Christie's announces it has been entrusted with the sale of a large collection of jewelry from the estate of Huguette M. Clark, one of the last great heiresses of America's Gilded Age. Clark owned a mansion in New Canaan.

Clark's jewelry collection, which is believed to have been stored in a bank vault since the 1940s, includes signed Art Deco jewels by Cartier, Dreicer & Co., and Tiffany & Co., including a rare 9-carat pink diamond ring and a 20-carat D-color diamond ring. The complete collection of 17 jewels is expected to fetch $9 to 12 million at auction on April 17 at Christie's New York.

"In the world of fine jewelry, this is truly a fairytale collection," Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie's Americas, said. "Opening the vault to find this treasure trove of period jewels from the best French houses of the early 1900s has certainly been one of the most extraordinary moments of my 15-year career here at Christie's. The iconic Art Deco design and exceptional craftsmanship of these meticulously preserved jewels are emblematic of the great Gilded Age in American history. We are proud to present this collection from one of the nation's most storied families as the major highlight of our flagship jewelry auction this spring."

The collection's provenance coupled with the craftsmanship and rarity of the jewels may inspire intense interest from collectors and dealers around the globe. The star of the collection is a cushion-cut fancy vivid purplish pink 9-carat diamond, mounted in a Belle Époque setting by the French jeweler Dreicer & Co. Based on the date of the stone's setting -- circa 1910 -- the ring is believed to have originally belonged to Clark's mother, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, and was handed down to Clark.

Prices for top-quality pink diamonds of this size and quality have increased exponentially in recent years, driven by both collector demand and increasingly limited supply. Pink diamonds gain their highly desirable color as a result of a rare, naturally-occurring slippage of the crystal lattice in the stone while it is forming deep within the earth's crust. Only a few mines in the world produce pink diamonds, and of the stones that are cut and polished, only one in about 10 million diamonds will possess a color pure enough to be graded as "fancy vivid."

Clark's collection also features a colorless diamond ring of 19.86 carats by Cartier. Certified by the Gemological Institute of America as D color -- the best color grade possible in a white diamond -- and with potentially internally flawless clarity, this superb stone was discovered in its original Cartier box from the 1920s.

As was fitting for a society debutante of the day, Clark's collection also included a stunning array of signed jewels by the finest makers of the Art Deco era, including an intricately-detailed diamond bracelet by Cartier circa 1925 worth $300,000 to $500,000, a diamond and multi-gem charm bracelet by Cartier, also circa 1925worth $20,000 to $30,000, and a ruby, sapphire, emerald and gold bracelet possibly designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, of Tiffany & Co. circa 1915 worth $30,000 to $50,000. Among the more touching personal items in the collection is an onyx, turquoise and diamond photograph frame by Cartier which is personalized with a stylized "A." The frame bears a hand-drawn portrait of a teen-aged girl believed to be Andree Clark, Huguette's older sister, who died of meningitis in 1919.

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