Sotheby's Hong Kong auction series has seen the spectacular Hutton-Mdivani necklace set new world records as part of the Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Spring Sale on April 7.
The necklace is considered the greatest jadeite necklace in the world, both for its size and beauty, as well as an illustrious provenance that dates back centuries.
After a tense 20 minutes of bidding, it sold for an outstanding $27.4m. It is now the world's most valuable jadeite necklace, as well as setting a new record for any Cartier jewel.
Cartier created the innovative clasp for the necklace as it was given to American socialite and heiress Barbara Hutton - the original "Poor Little Rich Girl" - on the occasion of her wedding to Prince Mdivani of Georgia.
It had been presented by her father on her 21st birthday in 1933, an event marked by a lavish debutant ball that caused outrage in Great Depression-era America. Hutton's father was Frank Winfield Woolworth, a retail tycoon renowned for his extravagant spending.
Mdivani and his siblings had fled to Paris following the Soviet invasion of Georgia. Dispossessed of the fortunes, they became known as the "Marrying Mdivanis", well-known for their ability to marry into wealth.
The necklace's origins are unknown, but it is likely that the beads date to the imperial court of the Qing dynasty, probably the late 19th to early 20th century. They are of an unusually large size - double that of some of the largest known jadeite beads - and of exceptional quality.
It is likely that they were created for the emperor or empress of the time, but as political instability hit China, many important treasures were removed from the court and redesigned into jewellery.
It is repatriation of these lost treasures that drives part of the high-end market in China, with many new collectors keen to return works of art to their home country.
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