MANILA (Reuters) - A rare 25-carat, barrel-shaped pink diamond has been found among the jewelry collection of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, Christie's said on Tuesday after the government asked the auction house to appraise her collection of rare stones.
The Philippine government could decide to auction the collection after Christie's and rival Sotheby's appraise three sets of jewelry confiscated almost three decades ago after the fall of Imelda's husband, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
"We had an extremely exciting find," said David Warren, director of jewelry at London-based Christie's. "We found an old briolette-cut diamond, which is 25 carats. It has a distinct pink color. Pink diamonds are exceedingly rare."
He said the diamond could be valued at $5 million and would significantly increase the value of the entire collection if the collection is auctioned. The three sets in the collection were valued at $6 million-8 million in 1991.
Only three pure, vivid pink diamonds of more than 10 carats have appeared for sale in almost 250 years of auction history, according to Christie's.
A large cushion-shaped, pink-hued diamond sold for $28.55 million at the Christie's semi-annual jewelry sale in Geneva on Nov. 10.
The Philippine government had tried to auction the three sets in 2005 but Imelda Marcos contested the move, claiming ownership of only two of the sets. One was found in the presidential palace after her family's hasty departure in 1986 and another was seized in Hawaii, where they lived in exile.
Imelda Marcos, now an elected member of Congress, is best known for leaving behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her family fled. She has vowed to recover her family's seized assets.
Ferdinand Marcos was president for nearly two decades before he was ousted in an army-backed uprising in 1986. He was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office and died in exile in 1989.
Among his assets were paintings by such masters as Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh.
The government displayed the 750 pieces in the three sets of jewelery to the media. The collection, kept in a vault at the central bank, includes Burmese rubies, Indian and South African diamonds and Colombian emeralds.
"It shows you the excesses of the Marcos regime," said Andrew de Castro, commissioner of the state agency tasked with recovering the wealth amassed by the Marcoses and their cronies.
"At a time when people were suffering, they were collecting this set of jewelery," he said.
Sotheby's will appraise the collection on Thursday.
Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Paul Tait