Most Exclusive Vintage Jewellery Collections In The World

Jewellery Photography ArtImage: Unsplash

While any curious traveller can peruse the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London or get up close and personal with the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, many of the world’s most beautiful jewellery pieces are in private collections. Today we’re taking a peak behind the curtain and exploring some of the most exclusive vintage jewellery collections in the world.

The Elizabeth Taylor Collection

It’s fitting that one of the world’s most beautiful and famous actresses of all-time also has her name on one of the world’s most extravagant private jewellery collections. The Elizabeth Taylor Collection made headlines in 2011 when it sold for a record-breaking $115.9 million at auction. Countless pieces sold for millions over their estimated value, including a La Peregrina natural pearl, diamond, ruby, and cultured pearl necklace that sold for $11.8 million, breaking the world record for the most expensive pearl ever sold at auction. Other notable pieces include a ruby and diamond Cartier necklace which sold for $3.7 million, a Bvlgari emerald and diamond bracelet which sold for $4 million, and a diamond tiara which brought home $4.22 million. Taylor’s famous 33.19 carat diamond ring, given to her by Richard Burton, sold for $8.8 million. All proceeds from this auction went to The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation. 

The Duchess of Windsor Collection

The Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson’s private collection was made up of gifts she received from her husband—the former Edward VIII—over their 35-year marriage. When sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 1987, this icon’s collection fetched a cool $50.3 million. Featuring over 300 pieces, the Duchess’ collection included one of a kind and custom pieces by designers like Cartier, Suzanne Belperron, and Van Cleef & Arpels. A diamond and ruby brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $806,000, a personalized 18k gold cigarette case inlaid with gems sold for $266,000 (almost 100x its estimated value), and Simpson’s 19.77 emerald engagement ring went for $2.1 million. 

The Lily Safra Collection

Benefiting over 30 charities, the 2012 Christie’s auction of jewellery belonging to Brazilian philanthropist and socialite Lily Safra brought in just under $38 million. The sale’s most impressive lot was a 32.08 carat ruby and diamond ring, now known as The Hope Ruby, which sold for $6.7 million. The collection featured several pieces by JAR which collectively sold for $11.4 million, as well as a Cartier Belle Époque diamond and emerald necklace, circa 1906, which sold for 1.1 million. 

The Ellen Barkin Collection

After divorcing her financier husband in 2006, Ellen Barkin put over 100 pieces gifted to her by her ex up for auction at Christie’s. The collection sold for $20 million, placing it among the top four private jewellery auctions at the time. The top lot was a 22.76 carat oval-cut diamond ring by JAR which fetched $1.8 million. Other notable pieces include diamond bangles, also by JAR, which featured cushion-cut diamonds and sold for $1.1 million; a pair of topaz, ruby, and diamond earrings which sold for $710,000; and a diamond ring in the shape of a flower which fetched $486,000 and was later made even more famous by the Sex and the City movie. 

The Jayne Wrightsman Collection 

The jewellery collection of Jayne Wrightsman, socialite, collector, museum patron, and leader of New York society, hit Sotheby’s in 2012 where its sale totalled $15.5 million. Highlights from the sale include a Pearl and Diamond Corsage Ornament, circa 1910, which sold for $2 million; a grey pearl and diamond brooch, which brought in $1.8 million; and a gold and diamond brooch, circa 1850, which used to belong to the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna and sold for $842,000.

Whether you are a collector of fine jewellery or simply an admirer of fashion, luxury, and style, auctions are a great place to get an inside look at some of the world’s most exclusive and impressive vintage jewellery collections. 

Photography of Collections 

At AC COOPER whether you require our services on Location or at our London studio, our team are happy to assist with any queries you may have.  We have decades of experience in Photographing such works.  Shooting on Hasselblad Medium Format and Nikon DSLR cameras, a range of options to a variety of budgets.  

We look forward to hearing from you.