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Baroda Pearls Sell for Record Price
Pearl Scene

In a reminder of the long history of the connoisseurship of pearls, the Baroda pearl necklace, the most important natural pearl necklace to be offered at auction, sold for $7.1 million at the Christie’s April 25 sale in New York, setting a new record for pearls at auction.

“The Indian royal families were famed for the superlative natural pearls in their treasuries,” says Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas. “The seven-strand Baroda pearl necklace was the masterpiece of all these collections. The two-row necklace, now comprising 68 of the finest and largest pearls of this superb necklace, encapsulates everything the modern collector could expect from the most important pearl necklace in the world.” The necklace has a matching pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants, a brooch, and a ring.

One of the world’s great jewelry collectors of the 19th century, the Maharajah of Baroda, wore a triple tiered diamond necklace set with the 129 carat Star of the South diamond and the 78 carat English Dresden. But the rarest necklace in the Baroda treasury was an unrivaled seven-strand necklace of natural pearls from the Gulf. In the 1940s, the necklace was also worn by Maharani Sita Devi, the flamboyant “Wallace Simpson” of India.

The best 68 pearls, measuring approximately 9.47 to 16.04 mm, from the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh strands, were used to create the modern-day Baroda necklace. The two large matched strands are joined by a cushion cut diamond Cartier clasp.

Christie’s said the buyer was an Asian private collector, who bid by phone. Bidding lasted about three minutes in a packed auction room.

“This auction marks a turning point in the jewelry world where original design, rarity, and provenance prove to be just as important as the quality of a gem,” Kadakia says. “The pearls sold at about what we estimated them to make and more than double the last world record price for a natural pearl necklace.” The previous record was set by a two-strand natural pearl necklace which sold for $3.1 million at Christie’s in Geneva in November 2004.

Christie’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale, which totaled $39.1 million, included another world record price. A 22.66 carat Kashmir sapphire sold on behalf of the Minnesota Historical Society fetched $3.1 million.

pearl necklace