Lady Houston's £311k pearls sell at auction

Bonhams' recent sale, The Art of Jewels: Fine Jewellery and Iconic Gems, proved the enduring attraction of rare and beautiful jewelled items, despite the economic downturn.

Highlights included a brilliant-cut 5.01cts, D colour diamond, which sold for £180,000 and an internally flawless fancy intense yellow radiant-cut 9.12cts diamond, sold for £120,000. A rare art deco black lacquer and diamond bangle, by Cartier, sold for £96,000 from an estimate of £20,000-25,000.

The top lot was a natural pearl necklace which once belonged to Lady Houston. It achieved a remarkable £311,200 - 10 times its lower estimate of £30,000.

Lady Houston pearl necklace
Lady Houston's pearl necklace, which sold for £311k

The impressive double-row necklace with graduated pearls is made up of large natural pearls of outstanding quality between 5.8-12.8mm.

In addition to the quality of the necklace, there was a memorabilia aspect to the sale which probably increased the price. Lady Houston donated a considerable amount of her personal fortune in support of British aviation which would eventually lead to the design of the Spitfire, an integral part of Britain's national defence during WW2.

The sale achieved £2.2m and was dominated by private buyers seeking the perfect Christmas gift or simply collecting objects of outstanding beauty.

Bonhams' London jewellery department has had their most successful year ever.

Jean Ghika, Director of UK and Europe at Bonhams Jewellery department commented: "The strong prices achieved demonstrate just how buoyant the market is for natural pearls and period jewels that are fresh to the market. 71% of our buyers were private customers and our most valuable lots were bought by private individuals".

Bonhams' success in the jewellery market this year echoes the success of Christie's, which has seen over $100m worth of jewels go under the hammer in the US, ending the year with a $5.4m diamond sale.


Image: Bonhams

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