Owner didn’t like pearl earrings gifted to Romanian king’s mistress.
A pair of pearl earrings hidden away in a drawer for 35 years have sold for £1.6m million at auction, after the owner revealed she never really liked them.
The pearl drops were found to be a gift from a Romanian king to his mistress, who left the pearls to her British friend when she died in 1977.
The Wiltshire woman who owned the earrings put them up for auction at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury, Wiltshire, among a handful of other items.
She had kept them in a drawer as she’d always considered them “too big and ostentatious to wear”. They were inherited by her nephew, who showed them to the auctioneer at Woolley and Wallis.
The earrings are said to have generated “huge interest from collectors around the world” and were valued in the sale catalogue at between £80,000-£120,000.
The auction took place last Thursday, and bidding is said to have been “frenetic”, as the sale value hit the £1m mark, and were finally sold to a private collector.
Jonathan Edwards of Woolley and Wallis said: "The bidding just went berserk. The chap who bought them just would not stop. He wouldn’t give up and was very determined to get them. It is a hell of a price.
"The couple who sold the earrings were hanging around at the back of the room. They couldn’t believe how much they went for. There were absolutely thrilled and had big smiles at the end of the sale. It is an awful lot of money for them."
Edwards said the couple had “turned up with a few bits and pieces to sell”, then mentioned the pearls almost as an afterthought.
"They had been kept in a box in a desk drawer since the late 70s. The man’s auntie never liked them. The couple had no idea of their value and never gave them a second thought. They were blown away when I told them the estimate."
The earrings are were bought by King Carol II of Romania for his mistress, Elena.
King Carol renounced the throne in 1925 in the wake of the scandal following the romance and he and Elena lived in exile in Portugal. After Elena’s death some of her jewellery was left to a British friend she knew in Portugal. The unnamed woman brought them back to Wiltshire but consigned them to the drawer.
According to The Guardian, the pearl earrings were examined by the Swiss Gemmological Institute, which called them a "very exceptional treasure" with a white colour with rose and blue overtones.