Among Christmas gifts Mrs. Cotton Boll should not expect under the Christmas tree this year is an Art Deco diamond necklace that once belonged to Queen Nazli of Egypt.
The jewels, made in 1939 by Van Cleef & Arpels, will be auctioned next week by Sotheby’s. Set with 217 carats in a sunburst motif, the necklace has been tagged with a pre-auction estimate of $3.6 million to $4.6 million.
Queen Nazli, once married to King Faud, who had died in 1936, and mother of King Farouk, commissioned the diamond necklace and a matching tiara of 274 carats for the wedding ceremony of her daughter, Princess Fawzia, to the Crown Prince of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the future shah, in March 1939.
The ensuing wedding banquet has been described as the most lavish event to ever take place in modern Egypt, and Queen Nazli attended practically covered in diamonds.
However, all did not end well for many of the above individuals.
In 1950, Farouk stripped his mother of her rights and titles after his sister, Princess Fathia, went against the king’s wishes and married Riyad Ghali Effendi, a Coptic Christian, despite the fact that the latter had converted to Islam.
Nazli had left Egypt in 1946 and moved to California because of health problems, but Farouk banished her and Fathia from Egypt, and they would spend the rest of their lives in the United States.
Nazli continued to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle and in 1975 sold the Van Cleef & Arpels diamond necklace and tiara at a New York auction. The pair fetched $267,500, according to the website Jewels du Jour.
However, the former Egyptian royals apparently continued to live high on the hog. The following year, less than a year after the auction, Nazli and Fathia appeared in a Los Angeles bankruptcy court. They hoped that Nazli’s diamonds and rubies would bring $500,000, and the money could be used to settle their debts but bids only reached $180,000. However, the court rejected the offer, instead granting permission for a private sale of the jewels.
Three months later, Fathia was killed by her ex-husband, who then shot himself in the head but survived. Queen Nazli died in 1978 after suffering from years of painful arthritis.
Farouk was overthrown in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and forced to abdicate in favor of his infant son Ahmed Fuad, who succeeded him as Fuad II of Egypt. Farouk died in exile in Italy in 1965.
Faud II, born in January 1952, formally reigned as the last King of Egypt from July 1952 to June 1953 before the monarchy was abolished. He is still alive and lives in Europe.
The marriage of Fawzia and the future Shah of Iran did not go swimmingly, either. Queen Fawzia left Iran and moved back to Cairo in 1945, where she obtained an Egyptian divorce. She remarried four years later and lived until 2013.
Mohammad Reza’s reign as Shah of Iran ended in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution. He died in Egypt in 1980 at age 60.
(Top: Queen Nazli of Egypt wearing Van Cleef & Arpels’ necklace and tiara on the occasion of her daughter Princess Fawzia’s wedding to the future Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. The necklace will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on December 9 in New York.)