HONG KONG - To properly appreciate the timeless beauty of pearls is to understand their serendipitous and natural creation. Unlike crystalline gemstones, pearls emerge as finished gems. While cultured pearls are now prevalent, the turbulent conditions in which saltwater pearls are formed produce pearls in a stunning range of shapes and colours. Saltwater oysters produce only one to three pearls – primarily white or cream – at a time. Thus, assembling 42 natural saltwater grey pearls of superb quality sounds seemingly impossible.
This autumn in its Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite autumn sale on 7 October, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer such a rarity – the Cowdray Pearls (Estimate: HK$35–55 million/US$4.5–7 million). Strung and mounted by Cartier, this historic necklace’s pearls range from brown to grey with varying rosé, purple and green overtones.
ARGUABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT SINGLE STRAND OF GREY NATURAL PEARLS EVER TO APPEAR AT AUCTION, THE COWDRAY PEARLS WILL BE SOLD ON 7 OCTOBER DURING SOTHEBY’S HONG KONG MAGNIFICENT JEWELS & JADEITE AUTUMN SALE.
Complementing its lustrous and glamorous appeal, the Cowdray Pearls come with an aristocratic provenance, formerly in the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson. Although later made into a 38-pearl necklace and pair of earrings, the necklace was recently re-strung back to its original number of 42 pearls.
When the Cowdray Pearls first appeared at auction in 1937 at Sotheby’s London, the catalogue noted, “There is probably no finer collection of such pearls in existence.” This claim still rings true today. Considering in 2012, Sotheby’s New York set the world record for a single natural grey pearl at auction at US$1.9 million, there’s no telling what price 42 of these marvels could achieve.
The Cowdray Pearls will be exhibited in New York (24 September), London (28 September), Geneva (29 September), Middle East (date to be confirmed), Singapore (12–13 September), Taipei (19–20 September) and Hong Kong (2–6 October) prior to the auction in Hong Kong on 7 October.