Athina Onassis, the heiress once dubbed ‘the richest little girl in the world’, is selling millions of pounds of jewelry she inherited.
The only surviving descendant of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, 23-year-old Athina has decided to sell more than 40 pieces owned by her mother, Christina, who died when she was three.
The sale is prompted not by a lack of money – Athina inherited a fortune estimated at anything up to $2 billion – but by her decision that she has no need of what she sees as the glittering accoutrements of a bygone era.
It will, however, be bound to attract further criticism that she has no respect for her family’s past.
Athina fell out with her French father Thierry Roussel when she was young and he failed to attend her wedding in 2005 to Alvaro de Miranda Neto, a Brazilian Olympic showjumper 12 years her senior.
Athina, who as a 10-year-old revealed in a handwritten will that she intended to give her fortune away, was due to take over control of the philanthropic Onassis Foundation founded by her grandfather Aristotle when she turned 21.
However she was blocked by the trustees, who said her connections with Greece were too tenuous.
The jewellery collection has an estimated value of $16 million and is being auctioned on Wednesday. It is on public show at Christie’s in London today.
Highlights include a pear-shaped 38-carat diamond estimated at up to $4.4 million and a ruby and diamond necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels, expected to make up to $80,000.
They were worn by Christina, Onassis’s daughter, to many grand balls and dinners.
The collection also includes a rare Buddha by Carl Fabergé which took pride of place on Onassis’s yacht. That has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
Raymond Sancroft-Baker, Christie’s jewellery expert, said the heiress had decided to sell because the jewellery was not suitable for her.
‘She’s a young girl and she just doesn’t wear them. She wants to feel comfortable in what she wears. That era has gone.’
Yet there were still people who would buy and wear such items, particularly at private parties, he added.
‘The Americans are very keen and the Chinese more so than they were. If you’ve made millions in China, how are you going to show your wealth?’
He said the last jewellery sale attracted bidders from 28 countries from Norway to Uruguay with no sign of a slump in interest despite world economic problems.
‘It’s rather perverse. The last time there was a blip, in the early Nineties, sales held up because [jewellery]has intrinsic value,’ he said.
The value of the best flawless diamonds has doubled in the last two years.
‘Auctions are a very good place to buy jewellery. It’s difficult to find it cheaper elsewhere.’
Mr Sancroft-Baker welcomed the public to come to view the lots.
‘There aren’t many opportunities in London to come and see things in a nice atmosphere without a gorilla looking over your shoulder,’ he said.
Other exceptional pieces include a 15.02-carat heart-shaped diamond pendant, estimated at up to $1,600,000, a ring by Graff with a vivid yellow pear-shaped diamond of 4.15 carats, expected to make up to $240,000, and a Harry Winston sapphire and diamond necklace estimated at up to $300,000.