More than 200 jewels and precious objects from the House of Württemberg, formerly one of Germany’s noble families, are on display until Monday at Sotheby’s New York, the first stop on a multicity tour before their auction Nov. 6-7 in Geneva.
“This is not a classic collection in the sense that one person or a couple have assembled pieces over the years,” said Philipp von Württemberg, a distant relative of the current heirs who, as an independent professional art adviser, worked on the sale. “It is more a family treasure that has built itself over many generations.”
The family, which traced its origins to the early 1000s, ruled the area around what is now Stuttgart, Germany. And the collection includes pieces from several European noble dynasties, leading to the auction’s title, “Vienna 1900: An Imperial and Royal Collection.”
“It immediately brings to mind the court of Vienna, its glamour and the style emanating from the court, and which came from the Empress Sisi,” said Andres White Correal, Sotheby’s deputy chairman of jewelry, using the nickname of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She “loved rubies and pearls and, obviously, we find plenty of them in this collection.”
Among the most significant pieces highlighted by Sotheby’s are two natural pearl brooches that were given to Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria-Teschen when she married the Duke of Württemberg in 1865. The first is a floral wreath devant de corsage, a large brooch meant to be worn on the front of a gown, with diamonds and pearls. As for the second, a portrait of the duchess shows her wearing it on a lace ribbon tied around her neck. Each one has a fitted case with the name of the Viennese jeweler Emil Biedermann and a sale estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
There also are jewels created by the Viennese jewelry house Köchert, including a tiara set with rubies and another one set with pearls, and a five-strand natural pearl necklace with an elaborate diamond clasp.
The collection also includes three star-shape diamond brooches by Wilhelm Haarstrick that resemble the Köchert-made stars that Empress Sisi wore as hair ornaments for a portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1865.
Men’s accessories in the collection include a Patek Philippe pocket watch with a certificate from 1898, cigarette boxes, tie pins, and cuff links.
Mr. von Württemberg described his surprise when he opened a box containing a pair of emerald cuff links and found a note saying they were a gift from the Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire to King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. They came to the Württemberg family through the wedding of Nadezhda, a daughter of Ferdinand I, to Duke Albrecht Eugen of Württemberg (in 1924).
The tour has stops scheduled in Frankfurt, Paris, London, Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong. Mr. White Correal, alluding to the fact that the items had been stored in a vault since 1947, joked that they might not have traveled during the past 80 years, but that they “are going to do it now.”