Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spitfire Philanthropist Brooke Astor Spreads Her Wealth From Beyond the Grave

Spitfire New York socialite, philanthropist and emerald-lover, Brooke Astor, had a great motto: "Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.”

Well, even though Astor passed away in 2007 at the age of 105, she continued to spread her wealth this week via a Sotheby's auction that generated $18.8 million for her beloved charities.

Among the fabulous items up for auction were hundreds of personal possessions from her estate, including 64 lots of jewelry. The jewelry alone generated $5.7 million, $2 million above their high estimate. 

The highlight of the auction was a platinum necklace made by Bvlgari in 1959. A gift from her husband, Vincent Astor, the breathtaking piece is set with 13 drop emeralds weighing approximately 71 carats, 14 cabochon emeralds (41 carats), 14 marquise diamonds (8.5 carats) and numerous brilliant-cut diamonds weighing 50 carats.

The necklace entered the auction with an estimate of $250,000-$350,000. It ended up selling for almost twice that — $686,500.

Astor stands before a portrait of her late husband, Vincent Astor, in her Park Avenue home in this photo from 1992.

Brooke Astor recounted in her 1980 autobiography that the necklace and matching earrings were commissioned during a trip that she and her husband took to London in autumn 1958. He died the following spring and Brooke did not know the jewelry had been ordered. Nearly two years later, she received a letter from the house of Bvlgari with the details of the pieces as well a note penned by her husband asking for the jewelry to be delivered on Brooke's birthday. She completed the purchase with Bvlgari and considered the necklace to be the last and most memorable gift from her loving husband.

Another important piece from Astor's collection was her platinum and diamond engagement ring featuring an emerald center stone weighing 22.84 carats. It carried a pre-auction estimate of $100,000-$150,000 and sold for $1.2 million.

Pair of platinum, emerald and diamond earclips by Verdura were estimated at $30,000-$40,000 and sold for $152,000. Platinum, emerald and diamond brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels was estimated at $60,000-$80,000, but sold for $254,500.

The organizations selected by Astor to benefit from her estate included the New York Public Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pierpont Morgan Library, Animal Medical Center of New York, and the New York City Schools.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

76-Carat Flawless Archduke Joseph Diamond Hits the Auction Block on Nov. 13

Billed as one of the rarest and most famous diamonds in the world, the 76.02-carat internally flawless Archduke Joseph Diamond is expected to fetch more than $15 million at a Christie's auction in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 13.

A product of the legendary Golconda mine in India, the colorless cushion-cut Archduke Joseph Diamond shares its lineage with some of the largest and most spectacular diamonds ever discovered, including the 105.6-carat Koh-i-noor, the 45.52-carat Hope, and the 140.64-carat Regent.

Christie's auction headliner was named for Archduke Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962), who passed the gem on to his son, Archduke Joseph Francis (1895-1957) in the early 1930s. The son reportedly deposited the stone in a bank where it remained through World War II. It was later sold to a European banker.

After decades out of the spotlight, the diamond reappeared in 1961 at an auction in London, but remained unsold when it did not meet its reserve. Thirty-two years later, the diamond reappeared at Christie's and created a sensation when it sold for $6.5 million ($10.5 million in current dollars) to an anonymous buyer.

In 1999, Alfred J. Molina, owner of Phoenix-based Molina Fine Jewelers, purchased the Archduke Joseph Diamond in a private sale from the anonymous purchaser. Soon after, he had the famous 78.54-carat diamond recut, sacrificing 2.52 carats of its original weight. The recutting effort resulted in an internally flawless rating, greatly improving the previous grade of Slightly Included (SI-1).

The current owner of the diamond wants to remain anonymous, according to the Christie's. “The magic of auction sometimes brings back great gems to our salerooms more than once,” said François Curiel, international head of Christie’s Jewellery Department. “In November, we have the privilege to give both new and established collectors the opportunity to own a piece of history once again.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TV Stars Vergara, Hendricks and Lakshmi Rock the Emmy Awards in Precious Platinum

Precious platinum was front and center Sunday night at Hollywood's biggest celebration of television achievement – the Primetime Emmy Awards. Among the high-profile actresses turning heads in their colorful gowns and stunning platinum baubles were Modern Family's Sofia Vergara, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series nominee Vergara sparked a media frenzy in her Zuhair Murad beaded teal gown accessorized with diamonds and platinum. Her Neil Lane-designed jewelry included platinum and diamond earrings (45 carats), platinum and diamond cuff bracelets (110 carats) and a platinum and diamond ring (20 carats).

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nominee Hendricks channeled Marilyn Monroe in her custom metallic frock from Christian Sirano, beautifully adorned with platinum earrings featuring rubies and diamonds by designer Lorraine Schwartz. Hendricks' accessories also included a Schwartz-designed platinum cuff and bangles sparkling with ruby, jade and diamonds.

Top Chef star Padma Lakshmi took her fashion cues from Pantone's official color of 2012 - tangerine tango. She rocked the red carpet in a stunning tangerine gown by Monique Lhuillier. Laksmi turned to jewelry designer Fred Leighton for her platinum baubles, which included vintage platinum pendant earrings from the 1920s with coral, onyx and diamonds, as well as a 1920s platinum cocktail ring with diamonds and onyx.

The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards snagged 800,000 more viewers than last year, reaching 13.2 million people Sunday night, according to ABC.

Modern Family was the biggest winner of the evening. In the comedy category, the top-rated show took home awards in the Best Supporting Acting categories, Outstanding Comedy Series and Directing for a Comedy Series.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Last Chance to Bid on Pink Diamond Barbie Doll Designed by The Blonds

Here's your chance to own a super special one-of-a-kind Pink Diamond™ Barbie® doll designed by the fashion duo of Phillipe and David Blond of The Blonds while supporting a philanthropic cause – but you have to act quickly. Bidding for the blinged-out, pink-jewel-encrusted Barbie ends at 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday, September 25.

The Pink Diamond Barbie, which is valued at $15,000, made its debut at The Blonds Spring 2013 show during New York Fashion Week. The doll is currently being auctioned at with the proceeds going to the MAC Cosmetic AIDS Fund organization. The bidding had reached $8,000 as of 6 a.m. on Monday morning. Barbie fans may track the bidding here.

What makes this Barbie stand apart from the rest? The main fashion statement is the fuchsia and rose "gem" encrusted mini corset dress and matching pumps that were designed and hand embellished by Phillipe and David Blond themselves. According to ABC News, the ensemble was inspired by The Blondes' 2008 runway show. Accessories for the Pink Diamond Barbie include pink stud earrings, a pink sparkling bracelet and matching ring.

Barbie joins the ranks of other high-style celebrities, such as Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue and Katy Perry, who have worn dresses by The Blonds.

You may be wondering if this is the most valuable Barbie to ever hit the auction block? In 2010, a Barbie collector won a doll wearing a genuine diamond choker for a mere $300,000.

If you're not lucky enough to take home the original Pink Diamond Barbie, Mattel is offering a more affordable replica for $125. It's currently back ordered until December.