Christie's to sell giant pearl in Dubai

Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:49am EDT
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By Catherine Ngai

DUBAI (Reuters) - Auction house Christie's will put one of the world's largest pearls on the block at its Dubai spring jewelry sale on April 20 in a nostalgic reminder of the Emirate's pearl diving past.

The auction house is showcasing an array of pearls, diamonds, gems and gold jewelry ahead of the sale. Pearls are especially unique to Dubai, as pearl hunting was a major source of income a century ago in the port city.

Christie's -- who have been holding regular auctions in the Middle East since 2006 -- saw regional sales reach $51 million last year, up from recession lows of $18-20 million in 2009. Globally, the art and jewelry-selling powerhouse posted record sales of $5 billion in 2010.

"2009 was a very difficult year for us. Volumes were down and we had price softening," said Michael Jeha, managing director of the Middle East. "But, last year saw a real maturity in strength and return to growth. We had a general recovery."

One of the most interesting pieces on sale this year is a drop-shaped pearl in a silver and grey shade at almost 60 carats. One of the largest natural saltwater pearls recorded to date, it is mounted as a pendant on a diamond-studded chain necklace. Christie's has estimated it at up to $250,000.

"This part of the world likes things that are unique and rare," said David Warren, head of Christie's Middle East jewelry department.

"If you look out on the street, you'll see that quite a number of cars are customized by the manufacturers as special "one-offs.' Similarly, the collectors want something they think is unique."

Close to one hundred jewelry lots - estimated at a total $5-$6.5 million - will be available at the auction next month. Items range from an elephant-shaped gem ring worth $4,000-$6,000 to a diamond flower necklace which converts into a tiara with matching earrings worth $450,000-$550,000.   Continued...