The silver snake bracelet worn by Freddie Mercury in the 1975 "Bohemian Rhapsody" video — along with a "Queen Number 1" gold brooch gifted by band manager John Reid to the singer when the song reached #1 on the UK charts — are just two of 1,200 items from Mercury's estate that will be hitting the auction block at Sotheby's London in early September.
The world-renowned rock superstar was a savvy and enthusiastic collector who once explained, "I want to lead a Victorian life, surrounded by exquisite clutter."
And across six auctions, Sotheby’s offerings will reflect Mercury’s kaleidoscopic world of style and quality, spanning art, fashion, musical instruments, personal papers, photographs, furniture — and jewelry, accrued over the course of 50 years.
This collection had been meticulously preserved at Mercury's beloved home at Garden Lodge in Kensington, West London, by his life-long friend, Mary Austin. Mercury, the frontman for Queen, passed away in 1991 at the age of 45.
“The time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life,” Austin said in a statement. “It was important to me to do this in a way that I felt Freddie would have loved, and there was nothing he loved more than an auction. Freddie was an incredible and intelligent collector who showed us that there is beauty and fun and conversation to be found in everything.”
Austin is reportedly donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale to both the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Sotheby's previewed the collection during a month-long free exhibition at its 16,000-square-foot London gallery. The exhibit will be followed by a series of six live auctions (each devoted to a different aspect of Mercury's life) commencing on September 6.
The auction has a been called a "democratic sale" because many items are affordable, with prices starting as low as £100 ($127).
Here are the jewelry highlights from "Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own."
Lot 28. Freddie Mercury’s snake bangle (pic, above). Crafted in sterling silver and featuring faceted green glass eyes, the coiled 95cm snake (measured from head to tail) was worn by Mercury during the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video in 1975. Estimate: £7,000 – £9,000 ($8,903 – $11,446).
Lot 35. "Queen Number 1" brooch. Given by Queen manager Reid to each band member when "Bohemian Rhapsody" reached the top of the UK charts in 1975, the Cartier-designed gold brooch replicates the title design of Queen’s debut studio album. Estimate: £4,000 – £6,000 ($5,087 – $7,631).
Lot 32. Onyx and diamond ring. Believed to be a gift to Mercury from fellow rock star Elton John, this Cartier-designed ring is set with a pair of hexagonal-shaped onyx within a surround of diamonds. Estimate: £4,000 – £6,000 ($5,087 – $7,631).
Lot 33. Fancy light brown-yellow diamond ring. The bezel-set oval diamond weighing 10.03 carats is surrounded by brilliant-cut colorless diamonds. Estimate: £20,000 – £30,000 ($25,437 – $38,156).
Lot 34. Fancy deep orange-brown diamond ring. Similar to Lot 33, this ring has a fancy-color 9.04-carat center stone surrounded by brilliant-cut colorless and colored diamonds. Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000 ($19,078 – $25,437).
Lot 29. Diamond brooch. Designed circa 1950, this feather brooch is set with baguette and tapered baguette diamonds. The plumes are dotted with brilliant-cut diamonds. Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000 ($19,078 – $25,437).
Lot 30. Sapphire and diamond brooch. Accented by single- and circular-cut diamonds, the brooch is signed by Cartier London and was designed during the 1920s. Estimate: £12,000 – £18,000 ($15,262 – $22,893).