A single pearl-drop earring worn by Charles I at his execution in 1649, a maharaja’s coat richly embroidered with pearls c.1870, and a necklace of cultured pearls given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio in 1954 – all part of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum this autumn.
Woolley & Wallis specialist Jonathan Edwards had feared, in the wake of a January sale, that the extraordinary run on the 'tears of the gods' had begun to soften. "When you hear dealers saying that a leading buyer has dropped out, that the market is getting more discriminating, it usually heralds a slide," he said. "But after our latest sale they are very much back on track."
The sale in Salisbury on April 18 raised £1m which meant that it was second only to that in April 2012 which included an extraordinary pair of pearl earrings sold at £1.4m. It included half-a-dozen saltwater pearl lots and all, accompanied by the all-important reports from The Gem and Pearl Laboratory, performed very satisfactorily.
Foremost among them were two-row necklaces, one with 81 and 85 pearls graduating from 3.6 to 8.5mm (estimate £20,000-30,000), the other with 49 and 53 pearls graduating from 5.1 to 8.9mm (estimate £50,000-70,000).
The former, with a platinum clasp set with a triangular cut and small circular diamonds, took £98,000.
The latter, once the property of Major Maurice Pope of Ashwicke Hall and thence by descent to the present owner, featured a converted 18th century octagonal-cut emerald clasp set in silver and gold within a rose-cut diamond border, while a clue to their pedigree was a Cartier centre opening case. They took £145,000.
Buyers from Hong Kong, India, Dubai and New York were among the strongest participants at this Salisbury sale, an indication that the jewellery business is a very international marketplace. While chiefly sourced locally, the best of this sale went overseas, observed Mr Edwards.
The other major 'spike' in the market in recent times has been the clamour for the best coloured stones.
This sale included a very fine Kashmir sapphire. Although the platinum mount was struck with London marks for 1998, its central stone had been purchased originally from Garrard by Richard Grosvenor, Viscount Belgrave, 2nd Marquess of Westminster (1795-1869) for his daughter, Lady Octavia Grosvenor, of Fonthill Old Abbey Estate.
As technical drawings included in the lot indicated, the ring was subsequently acquired by the current owner and remodelled in 1998 by Garrard to more modern specifications.
A report from SSEF (Swiss Gemmological Institute) stated that the antique cushion-cut sapphire weighs 4.524cts, is of blue colour with strong saturation and had no indication of heating.
It was just the right colour and it took £125,000 (estimate £50,000-75,000).