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Lot 1870. A Highly Important, Rare and Superb Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace, Cartier London; and Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Earclips, mounted by Cartier London. Estimate 35,000,000 — 55,000,000 HKD (4,101,900 - 6,445,843 EUR)Lot sold 41,080,000 HKD (4,722,390 EUR). Photo Sotheby's

The necklace composed of forty-two graduated natural grey pearls measuring approximately 12.90 to 6.65mm, completed by a clasp set with a rectangular mixed-cut diamond, mounted in platinum, length approximately 435mm, with maker's mark JC; and pair of earrings, each set with a button-shaped natural grey pearl measuring approximately 11.52 - 12.42mm and 11.92 -12.13 x 10.15mm respectively, to a stylised surround set with single- and brilliant-cut diamonds, mounted in silver-topped gold and 8 karat yellow gold,signed Cartier London and numbered W12152.(2) 

NotesFormerly from the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson (1860 - 1932), the Cowdray Pearl necklace comprising 42 pearls had been re-strung to 38 pearls. Two pearls from this strand after 1937 were mounted into a pair of earrings by Cartier, which remained with the Cowdray family. These and two other pearls originating from another antique jewel was recently re-strung back to its original number of 42 pearls - 'to make it a superb layout of historic pearls' (SSEF, 2013). The Cowdray Pearls first appeared at auction at Sotheby's London in 1937, with a catalogue note stating that 'there is probably no finer collection of such pearls in existence'.

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Annie, 1st Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson (1860-1932) wearing The Cowdray Pearls, Painted by Sir William Orpen R.A. RHA (1878-1931)

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Reproduction of catalogue page from 1937, Sotheby’s London

As noted by Swiss Gemological Institute (SSEF), the Cowdray Pearls is an 'exceptional pearl necklace' that has been described to possess 'extraordinary characteristics and merit special mention and appreciation'. Their colour subtly varies in different shades of grey and brown, partly combined with highly attractive rosé, purple and green overtones, SSEF also notes that 'apart from its aesthetic beauty and rarity, this pearl necklace is also exceptional due to its documented historic provenance'.  

Accompanied by two SSEF reports numbered 67726 and 67685, dated 18 and 22 April 2013 respectively, stating that the pearls are natural saltwater pearls, with no indications of artificial colour modification.

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Sotheby's. Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite, Hong Kong, 07 Oct 2015, 02:00 PM