60-carat saltwater pearl to go under hammer

One of the world's largest natural pearls will go on sale later this month as part of a Dubai-based jewellery sale.

Provided photo of one of the largest pearls in the world. Courtesy Chrisites
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One of the world's largest natural saltwater pearls, along with a selection of gems collected from around the globe, will hit the auction block this month at the Dubai Jewels sale.

The baroque drop-shaped pearl - measuring nearly 60 carats - could fetch as much as US$250,000 (Dh910,000), according to the auction house Christie's. The grey pearl is set in a diamond mount as a pendant on a 42cm diamond chain and was once part of the collection of Valda Virginia Vaughn Scott, the daughter of an English diplomat.

David Warren, the director of jewellery for the auction house in Dubai, said the 100 lots up for auction were selected with a Middle East audience in mind, especially considering the region's rich pearling history.

"There are lots of older families here that collect natural pearls, and we do keep that in mind when we're making our selections," Mr Warren said. "Pearls are something that are very close to hearts here."

An eight-strand graduated natural pearl necklace with a late Victorian-era diamond clasp worth as much as $280,000 will also be for sale.

Mr Warren said sales have been strong in the Middle East, partially because of the popularity of pearls. Christie's has held sales in the Gulf since 2006, and last year's Dubai auction took in $13.5 million.

Christie's has sold more than $200 million worth of jewellery, watches and art since the fist international art auction was held in the region.

This sale, which will be held at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel on April 20, is expected to bring in between $5m and $6.5m.

The auction's highest-valued lot is a suite of rare yellow- and orange-coloured diamond jewellery. The flowerhead necklace, which can be converted into a tiara, and matching earrings are valued at as much as $550,000.

"I spent six months travelling the world, collecting these pieces, so I think they're all interesting in some way," Mr Warren said. "I looked at 10,000 pieces of jewellery in order to select 100, and there are some pieces that are really fun, fantastic looking pieces."

Christie's will also be hosting an auction of contemporary and modern Arab, Iranian and Turkish art on April 19. Christie's contemporary Middle Eastern art auctions had sales of more than $29m last year, an increase of 117 per cent over 2009.

Christie's global auction and private sales totalled $5 billion last year. The auction house has 53 offices in 32 countries. The Dubai location is the only office in the Middle East.