April 29, 2014 – Today, Doyle New York auctioned a pair of rare and exceptional natural pearls for $3.3million. A new world auction record for a pair of natural pearls has been created. The sale shattered the estimate of $100,00 to $200,000. The pearls are suspended from a platinum, silver and diamond pendant. The pendant contains two drop shaped slightly brownish gray pearls with a very subtle rose overtone suspended from silver and rose cut diamond set caps. The body of the pendant is a looped ribbon set with 23 old mine cut diamonds weighing approximately 2.00 carats. The pearls measure approximately 12.9-12.95mm x 23.85mm and 12.90-13.05mm x 22.45mm.
The staggering price surpasses the prior world record for a pair of natural pearls set last year at the May 2013, Sotheby’s Geneva sale. The lot contained a pair of natural pearls from the Gina Lollobrigida collection. The pearls sold for $2.4 million. The 2013 sale broke the previous record of $1.99 million set by Christie’s New York at the sale of the collection of Elizabeth Taylor in December 2011.
The lot was accompanied by a note stating in ink: History of Empress Eugenie’s Black Pearls & Necklace Brought to this country by George Crocker. Kept by his wife & his daughter Mrs. Philip Kearny_Emma Rutherford. These in possession of Henry R. Benjamin for his eldest daughter. With an additional notation in pencil: Given to Dorothy R. Benjamin to wear on Xmas 1925 and hold until Anne R.B. is of age. HRB. A notation on the reverse states in ink: Sometime must be put on top of box neck (necklace?) pearls in Guaranty Safe Deposit box 789. So careful of keys. And in a different hand, below the fold: Roger.
Back side of the brooch.
The first page of the note that accompanied the pearls
The second page of the note that accompanied the pearls
The note accompanying the lot mentions Empress Eugenie. Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon the III, sold her magnificent collection of jewelry at auction in 1887 after the fall of the their regime. The historic auction of the French Crown Jewels took place in the Louvre and lasted twelve days, after which Tiffany & Co. proved to be the largest purchaser at the sale and bought almost a third of the crown jewels.
The elegant brooch was created in 1920 and boasts a prestigious provenance as depicted by Doyle New York:
The Crocker Family
George Crocker (1856-1909) was the son of Charles Crocker, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in California and left a fortune estimated between $300-400 million at his death in 1888. In 1894, George married California mining heiress Emma (Hanchette) Rutherford, a widow with three grown children. The new couple settled in New York and built an imposing Beaux-Arts townhouse on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 64th Street. They also owned Shields Villa, a “cottage” at Ochre Point in Newport, RI, and they built a lavish country estate in Darlington, near Ramapo, NJ. In 1903, their youngest daughter, Emma Wallace Rutherford, married Philip Kearny, the son of General John Watts Kearny of Washington, DC.
The Rogers Family
Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909) of Fairhaven, MA, was an American industrialist who made a fortune as a partner in Standard Oil and a founder of the Virginia Railroad. He and his wife, Abbie Palmer Gifford, both descended from families who had arrived on the Mayflower. He was also a close friend and confidant of author and humorist Mark Twain.
Henry Huttleston Rogers’ grandson, Henry Rogers Benjamin, married Dorothy Rennard, who wore the pearls on Christmas, 1925. Their daughter, Anne Rogers Benjamin, wore the pearls at her debut in 1941 at a ball hosted in her honor by her aunt, Beatrice Benjamin Cartwright, in the ballroom of New York’s St. Regis Hotel.
In 1945, Anne Rogers Benjamin married Robert Raymond Barry, and the couple settled in Bronxville, NY. In the 1959, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served three terms.
George Crocker, by descent to his daughter
Emma Wallace Rutherford (Mrs. Philip Kearny)
Acquired circa 1925 by
Henry Rogers Benjamin, by descent to his daughter
Anne Rogers Benjamin (Mrs. Robert R. Barry), by descent to her daughter
Mrs. Lewis A. Shea