Katherine Domyan Up For Auction At Bonhams New York

Fine Jewelry
21 Sep 2018
New York

Jewelry from the estate of Katherine Domyan, the internationally famed two-time Olympic gold medal winner, will go under the hammer at Bonhams New York this September.

More than 60 pieces of jewelry dating from the 1970s to the early 2000s form part of the collection which was purchased by Katherine and her husband Arpad throughout their 56-year marriage as they traveled between New York, Beverly Hills, Paris and the South of France.

Notable pieces from the world's most famous jewelry houses including Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and David Webb feature in the collection which, in total, is estimated at between $2,100,000 and $3,150,000.

From water baby to double gold medal Olympian

Born in Budapest, Hungary, to two-time Olympic champion water polo player Marton Homonnai and Hungarian swimming champion Katalin Szoke, it was no surprise that Katherine herself started swimming at just six months old. At the age of 17, she was chosen to swim in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games where she won two gold medals and set world records in the 100m freestyle relay and the 4 x 100m freestyle relay. She then went on to win gold again in the same two categories during the 1954 European Championships in Turin. Her husband Arpad - who she had known since childhood - was also an accomplished athlete and played for the Hungarian Water Polo team in the 1956 Olympics.

During the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Katherine asked for political asylum from the United States but the immigration quota in effect at the time had been filled. As a result, she and her fellow Hungarian athletes were stranded in Melbourne, Australia, until Sports Illustrated magazine picked up their story. With a special invitation from President Eisenhower, Katherine and her team athletes were granted political asylum in the United States. In 1957 Katherine moved to the United States and, in 1961, went on to marry Arpad. Together, they achieved the American dream as they created a successful real estate development company building office buildings and apartment complexes across the country.

Caroline Morrissey, Senior Jewelry Specialist of Bonhams New York, says: "The collection tells a wonderful story of an amazingly successful woman and her husband who rose to the very top of their sporting careers and then went on to be equally successful as they built their real estate business in their new homeland of America."

Nicholas Foulkes writing in the autumn issue of Bonhams Magazine states: The collection the Domyans assembled speaks of a unique time in America's history, a time that took two refugees on a rags-to-tiches ride from facing Soviet tanks in war-torn Budapest to presidential inaugurations, fundraising galas, White House dinners, summers on the Côte d'Azur and first nights at the opera – a life that, as Arpad Domyan deftly puts it, "involved a lot of black tie."

Highlights from the collection include:

An important Van Cleef & Arpels late Art Deco ruby and diamond bracelet estimated at $300,000-$500,000 (pictured above).
A selection of jewelry from David Webb. In total, 36 lots will be offered in the auction including a carved rock crystal chimera bangle estimated at $60,000-$80,000 and an emerald and diamond necklace estimated at $80,000-$120,000.

A number of impressive pieces by Harry Winston include a 23.13ct emerald cut diamond ring estimated at $250,000-$350,000; an 86.83ct diamond fringe necklace estimated at $350,000-$550,000; a 66.20ct diamond fringe necklace estimated at $250,000-$350,000 (both pictured below) and a pair of diamond cluster earrings estimated at $150,000-$250,000.

Based in Beverly Hill, Katherine and Arpad (pictured below left) lef a very glamorous life together and were often pictured meeting with US Presidents, star athletes and well-known stars from stage and screen. Katherine's best friend was Hungarian-born Zsa Zsa Gabor who also shared a love of collecting and wearing fine jewelry.

A dedicated philanthropist, Katherine was a member of ANTA (American National Theater Association), the Blue Ribbon 400, and was very active with the Los Angeles Opera. In 1985, Katherine was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Swimming Hall of Fame honored her and her three team mates as the relay team of the century.

Bryan Domyan, Katherine and Arpad's son, adds: "My father could never resist buying my mother jewelry and I know this because I was with them for almost every purchase as a child. The occasion was secondary to her desire; if a piece captured her eye, he wanted her to have it. It brought him tremendous joy to see her happy.

"She wasn't one of these women who kept their jewelry locked away in the safe, she wore everything. My mother was effortlessly elegant, whether going out for dinner with family and friends, attending opening night at the opera or meeting the President, she really was a class act. The most memorable pieces for me are the two Harry Winston diamond necklaces, which she often wore together. They made quite the statement."

Click here for a video of these spectacular pieces.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit

  1. Caroline Morrissey
    580 Madison Avenue
    New York, United States 10022
    Work +1 212 644 9046
    FaxFax: +1 212 644 9007

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