Apr 29 2014, 3:09pm CDT | by Forbes
A pair of rare natural pearls believed to have been owned by Empress Eugenie of France sold for a world record auction price of more than $3.3 million. The Doyle New York auction house, which sold the pearls at its “Auction of Important Jewelry” held Monday, said they were purchased by a telephone bidder who requested anonymity.
The price surpassed the prior world record for a pair of natural pearls set in May 2013 by Sotheby’s Geneva belonging to actress Gina Lollobrigida for $2.4 million. That pair broke the earlier record of $1.99 million set by Christie’s New York at the sale of the collection of Elizabeth Taylor in December 2011.
The drop-shaped pearls were accompanied by a hand-written note that refers to them as having belonged to Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III (the last emperor of France), the auction house said. In 1887, following the fall of the monarchy, an historic auction of the French Crown Jewels took place in the Louvre, lasting 12 days.
Doyle New York has a detailed description of the pearls provenance, owned by the family of two prominent industrialists of America’s Gilded Age.
They were first purchased by George Crocker (1856-1909), the son of Charles Crocker, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in California. They were later owned by the descendants of Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909) of Massachusetts, an American industrialist who made a fortune as a partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil and a founder of the Virginia Railroad.
The pearls measured nearly an inch in height and a half-inch wide, and were warm gray in color, according to the auction house. They were mounted with antique silver and diamond caps, which were set onto a circa 1920 platinum and diamond pendant.
The pearls were accompanied by a report from the Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF describing them as natural saltwater pearls with no indications of artificial color modification. The Institute added a statement describing them as “very rare and exceptional, and thus this pair of pearls can be considered a very exceptional treasure of nature.”
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