Rare and flawless gem from the fabled Hope Collection to be sold at Bonhams
September 16, 2015: Resurfacing after many years, a rare gem from The Hope Spinel collection is going to be auctioned at Bonhams.
The Hope Spinel was part of one of the world’s greatest gem collections until its owner – London banker Henry Philip Hope – died in 1839. It has not been offered for sale since 1917 when it went for £1,060 – the equivalent of £80,000 in today’s money. Bonhams, now, is expecting bids in the region of £150,000 to £200,000 for the treasure.
Set in a 19th century silver and gold brooch, the huge 50.13 carats octagonal-cut stone is the size of a small plum and of similar colouring with a splendid rose hue. A spinel is a gemstone sometimes confused with ruby because they’re found in the same rock formations, are chemically similar and often have a beautiful pinkish-red colouring. But very large specimens are often more transparent - that is freer from inclusions or “flaws” - than ruby.
The incredible transparency and impeccable cut of the Hope Spinel makes it an exceptional treasure, and so does its provenance. Henry Philip Hope was from a dynasty of incredibly rich and powerful merchant bankers. By the end of the 18th century, the Hope family based in Amsterdam, ran one of the most powerful banks in the world. Hope moved to the UK at the end of the 18th century to escape political upheaval on the continent. He settled in London with his elder brother and they used their tremendous wealth to form important and very valuable art collections.
Hope never married and secretly gifted his collection - including the Spinel and the Hope Blue Diamond, once owned by Sun King Louis XIV - to a nephew to avoid death duties. Instead, the 700-strong collection became the subject of a decade-long inheritance feud, legal wrangling and bitter recriminations. The Hope Spinel and several of the most valuable gems were eventually separated from the collection to resolve the issue. It continued its long journey to switch hands between various descendants, and has now reached Bonhams.
Emily Barber, UK Jewellery Department Director at Bonhams auction house, which is selling the magnificent gemstone on September 24 as part of its London Fine Jewellery sale, said, “We’ve had this spinel assessed by SSEF, a premier gemmological laboratory in Switzerland who have confirmed it is from these ancient mines and due to its exceptional transparency, flawless cut, beautiful colour and large size, it’s classed as an exceptional treasure of nature."