Sunny von Bülow's Jewelry Is Going Up For Sale at Christie's

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Sunny von Bülow's Jewelry Is Going Up For SaleFairchild Archive - Getty Images

The first thing you notice might be the carved emerald at the center of the Van Cleef & Arpels necklace. Its design also includes rubies and diamonds, and its estimate is between $200,000 and $300,000. You might then recognize a name in the description. Its previous owner is a part of American social history. The June 11 Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie's will include jewelry from the private collection of the American heiress who came to be known throughout the world as Sunny von Bülow.

She was born Martha Sharp Crawford into a wealthy family, and her beauty was often compared to Grace Kelly’s. With her first marriage, to Prince Alfred von Auersperg of Austria, she became known as Princess von Auersperg. They had two children together. The sale at Christies is being held with her daughter, known as Ala, who is now the designer of the Ala von Auersperg collection of women’s dresses and delicately painted caftans.

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Ala von Auersperg Isham was photographed for a T&C profile in 2019.Francois Dischinger

Ahead of the Christie's live auction of "Beauty in Design: Magnificent Jewelry from the Collection of Sunny Crawford von Bülow and Ala von Auersperg Isham," T&C spoke exclusively with von Auersperg Isham about the decision to sell such iconic pieces of jewelry, and what she hopes their new owners will remember about the woman who wore them.

T&C: How did you decide to sell these particular pieces?

Isham: I've always deeply admired my mother's exquisite collection of jewelry. Each piece carries memories of elegance and grace, reflecting both the woman who wore them and the exceptional craftsmanship behind their creation. When choosing to part with some family heirlooms, I carefully selected pieces with sentimental value that weren't regularly worn by myself or my daughters.

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Sunny von Bülow in 1976.Bettmann - Getty Images

Among them, the emeralds, shining examples of Van Cleef's artistry, stood out. These treasures were safely stored for years, awaiting the right moment to bring joy to others. It's my sincere wish that these precious jewels find new owners who will wear them with pleasure, honoring their history while creating new memories.

There are many Van Cleef pieces—has that been a family favorite?

Yes, both my mother and my grandmother, Annie Laurie Aitken, adored Van Cleef.

Do you have specific memories of your mother wearing any of these pieces?

I vividly remember her wearing the LeCoultre watch, one of her favorites. She often paired the Tourbillon earrings and brooch for a perfect gold and diamond ensemble, and she also wore the diamond and gold bracelet. However, it's the emerald pieces that stand out most in my memory. I can still see her wearing them, the vibrant green gems sparkling against her skin, radiating a breathtaking vibrancy.

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Van Cleef & Arpels and LeCoultre gold and diamond watch (estimate: $25,000-$35,000).christie's

Were any of these pieces more difficult to part with than others?

I treasure memories of my mother, and her inimitable style and grace, from couture to jewelry. Parting with any of them is bittersweet, but her memory will remain with me forever. It's also comforting to know that these exquisite jewels, enjoyed by my mother, will continue their journey beyond the vault and into new lives.

If you could tell someone buying these pieces something about them what would it be?

If I could convey one thing to potential buyers, it would be to recognize the exceptional craftsmanship and unique design inherent in each piece. These aren't just ordinary jewels; they're exquisitely crafted treasures from a bygone era, reflecting a remarkable woman's discerning eye for quality and beauty.

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