A pair of earrings brought in for valuation produced what is believed to be the largest natural round pearl to have been sold at auction.
The vendor assumed the pearls to be cultured but Jonathan Edwards, head of the Jewellery department recognised one to be natural and arranged for it to be tested. Three independent laboratories, including the SSEF in Switzerland confirmed it to be a natural saltwater pearl and noted 'A natural pearl of such a large size and quality is very rare and exceptional.'
With an impressive size and weight of 33.147cts (132.59 grains), the pearl measured 16.5mm - 17.4mm.
Documentation of historic round pearls can be prone to conflicting details and some pearls, over the years, have simply disappeared. Although some were recovered, the entire French crown jewels were stolen when the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury) was stormed in Paris during the French Revolution in 1792. An inventory of the jewels had listed a 388 grain, round pearl just a few months previously. It has not been mentioned again.
A pearl of 148 grains was referred to in Taverniers Voyages (1676 - 1679) as being a gift to the Great Mogul from Shah Abbas. Again, it has not been mentioned since.
Coverage from both the national and international papers, together with a strong marketing campaign ensured that all potential buyers had the opportunity to view the pearl, either in London or at the Salisbury salerooms.
A full complement of phone bidders were poised when Chairman Paul Viney started the opening bid at £60,000, the next bid was £300,000 from a client keen to get serious bidding underway. The hammer dropped at £680,000, buyer's premium takes this to £811,600.
The images that went global. Marielle Whiting from the Jewellery department illustrating the size of the pearl.