Week 23: SOUTHEBY'S AUCTION CATALOGUE, London, 12/11/53

Lot 328
This 260.37 carat, oval-cut sapphire of Sri Lankan origin with an evenly distributed medium-dark saturated blue colour characteristic of the best quality of Sri Lankan sapphires, with dimensions of 6cm x 5.3cm, is set in a ring of diamonds amounting to 56.60 carats.
This unique jewel has accumulated as many legends as it has owners and settings. The most spurious purports that the gem once adorned the “Ephod” oracular device worn by the Kohen Gadol (Jewish High Priest) mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Genesis. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are said to have been engraved upon its surface. The stone bears no trace of them today. Rather than dispel the rumours this fact has only fed speculation that each subsequent possessor of the stone has recut and polished it to suit his or her own occult purposes.
The current brooch setting is attributed to a commission by Csar Alexander II for presentation to Maria Alexandrovna, the Russian Emperor’s consort, upon its purchase at the Great London Exhibition in 1862. Court rumour held that the Csar wished the gem to act as a guarantee of his consort’s fidelity, having been promised that it would fade if she was untrue. Upon first seeing the brooch upon the breast of Alexandra, wife of Csar Nicholas II, fifty years later, the mystic Rasputin is reported to have perceived in its blue depths a vision of the future assassination of the royal family at the hands of the Bolshevik Red Guard.
Upon the death of Rasputin the brooch disappeared from the royal treasury. It reappeared some years later in the possession of another wandering magician, Xavio the Illustrious, whom had it set in a turban and claimed to use its power of prognostication to tell the fortune of his paying audience. He did not however forsee the accident that would rob him of his sight during the final performance of his act at the Wintergarten cabaret in the Spring of 1928, when he famously predicted the invention of the atom bomb, at which point the gun powder he kept in his breast pocket for dramatic punctuations of his pronouncements inexplicably combusted. Xavio subsequently pawned the stone to support him in his enforced retirement from the cabaret scene. The money lender to whom he sold the priceless artefact was deported to Buchenwald by the Nazi regime, and his possessions were confiscated and kept in a Swiss vault until their recent discovery by the Simon Weisenthal group.
Bidding will begin at 700,000 pounds sterling.

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