Kathleen Lynagh Jewelry Design
Custom Jewelry Designer and Maker in San Diego

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Empress Eugénie's Natural Pearls

 
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.

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.

 
 

In April 2014 these rare beauties were auctioned by Doyle New York and sold for a record breaking 3.3 plus million dollars, where are they now?

According to the Swiss Gemological Institute SSEF, these pearls are natural saltwater pearls with no indications of artificial color modifications. The SSEF 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.”

Each pearl alone measures close to an inch in height and a half-inch wide, and display a warm grey tone. They were mounted with an antique silver and diamond caps, which were set onto a circa 1920 platinum and diamond pendant.

You ask, who owned these pearls?

According to the auction house Doyle New York, the drop-shaped pearls were accompanied by a hand-written note that refers to them as having belonged to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III.

Empress Eugénie wears a magnificent white pearl necklace with matching pendant earrings. Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Portrait of the Empress Eugenie (1826-1920)

Empress Eugénie wears a magnificent white pearl necklace with matching pendant earrings. Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Portrait of the Empress Eugenie (1826-1920)

As the wife of Napoleon III, she was the last empress of France and had a fine jewellery collection to match her royal standing. After the fall of the Second Empire, Eugénie fled to England where she sold her jewels to support the former royal family. Her grey pearls - were bought by American millionaire George Crocker (1856-1909), the son of Charles Crocker, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in California. The pearls were later acquired 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 last recorded sighting was at a debutante ball in 1941.

Where are they now?

In a recent exhibit at Masterpiece London, unveiled a new setting for these historical warm grey pearls.

The Empress Eugénie Pearls set in a pair of earrings. Each pearl is suspended from a 3.01-carat old mine brilliant cut diamond. Photo courtesy of Siegelson

The gleaming grey gems are noteworthy not just because of their remarkable history but also their exceptional lustre, colour and matching size, which is rarely seen in natural pearls. Amazing pearls...