A collection of almost 250 jewels gathered over time in Vienna during the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is about to be auctioned on November 6 at Sotheby’s in Geneva. This impressive collection, locked away in a bank vault for almost half a century, brings together unique pieces that bear witness to the wealth and power of 20th-century imperial Vienna. It offers us a precious journey through time into the intimacy of the ruling houses linked to the Habsburg dynasty.
This incredible collection bears witness to the grandeur of Viennese court life in the 19th century. Some pieces are linked to the intimate history of the great Austro-Hungarian families, such as this magnificent tiara (est.180-350,000) set with diamonds and rubies of Burmese origin, signed Köchert and belonging to Duchess Isabelle of Württemberg, Princess of Saxony (1871-1904).
As is this impressive bodice front (est.270-450,000) designed as a floral crown set with diamonds and adorned with natural pearls, signed Emil Biedermann around 1865 (Emil Biedermann was a renowned Viennese jeweller and Köchert’s main competitor in the mid-19th century). Given by Philipp, Duke of Württemberg (1838-1917) as a wedding present to Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria-Teschen, Duchess of Württemberg (1845-1927).
This tiara necklace set with unheated Burmese rubies and diamonds (est. 110-160,000) is also a wedding present that Emperor Franz Joseph bought from Köchert for his niece Archduchess Margarete Sophie of Austria when she married Albrecht, Duke and Crown Prince of Württemberg in 1893. The necklace was intended to form a suite with the ruby and diamond brooch (lot 1071).
This transformable tiara, adorned with diamonds and natural pearls (est.270-450,000), once belonged to Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Deux-Siciles, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany (1844-1899), is a masterpiece of this collection, thanks to its delicacy and beauty.
This sale, organised by Sotheby’s, highlights jewellery production in 19th-century Vienna. Von Mack, Biedermeier, Köchert: the end of the Habsburg monarchy deprived these jewellers of their raison d’être. Without court life, the magnificent jewellery had become obsolete. With the exception of Köchert, almost none of Vienna’s leading fin-de-siècle jewellers survive today.
This unique imperial and royal collection, which has remained virtually undivided and unchanged since the early 20th century, offers a unique opportunity to study Viennese jewellery from the Belle Époque and rediscover the talent of these forgotten masters.