February 16, 2024

Pure Pearls Weekly Newsletter: The Best Pearls at Auction in 2023



Pure Pearls Weekly Newsletter


"Life is made up of a few moments all strung together like pearls. Each moment is a pearl, and it is up to us to pick the ones with the highest luster." –  Joyce Hilfer


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Pure Inspiration: Natural Pearl and Diamond Garland Brooch, Platinum & Gold, Early 20th Century, Jewelry by Unknown via Sotheby's, French Assay Marks


Natural Pearl and Diamond Garland Brooch, Platinum & Gold, Early 20th Century

Pure says: Stunning!!

Jewelry by Unknown via Sotheby's, French Assay Marks


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Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023


Hi Pearl Lovers!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an absolute pearl junkie, and it’s not just contemporary cultured pearl jewelry that captures my interest.

I also am fascinated by the world of natural pearls and antique estate jewelry because of their stunning natural beauty and unique stories behind each piece. So I tend to keep tabs on the latest news about the biggest pearl jewelry auctions with the most interesting listings and how much they fetched during bidding.

I figured I’d do a 2023 Year-In-Review post, showcasing the most beautiful, most interesting and most expensive natural pearls at auction just because this topic is so much fun to delve into.

Onto the show!


Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Tiara


Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Tiara


Photos courtesy of Sotheby's 


Natural Saltwater Pearl and Diamond Tiara, 19th Century

Perhaps the most stunning, and surprising items that made it to the auction block this past year was a suite of royal jewels that had been recovered from a security deposit box at a bank, where they had rested for over 80 years! 
When the royal jewels were uncovered, all were stored lovingly in their original boxes, with handwritten notes included detailing the origin of the jewels, and the reason they came into the family, and the daring escape both the Archduchess and the jewelry made out of Soviet Russia in 1944-1946. 

“Stored in a bank vault since the 1940s, the jewels were brought back to light by Philipp von Württemberg, who, through his company Philipp Württemberg Art Advisory GmbH, helped organise the auction at Sotheby’s. The opening of every trunk and box left von Württemberg speechless, as the jewels shone in pristine condition with their story and whereabouts detailed in small hand-written notes accompanying them.”

Owned by Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany, the spectacular tiara was created by a famous jeweler loyal to the Hapsburgs named Köchert, and was gifted to the Princess upon her wedding to the Austrian Emporer Franz Joseph.

Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Tiara
The tiara features large, drop-shaped natural saltwater pearls framed by sparkling cushion-cut and round diamonds. The pearls measure 10.50 - 12.65 x 18.60mm to 7.70 - 7.75 x 9.70mm, and are beautifully matched for shape, size, color and luster. Nine pearls are drill-set with diamonds. The diamonds weigh approximately 55.00 – 60.00 carats total, with J-L color (some M+), SI-I clarity, as gauged and graded in the mount by the SSEF report 131220.
The tiara features 5 tiered garlands that are detachable, creating an assortment of pendants along with two hairpins. The pearl and diamond tiara came with the original box stamped Köchert, screwdriver, brooch and comb fittings so the wearer can customize the tiara as they see fit. 

"Köchert created countless variations on this theme often combined with floral elements. By the early 1900s, the scrolling lines of art nouveau could be discerned in high jewellery, but always interpreted in a discreet way blending in seamlessly with more traditional decorative elements."
The tiara sold on November 5, 2023 for a hefty 812,800 CHF, which works out to $923,014 USD
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Five Strand Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Five Strand Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace

Superb Natural Saltwater Pearl and Diamond Necklace

This incredible natural saltwater pearl necklace from the collection of Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany (1844–1899) blew me away. It is not the most expensive pearl necklace ever sold, but it is very impressive nonetheless! A handwritten note from Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany (1878-1968) attests to the provenance of the pearl necklace, and the pearls were found in their original case, also stamped Köchert. 

Composed of five detachable strands of 272 pearls, the necklace is finished with a sparkling foliate clasp set with a large cushion-cut centerpiece diamond, which is also surrounded by smaller cushion and rose-cut diamond accents.
The pearls are oval, barrel and button-shaped, with a warm, creamy body color and light pink and green overtones, and are described as having good to high luster with light blemishing. The pearls graduate from 5.35-8.82mm throughout the various strands. The large cushion-cut diamond in the clasp is estimated to weight 5.50 – 6.20cttw, and is graded L/M color, SI1/SI2 clarity. 
The pearls sold at the Sotheby’s Vienna 1900 auction for 457,200 CHF, which amounts to $485,127 USD

Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Devant des Corsage
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Devant des Corsage

Exceptional Natural Pearl and Diamond Devant-de-Corsage, 1865

The absolute STAR of the auction, this incredible natural pearl and diamond devant-de-corsage floral wreath was created for Philipp, Duke of Württemberg (1838-1917) who gave the jewel as a wedding gift to his bride Archduchess Marie Therese of Austria-Teschen, Duchess of Württemberg (1845-1927). Created by royal jeweler Emil Biedermann, a famous Viennese jeweler and rival to Köchert, this stunning devant-de-corsage measures an impressive 6.7 x 5.1-INCHES. 

Composed of three detachable parts, the corsage can be worn as a single large brooch, or a smaller brooch with the three diamond mounted pearl pendants. The diamonds weigh a total of 60 - 75 carats approximately, graded I-K color and VS-I clarity. The natural saltwater pearls measure approximately 10.50 – 14.05 x 21.20mm to approximately 8.40 – 8.45 x 7.35mm in size, and are a dazzling assortment of smooth drop-shaped and button-shaped pearls. 
This rare and important jewel sold at auction for 1,054,100 CHF, which is $1,197,037 USD
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Brooch

Superb Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant

Reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s record-setting natural pearl and diamond pendant which sold at auction in 2022 for $36,500,000, this incredible pearl and diamond brooch is a singularly impressive jewel. 
“This natural pearl brooch was a wedding present from Alexander, Duke of Württemberg (1804-1881) to Archduchess Marie Therese of Austria-Teschen (1845-1927) on the occasion of her marriage to his son Philipp, Duke of Württemberg (1838-1917) in 1865. Later it was bequeathed to the couple’s daughter-in-law Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany, Duchess of Württemberg (1878-1968).” – Sotheby’s

Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Brooch

The luminescent natural pearls feature a baroque drop-shape and round button-shape, measuring 13.30 – 18.90 x 24.45mm and 13.75 – 14.60 x 10.00mm respectively – truly stunning and impressive sizes for natural pearls!
Old Mine cut diamonds surround the uppermost pearl, and two candlelight diamonds sparkle over the diamond-accented detachable drop-shape pearl pendant. These exquisite gems, meticulously selected for their clarity and fire, exude a timeless allure, each facet a testament to the masterful craftsmanship that imbues this ensemble with an ineffable allure.

This gorgeous jewel came with a fitted case, stamped EMIL BIEDERMANN. A handwritten note from Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany provides perfect provenance. 

The brooch sold at Sotheby’s Vienna 1900 auction for 863,600 CHF, which equals $980,703 USD
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Natural Pearl and Diamond Earrings Sterle

Natural Pearl and Diamond Dangle Earrings, circa 1960

Moving on from the Vienna 1900 auction, these natural saltwater pearl and diamond earrings via Phillips auction house, Geneva absolutely caught my eye (and my heart!). There wasn’t much information about their provenance listed unfortunately, but they are signed by the famous Parisian jeweler Sterlé!

Sterlé was an infamous jeweler in Paris who produced unique, one-of-a-kind couture jewels throughout the 1940s to the 1960s, after which he sold his business to Chaumet.
This particular pair of earrings features two beautifully matched natural saltwater pearls dangling from a marquis-cut diamond and flowing baguette diamond earrings. The drop-shaped pearls weigh 23.84 carats and 22.88 carats and measure 12.72-14.91 x 18.51mm and 13.50-14.12 x 17.25mm respectively. 

The Sterlé natural pearl and diamond earrings sold at auction in November 2023 for 482,600 CHF, which translates to $548,040 USD.
Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Etoile del Mer Starfish Brooch Salvador Dali
Photo courtesy of Christie's auction house

Étoile del Mer Starfish Brooch by Salvador Dalí

The auction of Salvador Dali's iconic Etoile del Mer starfish brooch has stirred considerable excitement in the art world, invoking both fascination and reverence for the surrealist master's craftsmanship. Crafted in the 1940s, the brooch embodies Dali's penchant for the surreal and the whimsical, encapsulating his unique artistic vision. Beyond its aesthetic allure, the brooch holds significant cultural and historical value as a testament to Dali's enduring influence on surrealist art.

Central to the brooch's allure is a cultured pearl that adorns its center, adding a touch of ethereal beauty to the piece. This exquisite pearl, with its iridescent sheen and round button-shape, elevates the brooch to a level of unparalleled elegance and sophistication. Its inclusion not only highlights Dali's meticulous attention to detail but also underscores his ability to infuse ordinary objects with a sense of otherworldly charm.

Pearl Jewelry Auctions 2023: Etoile del Mer Starfish Brooch Salvador Dali, Rebekah Harkness

The brooch's association with prominent socialite Rebekah Harkness further enhances its allure and mystique. Worn by famed socialite and art patron through the 1960s and 1970s, the brooch became a symbol of opulence and refinement, gracing elite gatherings and exclusive soirées with its presence. Its presence on the socialite's lapel or adorning her gown added an element of intrigue, sparking conversations and eliciting admiration from onlookers.
In essence, the Etoile del Mer starfish brooch stands as a testament to Dali's artistic genius and his ability to transcend the conventional boundaries of art. The brooch serves as a tangible embodiment of surrealism's enduring legacy, captivating collectors and art enthusiasts alike with its timeless allure.
The cultured pearl in the center measures a large 20.66 x 19.64 x 17.30 mm; the articulated starfish features round, single cut diamonds and rubies and buff-top emeralds, mounted in yellow gold and platinum. The two attachable butterfly enhancements, one green-blue, brown, yellow and orange round and single-cut diamonds, the other of buff-top sapphires and emeralds, cast in yellow gold and platinum.
This visually and mechanically stunning starfish and butterfly brooch sold at auction in June 2023 at Christie’s for a staggering $982,800 USD. Honestly … if this piece ever goes up for auction again, the price is guaranteed to hit the stratosphere!

That's all for now - I hope you enjoyed my pearl jewelry auction review for 2023!

Which pearl jewelry piece was your favorite? 

Until next time ...



Ashley M.


The PurePearls.com Wishlist: Weekly Pearl Jewelry Spotlight 



Pure Pearls Weekly Product Spotlight: White South Sea Pearl & Diamond Evasion Pendant 



This beautiful White South Sea pearl pendant features a lustrous 10mm, AAA quality pearl.
The pearl is mounted on the finest quality 18K gold. 
This pendant comes packaged in a beautiful jewelry gift box with an official certificate of authenticity.

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