$20 Million in Jewelry for 20 Charitable Institutions

April 24, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
Mrs. Lily Safra
Mrs. Lily Safra (Courtesy of Eric Megret)

NEW YORK—Could it be that, in her later years, she sensed the transience of earthly riches? Perhaps, because 74-year-old billionaire Lily Safra has decided to donate an estimated $20 million in precious jewelry for the benefit of 20 different charitable institutions.

Following an international tour that has already included New York and Paris earlier this month, the jewelry will be up for auction at Christie’s in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 14.

To be fair, Safra has a history of philanthropy, as does her late husband, banker Edmond J. Safra, from whom she inherited her riches. For example, the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital in Israel is just one of the many charitable institutions and programs created by the Safras. Also on her hand-picked list, are cultural institutions such as the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Opera House in London.

In addition to having a heart of gold, Safra is credited as being a discerning connoisseur.

François Curiel, international head of Christie’s jewelry department, in a statement, called the sale offerings “a sublime collection of 70 rare jewels, comprising the very best in all styles, periods, and makers, from the late 18th century all the way to modern times.”

“Only a connoisseur with an eye as refined as that of Mrs. Lily Safra could have collected such an ensemble of jewels,” said Curiel.

Epoch Times Photo
A ruby and diamond camellia flower brooch by JAR, 2003, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million.(Courtesy of Denis Hayoun, Diode SA)

Among the jewels are 18 pieces by JAR, one of the most illustrious names in modern jewelry. Eschewing showroom hours or advertisements, JAR, whose real name is Joel Arthur Rosenthal, caters to big names like Elizabeth Taylor, Elle Macpherson, and Barbara Walters, according to Forbes.

JAR typically crafts pieces specific to buyers, as is the case with the 18 pieces he created for Safra. In fact, this sale represents the most JAR pieces that have ever come to auction in a single owner collection. 

“JAR creations are so highly prized by their owners that they rarely come to auction and this is an extraordinary opportunity for any JAR lover to purchase some of his best jewels to ever appear on the market,” according to Christie’s.

Other highlights from the sale include extravagant diamond rings: a 34.05 carat rectangular-cut diamond ring estimated at $3.6 million–$5 million; a famous (formerly in the collection of Luz Mila Patiño, Countess du Boisrouvray) 32.08 carats cushion-shaped Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Chaumet estimated at $3 million–$5 million; and a 31.21 carats rectangular-cut Burmese sapphire and diamond ring, mounted by Boucheron estimated at $450,000–$550,000.