The Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT) and David Warren, Senior International Jewellery Director of Christie’s, will present a Jewellery Outlook webinar, showcasing some of the world’s most Magnificent Pearls.
The webinar will also include a discussion of the outlook for the natural pearl jewellery market and the importance of testing and certification of natural pearl jewellery.
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In the following interview, David Warren tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough about some of his personal favourite magnificent pearl jewellery pieces that Christie’s sold during his 40-year career, and describes some of the highlights of the Magnificent Pearls exhibition staged in Bahrain by DANAT and Christie’s last year. The exhibition was the largest ever show of natural pearl jewellery.
David, what were the highlights of the “Magnificent Pearls” exhibition in Bahrain in March 2019?
The exhibition of Magnificent Pearls that we held in conjunction with DANAT in Bahrain in March 2019 contained many rare and historic pearls.
Amongst my favourites were the near perfectly formed drop shaped pearl and diamond pendant earrings (over 21mm long) that once belonged to the Italian branch of the Bourbon Parma family. Originally in the collection of Maria de Savoie, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.
Then there was the beautiful Belle Époque pearl and diamond tiara designed in the style of a band of myrtle leaves by Kreuter, circa 1900, that was commissioned by the Von Hapsburg family.
The highest value item in the exhibition was a sumptuous, very long seven-row pearl necklace, comprising 374 exceedingly fine pearls, set at each side with an 8-carat elongated cushion-shape light brown diamond, with carved white jade settings.
However, the Empress Josephine pearl necklace was for me the star of the show!
The highly important and hugely historical necklace, composed of two rows of large pearls, suspending seven drop shaped pearls, once belonged to Empress Josephine of France, passing down through the family to Queen Josephina of Sweden.
Please highlight two or three exceptional natural pearls that Christie’s sold during your career with the auction house, and can you please share a few of your insights and memories of these sales?
Two fascinating pearls that Christie’s have sold during the time I have worked there are the Pelegrina (133.16 grains) and the Peregrina (202.24 grains) pearls.
Much confusion used to exist around these two exquisite pearls, partly as The Book of the Pearl, printed in 1908 (considered one of the great reference works on pearls) describes them, noting the correct weights of each but unfortunately putting them the wrong way round.
Also, the famous painting of Mary Tudor wearing a large pearl drop is always described as being the Peregrina. However, this is not the case, as the Peregrina was found in 1579 and Mary Tudor died in 1558.
The pearl in her portrait is a different large pearl weighing 257.41 grains, which I brought in for sale in our London auction in 2004 and which almost certainly traced back to King Charles V of Spain, given to Mary Tudor as a wedding present and subsequently returned to Philip II of Spain after Mary’s death.
Having had the exceptional good luck to have handled, researched and sold all three of these historically important pearls, my various investigations have helped to solve the mystery of the Peregrina and Mary Tudor pearls.
When preparing natural pearl lots for sale by Christie’s, how important is certification by recognised lab groups, such as the Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT)?
It is vital to have a laboratory certificate confirming the origin of pearls whenever they are sold, either by auction, privately, or retail.
The value changes significantly between 1) Natural salt water pearls; 2) Natural fresh water pearls; 3) Cultured pearls.
There are many laboratories around the world producing pearl certificates but it’s important to use one of the internationally recognised industry leaders.
What categories of natural pearl jewellery can have the greatest investment potential? How important is provenance?
With all gemstones, it is best to buy the finest quality one can afford. For the purpose of investment this is critical.
Fine quality specimens are more likely to go up in value and are more likely to maintain their value during recessionary periods.