March 14, 2012 / 6:23 AM / 6 years ago

"Reluctant heiress" jewels set for $10 million auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just three months after its record-smashing sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s renowned jewels, Christie’s has nabbed another storied collection belonging to “reluctant heiress” Huguette Clark which is poised to take in more than $10 million.

A Christie's auctioneer conducts an auction of American Furniture and Folk Art and John James Audubon's 'The Birds of America' at Christie's auction in New York January 20, 2012. REUTERS/ Kena Betancur

Clark, who died last year at age 104, was heir to a copper, timber and railroad fortune and had no children. Married once briefly, she shunned the social limelight and trappings of wealth, preferring to spend time with her doll collection that was worth millions.

As such, she earned the nickname “the reluctant heiress,” eschewing lavish homes in New York and California, choosing instead to live out her years in hospitals.

Christie’s said on Tuesday it would sell 17 pieces of Clark’s jewels, led by an extremely rare 9-carat pink diamond ring and a 20-carat D-color diamond ring, estimated to sell for about $7 million and $2.5 million, respectively, when they are auctioned in New York on April 17.

“This is truly a fairytale collection,” said Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s Americas head of jewelry, in announcing the sale.

Kadakia said it was an extraordinary moment “opening the vault to find this treasure trove of period jewels from the best French houses of the early 1900s.”

“The iconic Art Deco design and exceptional craftsmanship of these meticulously preserved jewels are emblematic of the great Gilded Age in American history,” he added.

The auction house said Clark’s collection was believed to have been stored in a bank vault since the 1940s and includes signed Art Deco Cartier, Dreicer & Co. and Tiffany & Co. jewels.

In December, Christie’s broke records with a series of auctions of Taylor’s storied jewelry collection which took in more than $135 million.

Clark’s estate was valued at about $400 million when she died, according to the law firm Holland & Knight.

Her will stipulated the establishment of a foundation to promote and foster the arts, to be called the Bellosguardo Foundation after her 24-acre oceanfront home in Santa Barbara.

She had not been to the home since 1963 when her mother died, but kept it well-maintained for nearly 50 years. The estate, estimated to be worth over $100 million, will become a museum to house her collection of books, musical instruments, art that includes paintings by Renoir and other fine objects.

Clark left nothing to any members of her family, but bequeathed millions to a nurse assigned to her in 1991 who became Clark’s closest companion. The will is being contested.

After her father’s death in 1925, Clark and her mother moved to an Italian palazzo-style residence on Fifth Ave., where they maintained three apartments overlooking Central Park.

Christie’s International Real Estate, in partnership with Brown Harris Stevens, said on Tuesday that the three properties were hitting the market. The reported asking prices are $12 million, $19 million and $24 million.

Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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