Isabella Stewart Gardner's Ruby Ring Sold by Sotheby's
This week, Sotheby's sold the ruby ring that once belonged to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924).
The cushion-shaped ruby ring weighs 8.66 carats. The ruby is flanked by single-cut diamonds weighing approximately .12 carat and is mounted in platinum. The ring sold for $2.098 million, including the buyer's premium. Its pre-sale estimate was $1 million to $1.5 million. The ring was sold as part of the Magnificent Jewels sale at Sotheby's, along with the collection of impressive jewels that belonged to philanthropist Patricia Kluge.
Gardner was a philanthropist and visionary patron of the arts whose personal collection of fine and decorative art is housed in her former home, now an esteemed Boston museum, called the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Gardner Museum, which is filled with paintings, sculpture, tapestries, furniture and decorative arts from cultures spanning thirty centuries, has remained essentially unchanged since her death in 1924.
Gardner was born to a prominent New York family and in 1860 married financier John 'Jack' Lowell Gardner of Boston. She was strong-minded and intellectually curious and enjoyed her reputation in Victorian era Boston for leading an avant-garde lifestyle. Gardner frequently traveled abroad to expand their knowledge of art as well as European and Asian cultures.
According to Sotheby's, it was Sargent, and Anders Zorn, who both captured Isabella Stewart Gardner's love of rubies in the portraits they painted of her. She was known to wear her imported fashions and jewels with a theatrical sense of style, choosing to adorn ropes of pearls and even her shoes with exquisite rubies, a gemstone she highly regarded, according to Sotheby's.
A hand-written letter in the Gardner family archives reminisces about the 8.66 carat Burmese ruby:
When Mrs. Gardner's brother Charles Stewart died, he left her a legacy of $50,000....Mrs. Gardner decided she would like to buy one thing which should always be a souvenir of her brother, and finally fixed upon a ruby. She asked at the leading jewelry shops in New York, London and Paris to be shown their fifty-thousand-dollar rubies, and to her surprise was told each time that they were out of them at the moment....Sometime after a message was brought to her room in the hotel that a man from the Bank of England wished to see her. She asked to have him brought up, and presently not one, but three men appeared. With the most elaborate precautions and unlocking of strong boxes, they finally produced a ruby which a rajah had sent to London for sale. Mrs. Gardner admired the ruby, but the price asked was more than $50,000. As she declined to give more, the ruby was elaborately locked up and returned to the bank. Months passed. Mrs. Gardner was in Paris, when a man came again to her hotel, said the rajah had accepted her offer, and delivered the ruby. On the bill, the price was $55,000.
The ring was property from the estate of T.S. Gardner. It was sold to an unknown buyer.