A Happy Ending

Natural Saltwater PearlMore than once I’ve mentioned that one of the reasons for my continued fascination with jewelry is the history that can be associated with it.

Here is a present-day story involving an important antique brooch with a happy ending. It’s always nice to see a story like this, but perhaps particularly affecting as it occurred so close to the holidays.

A family of modest means, living in New Jersey, was reeling from the costs of caring for an ill mother. In addition, the family has a child on the cusp of college and the huge costs associated with that. They family decided to sell an antique brooch to help with the expenses.

Fortunately, they knew or were told not to break up the piece which some might have been tempted to do. It features a large center pearl and is surrounded by diamonds. The pearl could have gone into a brooch as a stand-alone; the diamonds could have been re-set as “eternity” bands, currently popular as wedding and anniversary bands.

Instead, they took it to Rago arts, a Pennsylvania auction house, which identified it as the “Putilov brooch,” once part of the Russian crown jewels and the setting for the world’s largest known near-round natural saltwater pearl. The pearl, a lustrous white, measures 19.08 x 16.50 mm and is set in platinum.

The brooch itself measures 2” x 1 5/8” and is framed by 16 old mine cut diamonds. According to the Rago specialists who reconstructed the history of the piece, it was owned by Alexei Putilov, a Russian financier and industrialist, who fled Russia in the spring of 1918. The family member consigning the piece is his great grandchild.

Rago asked $100,000 for the brooch. It sold for more than $800,00.

Rago spokespeople said the family was in tears at the conclusion of the auction.

A happy ending, indeed.

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