Diamond Jewelry Owned By Pope Paul VI On Sale For $1.9 Million
FORBES — When it comes to provenance, few jewels can compete with items owned by the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Then there is the intrinsic value of the 18k gold pectoral cross and platinum ring with more than 75 carats of diamonds once belonging to Pope Paul VI (1963 – 1978). You also need to factor in the strange ownership history which included the United Nations, a world renowned daredevil as well as its last-known public sale, which was on eBay.
M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans who now has possession of the holy jewels is offering these items for a combined total of $1.9 million. “Not only are these two pieces historically significant, they are remarkable due to the fact that Papal jewelry rarely comes on the market,” said Bill Rau, owner of the fine art and antiques business.
The intricately carved 18k yellow gold cross is 7 inches in length and decorated with diamonds and Colombian emeralds. Twelve mine-cut diamonds, ranging in size from 3 to 8.66 carats with VVS and VC clarity, run the length and width of the cross totaling more than 60 carats. The emeralds and smaller diamonds fill in the 18k carvings of scrolls and leaves along the edges of the cross.
The cross bears a stamp of “Cassio,” which refers to Cassio Studios, one of the artisan ateliers at the service of the Vatican, Bill Rau said. It is valued by the antique dealer at $1.25 million.
Pectoral crosses are given to clergy who attain the rank of bishop or higher.
Meanwhile, the ring is centered with a 13-carat round white diamond surrounded by 14 smaller round diamonds totaling 3.5 carats. It is set in platinum and flanked by two diamond pavé squares on either side inset with a cross made of rubies. It is valued at $650,000.
Both the ring and the cross are engraved with the Christian Chi Rho symbol, which indicates that both were most probably made by Vatican jewelers in the early 1900′s with existing jewels from the Vatican’s own collection, Bill Rau said.
The auction house, using documents provided by the Vatican, noted that Pope Paul VI made an historic visit to the UN to address the General Assembly in 1965 and at that time requested that these two pieces of jewelry be auctioned with the proceeds going to human relief funds.
The auction took two years to prepare and was handled by Parke-Bernet, the nation’s largest fine art auction house until it was acquired by Sotheby’s in the late 1960′s. An eight-page brochure about these two pieces was printed for this unusual sale which took place in November, 1967. Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson bought both pieces of jewelry for $64,000 and the entire amount was divided between four UN agencies.
After that, the two pieces of jewelry were bought and sold several times. At one point they were even owned by daredevil Evel Knievel. According to published reports, the items were last placed on public sale by Perry’s Emporium, a Wilmington, N.C., jewelry store, whose owner, Alan Perry, placed the pieces on eBay with a starting bid of $850,000. Perry reportedly was selling the jewelry on behalf of a widow whose husband had purchased the ring and cross in the 1970s.
There is no word on whether they ever sold. A call made to Alan Perry was not immediately returned.