‘Hope Spinel’ resurfaces after nearly 100 years

By Hannah Connorton – National Jeweler Magazine

September 08, 2015

 The Hope Spinel; Bonhams said spinels sometimes are confused with rubies because they’re found in the same rock formations, are chemically similar and often have a pinkish-red coloring. 

London--A rare and large spinel that has not been offered for sale for nearly 100 years is set to hit the auction block at Bonhams this month.

Called the “Hope Spinel,” the 50.13-carat rose-hued stone has an octagonal-cut and is set as a brooch in 19th century sterling silver and gold, surrounded by diamonds.

The “size of a small plum,” Bonhams said it expects the gemstone brooch to fetch as much as 200,000 British pounds ($310,000) at its Sept. 24 Fine Jewellery sale in London.

Originally, the Hope Spinel was part of a gem collection owned by London banker Henry Philip Hope and his elder brother, both from a family of rich and powerful merchant bankers that is, incidentally, the same family that once owned the famed blue Hope Diamond.

When Henry secretly gifted the collection to a nephew, it became the subject of a decade-long inheritance feud within the family, which ended in the collection being divided up to resolve the issue.

A nephew, Henry Thomas Hope, ended up with not only the Hope Spinel but the Hope Diamond. When he died, the jewels were inherited by his widow, Anne Adele. As Henry and Anne’s only daughter was married to a notorious gambler, Anne bequeathed the gems to her second grandson.

But the grandson went bankrupt only nine years later, and he sold the Hope Diamond to a dealer in 1901. That stone now resides in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

 

By 1917, Christie’s had sold the remainder of the Hope gem collection, with the Hope Spinel going to a dealer for $1,600 (about $121,500 in today’s dollars) and later turning up in the collection of Lady Mount Stephen, who was married to a Canadian philanthropist living in the United Kingdom. 

The spinel was passed down through that family, and the current owner is a direct descendant of Lady Mount Stephen. That descendant is selling the stone through Bonhams.

“An incredible 98 years since it was last auctioned, the Hope Spinel is now for sale again for the first time since the original sale,” said Bonhams’ Emily Barber. “It’s not only had the amazing provenance but it’s also an exceptional gemstone in its own right.”

Bonhams said the Swiss gemological laboratory SSEF has confirmed the stone is from ancient mines due to its exceptional transparency, flawless cut, beautiful color and large size. It is “classed as an exceptional treasure of nature.”