A modern suite of ruby and diamond jewels was recently sold by Sotheby’s in Geneva. But the sale caused a minor commotion across the continent in Madrid, where journalists and royal watchers are all wondering one thing: is this the suite of rubies from the collection of the king’s sister?
The demi-parure was made by Mouawad, a century-old jewelry firm founded in Beirut that is now headquartered in Geneva and Dubai. The company is known today for making strikingly modern jewels set with colorful stones, like the ruby and diamond suite that belongs to the Duchess of Cambridge.
Here’s a look at the back of the pieces. The lot notes from Sotheby’s describe the suite as follows: “a necklace of stylised scroll design, set with calibré-cut, baguette and oval rubies, highlighted with brilliant-cut diamonds, length approximately 400mm, a bracelet, length approximately 180mm, and a pair of earrings, collapsible post and hinged back fittings.” Each piece is marked, and the auction estimate for the complete set was 55,000-77,000 Swiss francs (or around $61,000-85,000 USD).
The set is identical to one owned by Infanta Cristina of Spain, daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and sister of King Felipe VI. The Spanish media has been speculating for weeks about whether or not it’s Infanta Cristina’s ruby set that was offered at auction. Her suite, speculated to have been a wedding present, was worn fairly often by the princess in the years following her marriage. Above, she wears the earrings and the bracelet from the suite with the Spanish Floral Tiara at the pre-wedding gala for Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in May 2004.
In January 2005, she wore the earrings and the bracelet again, this time for a reception for foreign diplomats at the Royal Palace in Madrid. She has worn the necklace publicly as well, most notably at a private party celebrating the birthday of King Philippe of the Belgians in April 2010. (See an image from that occasion here.)
The Spanish royal family has not commented on the sale, and Sotheby’s offered no provenance information in its auction notes. It seems very possible that Cristina might have sold the set; she no longer appears at royal events following her husband’s conviction on corruption charges, and it seems likely that she might benefit more from the proceeds of the sale than from the continued possession of the jewels. Ultimately, we don’t know whether these rubies are royal or not—but we do know that they sold at auction in Switzerland on May 13, fetching 69,300 Swiss francs (or around $77,000 USD).