A pair of pearl and diamond earrings that once belonged to the mistress of the exiled King of Romania sold today at Woolley and Wallis for £1,618,000 (including premium). Astonishingly, the earrings had been kept in a drawer in an English home for the last 35 years, unloved and unappreciated by their current owner.
This price smashes the previous record price achieved for a piece of jewellery at auction outside London, which was £250,000 for a sapphire necklace. The spectacular earrings, each made up of a large natural drop shaped pearl suspended from a line of diamonds, had generated international interest before the sale. They sold today to an anonymous buyer on the telephone after a fierce round of bidding which generated gasps of astonishment in the auction room and ended in a round of applause. The lot had been contested by another determined phone bidder after a buyer in the room had dropped out at £1.1 million.
Dating from the early 20th century, the earrings are believed to have been a gift from King Carol II of Romania for his glamorous mistress Elena Lupescu, who later became his wife. The earrings, along with several other pieces, were left to the vendor's family by Elena when she died in 1977. The owner did not wear them and had no idea of their value until they brought them to Woolley and Wallis for valuation. Jonathan Edwards, Head of Jewellery said:
"The vendors brought them to us out of curiosity and were astonished to discover their value. We are absolutely thrilled with today's result and delighted for the family."