Sotheby’s London brings an auction fit for a princess with its “Royal and Noble” event on January 18, led by the Attallah cross, a sparkling jewel that was a favorite of the late Princess Diana. The sale of story-filled objects from around the world, spanning 500 years and 15 specialist departments, goes on view January 6.
“Sotheby’s annual ‘Royal and Noble’ auction in London is the most wonderful vehicle for selling things with important aristocratic provenances,” said David Macdonald, Senior Director of Decorative Art and Single Owner Collections. “So many of the objects have a story to tell, and of course none more so than Diana’s cross.”
The princess famously wore the piece to a 1987 charity event for Birthright, an organization that helps protect human rights during pregnancy and childbirth. The pendant was created in the 1920s by court jewelers Garrard, and was lent to Princess Diana by her friend Naim Attalah, CBE, who bought it in the 1980s. “Diana is the only person who wore the jewel when it belonged to Naim Attallah,” said Macdonald.
The piece is a touching symbol of a discreet friendship, according to Macdonald, who explained, “It encapsulates the great joy of storytelling through objects—that sense of an object being owned or touched by someone extraordinary—which is what our ‘Royal and Noble’ sale is all about. What could be more royal and noble than a jewel that was admired and worn by arguably the most famous princess in the world?”
The pendant is set with square-cut amethysts accented by circular-cut diamonds. It weighs approximately 5.25 carats and measures approximately 136 x 95 mm (5.35 x 3.74 inches). It is estimated to fetch £80,000–£120,000 ($96,235–$144,353).
The event features a range of objects from one of Portugal’s most prestigious aristocratic families. “From Spetchley House, home of the ancient Berkeley family, an incredible group of sumptuous textiles was found in a cellar,” said Macdonald. “And from that same house another discovery: a group of silver which had been hidden in World War II in a bricked up wall safe,” discovered in 2020 during renovation work. “I think that is why I love this particular sale so much…the opportunity to ‘show and tell’ and share a multitude of stories from an amazing array of personalities.”