Diamond necklaces, emerald brooches and ceremonial daggers are among the nearly 400 treasures spanning five centuries of Indian royalty set to go on auction next week at Christie's New York.
All of the items in the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction come from the Al Thani Collection, assembled by Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family and CEO of Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company.
"It's the most impressive collection, most important, and most valuable collection of Indian jewelry, jeweled art, miniatures that has ever come up for auction," William Robinson, the London-based director of Christie's Department of Islamic Art, told EFE during a media event.
The items will go on public view Friday in preparation for the June 19 auction.
Christie's expects the sale, with pieces ranging in price from $10,000 to $10 million, to eclipse the record set in 2011 with the auction of jewelry and other possessions belonging to late actress Elizabeth Taylor, which brought in just short of $116 million.
But Christie's international head of jewelry, Rahul Kadakia, said that the Maharajas auction represents an "opportunity for collectors of all types," as half of the items have no reserve price.
Besides the precious objects, Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence includes miniature paintings that "were bought because they show a lot of these pieces in use, so you can relate the miniature paintings to the objects you're actually looking at," Robinson said.
Visitors and buyers are sure to be drawn to a selection of Golconda diamonds, including the Arcot II, a 17-carat stone that was one of a pair of ear drops sent to Britain's Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, by Muhammad Ali Wallajah, the nawab (regent) of Arcot.
That piece is thought likely to fetch between $2 million and $4 million.
While bidding on the 52-carat Mirror of Paradise diamond is expected to start at $7 million, topped only by the $10 million value imputed to a "devant-de-corsage" Cartier brooch made in 1912.
The collection, according to Christie's, "traces the history of jewelry from early Mughal India through the Maharajas and their collaboration with the world's most renowned jewelry houses to create some of the most exceptional pieces of jewelry ever made."
One of the most striking items is an antique diamond and enamel peacock aigrette that adorned the turban of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala when he attended the wedding of Spain's King Alfonso XIII, where the Indian royal met the woman who was to become his fifth wife, Anita Delgado.
An emerald brooch the maharaja later gave to Delgado will also be on sale.
The highlight of the weapons section is a 17th-century dagger that was the property of Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal.
Some of the proceeds from the auction will go to support the activities of the The Al Thani Collection Foundation, including the creation of a new museum space in Paris to display some of the 6,000 pieces in the collection. EFE