Gavel prices for natural pearls boom at Bonhams

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Recent auction hits £4.2 million with pearl necklace leading lots.

Bonhams in London has reported a boom in prices for natural pearls, with some pieces achieving 10 times their estimate at auction.

The Bond Street auctioneer’s recent Fine Jewellery sale on September 17 feature a number of natural pearl pieces, running late into the evening and making a total of £4.2 million.

A single string of 75 natural pearls secured with a diamond clasp, dating from circa 1910, was the top lot on the night, selling to a telephone buyer for £194,500.

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According to Bonhams, prices of natural pearls are now hitting records because of their increasing rarity as overfishing and pollution impacts the supply of new natural pearls.

Two more pearl necklaces were among the top five lots on September 17 in terms of price achieved. A single-row pearl necklace composed of 70 pearls was also purchased by a telephone bidder who snapped up the necklace for £110,500 – more than 10 times its £7,000 to £9,000 pre-sale estimate.

A three-row necklace of natural saltwater pearls quadrupled estimates to sell for £92,500.

A natural pearl and diamond ring on an intricately engraved band set with diamonds near tripled its £15,000 to £20,000 estimates, selling for £47,500.

Bonhams director of jewellery Jean Ghika said: "The market for natural pearls continues to escalate with good quality specimens attracting a discerning international clientele. Signed period jewels also made astonishing prices, underlining how quality statement jewels are highly sought after by ladies who require a unique look.”

Diamonds were also popular on the night, with the second highest price in the auction achieved by a 12.63ct, fancy yellow diamond ring which sold for £146,500.

A sapphire and diamond ‘pelouse’ – or ‘lawn’ – suite by Van Cleef and Arpels also sold for £146,500. The choker and bracelet are fashioned as a ‘lawn’ of circular-cut sapphires, interspersed with diagonal rows of diamonds. A ring and earclips complete the set in a matching sapphire and diamond bombé design.

Cartier pieces were also a hit, with a coral and diamond snail brooch dating from the 1930s achieving £27,500 against an estimate of £4,000 to £6,000, alongside a turquoise and diamond Cartier cocktail ring of bombé design, dating from the 1960s, which sold for £17,500.

To read Professional Jeweller’s 2013 report into pearls and precious gemstones at auction, click here.

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