Gold Diggers 8 - post 222 Antique Jewelry Gold Diggers - La Paiva 2
The two Von Donnersmarck diamonds sold by Sothebys in 2007.
Last week we gave a small bio of one of France's most notorious courtesans, Esther Lachman, known as La Paiva. As has been reported in many ways, she was a rough woman, whose only love was her own aggrandisement, money and diamonds. She was an astute businesswoman, who married the mega-wealthy young German/Prussian Prince Guido von Donnersmarck. She blatantly plotted against her adopted country, France, with her younger, very rich husband until they were exiled from France in 1878. Meanwhile, she collected some of the most amazing jewelry, supposedly held in a pair of safes on either side of her bed.
In May 2007, Sothebys Geneva held an auction in which some of the jewelry, previously owned by La Paiva was sold. Actually, it was only 2 diamonds that were sold, but they are so huge, intense in color and impressive that an entire separate section and 12 pages of the catalogue were devoted to them. Enormous, full page 'photos of these incredible gems show how pure they are. Just two of the many gems originally owned by La Paiva. Originally forming part of a jewel, they were dismantled and sold individually.
The diamonds were graded by the GIA as 102.54ct Fancy Intense yellow and 82.48ct Fancy Intense yellow, respectively. In the 2007 sale, they sold for US$8million. Some time later, in 2017, they were offered for sale again, this time with an estimate of $14million, but they failed to sell. I don't know whether they were subsequently sold since then.
Although we will not have the privilege and fun of rifling through La Paiva's two jewelry safes, the jewelry shown in a single painting of her is more than most of us can imagine in reality. Let's spend some time contemplating what she is wearing.
When we look at the portrait of La Paiva, shown above, we see that she is wearing a crown of diamonds, some of which are enormous, with an absolutely gigantic pearl held aloft at the apex. Around her neck are even more pearls of gigantic proportions. We, in the 21st century never see pearls of this quality. They simply do not exist today. And, let's remember that these were natural pearls, not aided and abetted by science. Draped below the enormous pearl drops and stationed between them, are huge diamonds - again of a size we barely ever encounter. Almost incidentally, she is wearing great big diamond earrings. Her light and fluffy dress is painted in such a way that we have to look to notice that there are a number of brooches pinned on it. Most noteworthy is a huge lizard corsage ornament.
Showing detail of her dress, including a lizard corsage ornament.
Chaumet was the jeweller of choice for La Paiva and the Prince. Most fitting because their predecessors were Nitot, jewellers to Napoleon and Josephine (see previous posts about Josephine). Chaumet provided many of the pearls and diamonds worn by La Paiva.
Despite her jealousy of La Paiva, Katherine, the Russian aristocrat who became the prince's 2nd wife, kept her jewellery as she too was a connoisseur of the subject. Chaumet continued to provide the von D's with jewelry. Sothebys talks about the lizard corsage ornament they made for her, which is interesting and a little confusing as we certainly see a lizard being worn by La Paiva, a few years before that. What do you think?