Auctions

See the Most Expensive Louis Comfort Tiffany Piece Ever Sold at Auction

AuctionsDec 09, 2021

See the Most Expensive Louis Comfort Tiffany Piece Ever Sold at Auction

The “Medusa” pendant went for $3.7 million at Sotheby’s New York, smashing pre-sale estimates.

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This circa 1904 opal, garnet and gold “Medusa” pendant is one of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s first jewelry designs. It smashed its pre-sale estimates at auction Tuesday, garnering more than $3.5 million.
New York—The “Medusa” pendant was one of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s earliest designs, so it’s no surprise the piece set a record when it went up for auction this week.

Though Tiffany eventually came to be known for his painting, interior design, and glass and enamel work (and for being the first design director at his family’s jewelry company, Tiffany & Co.), he initially started designing jewelry in 1902 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, a.k.a. the St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1904.

The “Medusa” pendant was showcased at this event, alongside 26 other items from Tiffany, of which only four are known to exist today, according to Sotheby’s.

Designed at a time when jewelry design in both America and Europe was turning away from revival styles and toward nature as a source of inspiration, the “Medusa” pendant clearly shows how the natural world captivated Tiffany.

At the center of the piece is a cluster of tumbled opals, from which emerge several stylized snake motifs, two of which are articulated and all of which are set with opals and demantoid garnets.

The piece is further accented with rubies and amethysts.

Art collector and philanthropist Henry Walter bought the Medusa pendant sometime after it was displayed at the World’s Fair, but then history lost track of the piece for a bit. The pendant was listed as “whereabouts unknown” after the Parke-Bernet Galleries sold it at auction in 1943.

It is believed entrepreneur and business leader Salman Schocken bought it at that auction, Sotheby’s said. His grandson, professor Shimon Schocken, indicated it was a gift to his mother from her father-in-law, Salman, and it has stayed in the Schocken family, until now.

When Medusa hit the auction block at Sotheby’s New York Tuesday, it sold for $3.7 million, smashing its pre-sale estimate of $100,000-$200,000 and setting a world record for any Louis Comfort Tiffany creation at auction.

According to Sotheby’s, three bidders competed for nearly 10 minutes to purchase the pendant, which was the third highest-grossing lot at the sale.

See: The Lots Joining ‘Medusa’ in the Top 10

Overall, Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction achieved $57.1 million, representing the second highest total for a jewelry auction at its New York galleries, with 13 of the lots exceeding $1 million.

The sale also included an extensive collection of jewels from a private American collector, featuring what Sotheby’s called one of the most significant private collections of Bulgari to come to market. Ninety-three percent of those lots found a buyer, bringing in $9 million total.

The collection was led by a 26.54-carat D color diamond Bulgari ring, which garnered $1.7 million.

For the full results of the Dec. 7 Magnificent Jewels auction, visit Sothebys.com

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