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A Noble Mission: Royal Collection To Be Sold To Promote Education

Pat Dwyer, 04/18/2008

In a glittering evening that included the likes of Grande Dame Super Model Carmen and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, the Heritage Auction Galleries viewing of the James C. Russo Russian & British Royal Objects Collection was the Upper East Side event of the week.

Installed at The Russian Synod on East 93rd Street for the April 16 showing, the collection has now been moved to the Heritage Auction House in Dallas, TX for the remainder of the event with the live auction scheduled for Thursday April 24. James Russo himself spoke to Jewelry.com at the event saying, "I am thrilled by this turn out. We were expecting roughly 90 people and the count is up to 250!" Many in the audience of luminaries were Russian nationals whose interest has been peaked by the fine array of pieces from thier country's history

This is a one of a kind, museum quality collection described by Kathleen Guzman, Consignment Director for Heritage as, "... An incredible collection, which includes over 300 items of vertu, jewelry, medallic art, and porcelains ..."

Collected over the past twenty plus years by James Russo, a gentleman with a passion for both beauty and history, Guzman goes on to say, "The pieces offered here, most of which are personal pieces from a specific member of a Royal family or reigning monarch, were acquired by Mr. Russo not only for their intrinsic beauty, but for the unique story that each piece holds."

One of the premiere pieces in this collection is the Imperial Faberge heart-shaped sterling silver clock, commissioned by Tsar Alexander III from work-master Ivan Rappaport in 1891 for Maria Fedorovna on the occasion of their 25th (Silver) Wedding Anniversary. Engraved with the names of the Tsar's Imperial Residences, the nickname of the Empress, (Minni,) the initials of their five children, and a silver strut that supports the clock in the back forming the Tsar's initial, A the piece retains its original key and box. Other pieces in the collection run the gambit from Napoleonic snuff boxes, jeweled cigarette cases, a dazzling Garnet, Diamond and Gold Faberge crucifix and even a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne saved from the wedding breakfast of Princess Diana and Prince Charles held on July 29, 1981.

Russo himself has lived a life that has taken him from fashionable Park Avenue to the poverty stricken slums of Calcutta and Thailand. It was on a fateful trip to Thailand, where James and his partner of 42 years, Tony Cointreau, saw the tremendous need of poverty stricken children there for education and assistance. "A year and a half ago I would NEVER have thought of selling off my collection. It has been my passion." But, after seeing the need of Thai children, it came to him (on the plane ride home) that the collection could be put to a truly noble mission. Then and there Jim turned to Tony and said, "The collection has to go." He went on to say, "... I have had them. I have enjoyed my time as their caretaker and now it's time for them to go. It is a fair trade for my new passion; a 'rest of my life' passion which begins right here, right now." Proceeds from the auction will be used to set up The Russo/Cointreau Foundation whose major thrust will be child welfare and education. The operations of the foundation are still simmering, but once the money is counted and safely tucked away, the wheels will begin to move faster and faster.

All pieces may be viewed and bid on at the Heritage website. The information for the live auction is:

April 24, 2008 Heritage Auction Galleries Design District Annex 1518 Slocum Street Dallas, Texas (214) 528-3500 www.HA.com

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