NEW YORK (Reuters) - A diamond brooch given by Spain's King Alfonso XII to his wife as a wedding gift and ruby ear pendants once owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are among highlights of an auction of precious jewels that could fetch more than $80 million, Christie's said on Thursday.
The sale of more than 350 pieces of jewelry, which will be exhibited in New York from Friday to Tuesday ahead of the auction in Geneva on May 13, will be led by the Maria Christina Royal Devant-de-Corsage brooch.
It was a gift from King Alfonso XII of Spain to his wife, the Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, to mark their wedding in 1879. The brooch, which remained with the family from the time of Maria's death in 1929 until the 1980s, is comprised of scores of gems set into a shape suggesting a fleur de lis.
"This majestic jewel is the very epitome of European jewelry of the 19th century," said Rahul Kadakia, international head of Christie's jewelry.
Kadakia described the piece as "a rare ceremonial jewel with illustrious provenance and of unspoiled splendor" and noted its interest for both jewelry and history enthusiasts because Maria was one of the favorite queens of Spain.
The piece, now owned by Baroness Thyssen-Bornemizsa, is expected to sell for between $1.5 million and $2 million.
The baroness is better known as Carmen Cervera, a Barcelona-born art collector and former actress. Cervera became the fifth wife of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a European industrialist who died in 2002.
The couple's collections are featured in both Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and in the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga, which opened in 2011 to showcase her collection.
Another highlight is a pair of ruby and diamond ear pendants and matching ring, which Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis gave to Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of President John F. Kennedy, for their marriage in 1968. The Van Cleef & Arpels set is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000.
The sale also includes a 55.5-carat pear-shaped diamond estimated at $8.5 million to $10.5 million, a vivid pink 5.18-carat diamond which is expected to fetch between $9.5 million and $12.5 million, and a 35.1-carat Kashmir sapphire expected to sell for $3 million to $4.2 million.
Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jonathan Oatis