Past Auction

Doyle New York Sets World Auction Record of $3.3 Million For a Pair of Natural Pearls

Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 10am EDT |
New York
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Rare and Exceptional Natural Pearls Highlighted Doyle New York's April 28, 2014 Auction of Important Jewelry

  • Rare and Exceptional Natural Pearls Highlighted Doyle New York's April 28, 2014 Auction of Important Jewelry
  • Price Surpasses by Almost $900,000 the Prior Auction Record for a Pair of Natural Pearls Achieved Last Year
  • The Pearls Descended in the Families of Two Prominent Industrialists of America's Gilded Age and Were Accompanied by a Note Describing Them as Having Belonged to Empress Eugenie of France

On April 28, 2014, Doyle New York auctioned a pair of rare and exceptional natural pearls for $3,301,000 – A World Auction Record for a Pair of Natural Pearls. They were purchased by an anonymous telephone bidder.

The staggering price far surpassed the prior world record for a pair of natural pearls set last year. On May 15, 2013, Christie’s Geneva auctioned a pair of natural pearls from the collection of a Lady for $2.44 million. That pair broke the prior record of $2.39 million for a pair of natural pearls set just one day earlier on May 14, 2013 by Sotheby’s Geneva for a pair of natural pearls from the collection of Gina Lollobrigida.

The drop-shaped pearls sold at Doyle New York measured approximately 9/10 inch (23 mm) in height and 1/2 inch (13 mm) wide, and were warm gray in color. They were mounted in antique silver and diamond caps, which were set onto a circa 1920 platinum and diamond pendant.

Swiss Gemmological Institute Ssef

The pearls were accompanied by Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF report no. 72885 stating that the pearls are saltwater natural, with no indications of artificial colour modification.

The Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF added a special statement describing the pearls in remarkably enthusiastic language, stating:

Exceptional Pair of Natural Pearls

The pair of natural pearls described in the Test Report No 72885 from the Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF possesses extraordinary characteristics and merits special mention and appreciation.

The described two natural pearls are set in a pendant with diamonds in a classic design. They have been carefully selected to form a perfect pair in shape, size and weight (calculated weights of approximately 104 and 100 grains respectively). In addition to this, they have perfectly matching colour and very fine pearl lustre.

The colour of these two pearls is slightly brownish grey with a very subtle rose overtone, which is due to an iridescence effect on the surface of pearls. This greatly contributes to the beauty of this pair of natural pearls.

The combination of well-balanced trace elements found in these pearls is characteristic for saltwater pearls.

Assembling a matching pair of natural pearls of this size and quality is very rare and exceptional, and thus this pair of pearls can be considered a very exceptional treasure of nature.

-- Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF


The pearls were also accompanied by a note stating in ink: History of Empress Eugenie's Black Pearls & Necklace Brought to this country by George Crocker. Kept by his wife & his daughter Mrs. Philip Kearny _Emma Rutherford. These in possession of Henry R. Benjamin for his eldest daughter. With an additional notation in pencil: Given to Dorothy R. Benjamin to wear on Xmas 1925 and hold until Anne R. B. is of age. HRB. A notation on the reverse states in ink: Sometime must be put on top of box neck (necklace?) pearls in Guaranty Safe Deposit box 789. So careful of keys. And in a different hand, below the fold: Roger

The Crocker Family

George Crocker (1856-1909) was the son of Charles Crocker, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in California and left a fortune estimated between $300-400 million at his death in 1888. In 1894, George married California mining heiress Emma (Hanchette) Rutherford, a widow with three grown children. The new couple settled in New York and built an imposing Beaux-Arts townhouse on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 64th Street. They also owned Shields Villa, a "cottage" at Ochre Point in Newport, RI, and they built a lavish country estate in Darlington, near Ramapo, NJ. In 1903, their youngest daughter, Emma Wallace Rutherford, married Philip Kearny, the son of General John Watts Kearny of Washington, DC.

The Rogers Family

Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909) of Fairhaven, MA, was an American industrialist who made a fortune as a partner in Standard Oil and a founder of the Virginia Railroad. He and his wife, Abbie Palmer Gifford, both descended from families who had arrived on the Mayflower. He was also a close friend and confidant of author and humorist Mark Twain.

Henry Huttleston Rogers' grandson, Henry Rogers Benjamin, married Dorothy Rennard, who wore the pearls on Christmas, 1925. Their daughter, Anne Rogers Benjamin, wore the pearls at her debut in 1941 at a ball hosted in her honor by her aunt, Beatrice Benjamin Cartwright, in the ballroom of New York's St. Regis Hotel.

In 1945, Anne Rogers Benjamin married Robert Raymond Barry, and the couple settled in Bronxville, NY. In the 1959, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served three terms. The pearls have been consigned by their daughter, Mrs. Lewis A. Shea.

The Sale of the French Crown Jewels

The note accompanying the lot mentions Empress Eugenie. In 1887, following the fall of Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenie, an historic auction of the French Crown Jewels took place in the Louvre, lasting twelve days. The New York firm of Tiffany & Co. was the largest purchaser at the sale, successfully buying almost a third of the Crown Jewels.

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