulous bespoke piece of jewellery.”

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