Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearls

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Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearls

By David Brough

GENEVA, November 2018 – You could hear a pin drop.

A rapid-fire ping-pong bidding war between two telephone bidders was running out of steam and both of them were taking a lot longer to make up their minds about staying in the race.

The bidding battle had dragged on for almost half an hour in a packed room at the Mandarin Oriental on November 14, at one point rising by one million Swiss francs every bid, before one of the bidders finally snapped up the pearl and diamond pendant, formerly in the collection of Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearls
Sotheby’s Royal Jewels 0022 –  November 2018

It sold for a startling world record price of $36 million for a pearl: global publicity around the sale reinforces a revival in global consumer tastes for pearl jewellery that has been under way for some time now.

The world record price achieved for a pearl was very much due to its provenance – the fact that the last Queen of France had held this piece in her jewellery collection shortly before being sent to the guillotine.

Recent tastes for pearl jewellery have centred on a more contemporary look with a twist.
Designers such as London-based Sara Peymanpour and brands like Yoko London have launched pearl jewellery collections featuring innovative design twists, getting away from the traditional “granny” pearl set.

Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearls
Queen Marie Antoinette’s Pearl –  Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family – Sotheby’s November 2018

Sara Peymanpour London has launched a new Pearl Collection, hand-carved in Germany, each piece with a different beautiful pattern.

The collection features Tahitian, South Sea and freshwater pearls.

“Each 18-carat gold cap or ring is individually designed and hand-made for each pearl to follow and match the carving pattern on that pearl — which essentially makes each piece a totally one-off jewel,” Sara said.

The world record price of the Marie-Antoinette jewel underscores the increasing rarity of pearls.

“The Marie Antoinette sale has heightened the fascination with pearl jewellery, at a time when there is more pollution in the oceans, and fewer pearl divers, tightening the available supply,” said Kristian Spofforth, Sotheby’s head of jewellery sales in London.

A new-found appreciation of one of nature’s most magical and mysterious creations, has made pearls popular again

“For the past few years younger women have started to pay attention to pearls because they can be worn both casually with jeans or added to a cocktail dress,” Sara Peymanpour said.

Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearls
Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery, selling THE WINSTON PINK LEGACY diamond for CHF50,375,000 / $50,375,000 / €44,423,358, achieving a world auction record price per carat for a pink diamond

“But pearls need to have a modern and new setting — a pearl string is still considered somewhat old-fashioned and not cool.”

Another high-profile sale at the November Geneva auctions was a rare pink diamond, the Pink Legacy, weighing just under 19 carats, which sold at Christie’s to jeweller Harry Winston for $50 million, a world record price per carat for a pink diamond. Harry Winston renamed the diamond the Winston Pink Legacy.

Among diamonds, at the high-value jewellery auctions of recent years, pinks and blues have been the high-fliers, sometimes achieving world record prices.

The latest Christie’s sale in Geneva underscored an enduring penchant for pink.

“Coloured diamonds, especially pink, are a favourite of mine and I was excited to see images of The Pink Legacy which sold at a record price per carat at Christies,” said London-based jewellery designer Aishleen Lester.

“I think these record holding events like the sale of The Pink Legacy and Marie Antoinette’s pearl jewellery, do affect trends: pink diamonds and pearls have received more coverage, and therefore subliminally rise to the surface and become highlighted within our unconsciousness – a demand created.”

Marie Antoinette jewel sale highlights penchant for pearlsQueen Marie-Antoinette’s Pearl sells for CHF 36.4m /$36.2m WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR A NATURAL PEARL