A breathtaking matched pair of natural pearl drop earrings from the collection of Italian starlet Gina Lollobrigida shattered a record at Sotheby’s Geneva on Tuesday when the gavel went down at a staggering $2.37 million — a record price for pearl earrings and more than double the pre-sale estimate. They were sold to an anonymous bidder.
The pearl earrings, which were worn often throughout Lollobrigida’s career and reputed to have belonged to the collection of jewels of the House of Habsburg, measure approximately 15.6 x 12.1 x 24.9mm and 15.9 x 13.8 x 23.3mm.
The price achieved for Lollobrigida’s earrings topped the late Elizabeth Taylor’s natural pearl earrings, which were sold at a Christie’s auction in 2011 for $1.99 million.
Natural pearls are extremely rare because they form in mollusks without any human intervention. Typically, a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a mollusk, and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, secretes a crystalline substance called nacre to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated over and over, creating the iridescent visual effect seen in fine pearls.
Lollobrigida, who starred on the silver screen during the 1950s and 1960s with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, sold her impressive collection of 23 items to raise money for stem cell research in her native Italy. In total, her collection generated $4.9 million.
“Jewels are meant to give pleasure, and for many years I had enormous pleasure wearing mine,” the 85-year-old Lollobrigida noted. “It now gives me great pleasure to see that these jewels will create a legacy, which will live on after me and continue to do good.”
Another star of Tuesday’s “Magnificent Jewels and Nobel Jewels” auction was a 19th century 74.53-carat cushion-shaped fancy yellow diamond once owned by Ahmad Shah Qajar, the shah of Persia from 1909 to 1925 and the last ruler of the Qajar Dynasty. It fetched a whopping $2.95 million, establishing an auction record for a fancy yellow diamond and a record price per carat for a fancy yellow diamond ($40,061 per carat). The selling price doubled the pre-sale estimate.