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JEWELLERY

Hong Kong police seek stolen $1.6 million ring

Hong Kong police said on Wednesday they were investigating the theft of a $1.6-million gem-encrusted ring reportedly left in a hotel washroom by co-president of Swiss jewellers Chopard.

“A female foreigner left an emerald ring valued at HK$12 million in the washroom on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong,” a police spokeswoman said.

“A few minutes later when she returned to look for the ring, it was gone.”

The South China Morning Post quoted an unidentified employee of Chopard as saying the ring belonged to Caroline Scheufele, the high-end jewellery maker’s co-president who was in Hong Kong to celebrate the opening of a new store.

Police would not confirm the identity of the ring’s owner, but announced that a reward of HK$500,000 had been offered by the victim for the return of the ring.

The ring was lost on September 8th around 11.30pm. Its disappearance has been classified as theft, police said.

It features a 16.83 carat emerald sitting between two diamonds of 1.15 and 1.29 carats, with another 674 small diamonds around the band.

Chopard Hong Kong and Four Seasons Hotel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hong Kong is also the centre of a dispute over the ownership of a 16-carat yellow diamond reportedly stolen from ultra high-end jeweller Graff Diamonds.

A Hong Kong pawnshop which bought the ring is fighting to keep the gem after the London jewellers claimed it was stolen from them five years ago.

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JEWELLERY

Marie Antoinette pendant fetches $36 million, shattering estimate

A pearl and diamond pendant owned by Marie Antoinette before she was beheaded during the French Revolution sold for $36 million at an auction on Wednesday, shattering its pre-sale estimate of up to $2 million.

Marie Antoinette pendant fetches $36 million, shattering estimate
The pearl and diamond pendant were the centrepiece of Wednesday's auction. Photo: AFP

The Sotheby's auction at an ultra-luxurious hotel on the banks of Lake Geneva saw feverish bidding for a 10-piece collection owned by the ill-fated queen, featuring jewels unseen in public for two centuries.

The 10 items, which had been estimated to fetch a total of roughly $3 million, sold for a combined sum of nearly $43 million, Sotheby's said.

The 'Queen Marie Antoinette Pearl' (C) with other jewellery from the 'Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family' collection. Photo: AFP

A diamond brooch pegged to go for roughly $80,000 (70,000 euros) sold for $1.75 million, excluding fees, one of several pieces that brought in more than 20 times its estimated worth. 

But the highlight was the pendant featuring an oval diamond and drop-shaped pearl, which Sotheby's said went to an anonymous, private buyer, without giving further details.

Read also: 'Incomparable' $50-million pink diamond smashes record at Geneva auction

Sotheby's also said the pendant set a new record price for a pearl jewel sold at auction.

“Marie Antoinette's pendant is simply irreplaceable and the price it fetched is about far more than the gem itself,” Eddie LeVian, the chief executive of jewellers Le Vian, said in a statement.

“It captures everyone's imagination,” he added.

“This is the ultimate proof, if it were needed, that the world's ultra high net worth individuals love rare, natural fancy coloured diamond and pearls jewels as investments, and especially those with royal provenance.”

Journey through Europe

Marie Antoinette's treasures were the centrepieces of a sale featuring 100 jewels held by the Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma. 

Sotheby's, which had billed the event as one of the most important royal jewellery auctions in history, said the night did not disappoint. 

The 100 lots earned a total of $53.1 million – compared to a pre-sale estimate of $4.2 million – a performance that bested a previous record set in 1987 when Sotheby's sold a collection of jewel's once held by the House of Windsor.  

Marie Antoinette, who historians say was reviled by much of the French public over her lavish spending in the midst of a national financial crisis, was guillotined in Paris in October 1793 at the age of 37. 

After her death, her jewels followed a winding path highlighting European power dynamics in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

According to accounts written by the queen's lady-in-waiting, Madame Campan, Marie Antoinette spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and enclosing them in a wooden chest.

They were sent to Brussels, governed by her sister Archduchess Marie-Christine, before being sent on to the French queen's native Austria, and into the safe-keeping of her nephew, the emperor.

In 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in Paris. The king and queen were executed the next year, and their 10-year-old son died in captivity.

Only their daughter, Marie Therese of France, survived. She was sent to Austria in 1796, where she was given her mother's jewels.

She had no children herself, but passed on the treasures to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, Duchess of Parma, who in turn left them to her son, Robert I (1848-1907), the last ruling Duke of Parma.

They have been privately owned by relatives ever since.

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