Dharam Shourie, PTI
New York: The Baroda Pearls—a rare natural pearl necklace which once formed the cornerstone of treasury of Maharaja of Baroda—will be the major attraction at Christie’s auction of “Magnificent Jewels” here next month.
Christie’s estimates that the two strand necklace strung by 68 of the largest pearls from the famed seven-strand necklace, would fetch between $7 million and $9 million (Rs30.3 crore and Rs39 crore).
The exceedingly rare necklace of unrivalled quality would provide a rare opportunity to collectors to own the magnificent necklace, Charistie’s said.
“Having amassed huge quantities of pearls from all over the Gulf region, the Indian Royal families were famed for the superlative natural pearls in their treasuries.
“The seven-stand Baroda pearl necklace was the masterpiece of all these collections. The two-row necklace now comprising sixty-eight of the finest and largest pearls of this superb necklace encapsulates everything the modern collector could expect from the most important pearl necklace in the world,” Rahul Kadakia, Head of Jewelry for Christie’s Americas, said.
Considered to be one of the most notable jewelry collectors of the nineteenth century, the Maharaja of Baroda Khande Rao Gawkwar (1856-1870), possessed an unparalleled collection of state jewels.
Giving the history of the necklace, Christie’s said most remarkable in his collection was the famous ‘Star of the South’ diamond, a Brazilian diamond of 129 carats, and the ‘English Dresden’, a drop-shaped diamond of 78.53 carats, both of which were set together in a triple-tiered diamond necklace worn by the Maharaja.
In addition to diamonds, Khande Rao came to possess an extraordinary necklace composed of seven strands of perfectly matched and graduated natural pearls. This necklace was among the most expensive items in the Baroda treasury and it remained among its most prized jewels.
In 1943, Maharaja Pratapsingh Gaekwar made headlines by marrying Sita Devi, his second wife. Referred to as ‘The Indian Wallace Simpson’ by the Western media, she went on to become one of the most flamboyant Maharanis of all time, known for her passion for jewels and strong personality.
Upon marrying the Maharaja, Sita Devi received the jewels from the Baroda treasury that dated back to Mughal times, as well as the renowned seven-strand pearl necklace and the three-row diamond necklace suspending the ‘Star of the South’ and the ‘English Dresden’.
While many of Sita Devi’s jewels were sold in Monaco in later years, the seven-strand pearl necklace remained a part of the Baroda Royal Treasury.