Pearls of the House of Orange auctioned at Sotheby's

Pearls of the House of Orange auctioned at Sotheby's

On May 13 Sotheby's Geneva will offer a unique necklace with pearls from the House of Orange in their Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction. The necklace is made of pearls acquired by Amalia of Solms-Braunfels (1602-1675) and her husband Prince Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau, Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic (1584-1647). The Dutch royal family still owns magnificent pearls and diamonds they acquired. The magnificent pearls currently offered were inherited by their daughter Henriette Catherine, who married the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau. Their descendent Prince Eduard of Anhalt is the current owner of the necklace, which is estimated at 120 to 160.000 euro. An auction result of 1 million euro is more likely though. 

Erik Schoonhoven: 'Pearls with a heritage tracing back to the 17th century are rare in any case. But when the House of Orange originally owned these gems, it is truly unique. Frederick Henry and Amalia were famous for the magnificent pearls and diamonds they acquired. These are still in the collection of the Dutch royal house, but other ended up in the possession of various royal and princely families, the Beau Sancy being the most prestigous example. The sale of this particular pearl necklace is exciting news for every lover of royal jewels.'

Sotheby's lot description

'The Pearls of the House of Orange', a natural pearl, sapphire and diamond necklace, 17th century and later

Composed of a strand of lightly graduated natural pearls, measuring from approximately 8.10 to 11.10mm, the clasp set with a cushion-shaped sapphire, framed with oval and circular-cut diamonds, length approximately 425mm.

Accompanied by SSEF report no. 73602, stating that the forty pearls were found to be natural, saltwater, and that the sapphire on the clasp is of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating.


By family tradition, the pearls from the necklace on the preceding page (lot 384) were assembled by the descendants of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange (1584-1647). His wife, Princess Amalie zu Solms-Braunfels (1602-1675) was a passionate collector of paintings, works of art and jewels. The House of Orange’s relationship with the Dutch East India Company gave them access to Indian pearls of exceptional quality and size. In accordance with the Orange inheritance laws, Princess Amalie left her personal belongings to her four daughters. The enormous inheritance consisted of a treasure trove of paintings including works now in Berlin, Potsdam and Dessau museums as well as jewels and her much admired pearls. Two of the daughters, Princess Louise Henriette of Nassau (1627-1667) and Princess Henriette Catherine of Nassau (1637-1708) are recorded as having received ‘Oranische Perlen’ necklaces. The 1647 dowry inventory of Princess Louise Henriette, wife of the ‘Großen Kurfürst’ Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg, lists a row of forty-five round pearls, valued at 240,000 guilders. Her sister, Princess Henriette Catherine, received a similar necklace in 1659 when she married John George II, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau. It is these pearls which were handed down within the family to the present owner and, which due to their great importance, were worn by the following generations when posing for state portraits. In the early 19th century, Duchess Louise Henriette of Brandenburg-Schwedt (1750 to 1811) had an impressive diamond and sapphire double clasp added to the necklace following the announcement of Emperor Napoleon’s visit to Dessau. Part of the clasp was later removed and transformed into a ring, seen as lot 383.

The two items on the preceding page are considered by the family as the most important pieces of the crown jewels to have survived the Russian invasion of World War II.

The lot on Sotheby's website: click here.

Posted on 22/04/2014 by Erik