Attallah necklace worn by Princess Diana to be sold at London auction

Late British royal borrowed the Attallah Cross on several occasions from the owner, with whom she was friends

Princess Diana wears the Attallah Cross with an Elizabethan-style Catherine Walker dress at a charity engagement in 1987. Getty Images
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A striking necklace featuring a jewel-encrusted cross, owned by a Palestinian businessman and worn by Princess Diana, is up for auction at Sotheby’s in London.

The large, fleuree-style crucifix pendant is expected to fetch up to £120,000 ($145,215).

The Princess of Wales wore the piece in October 1987, teamed with an Elizabethan-style black and burgundy dress with high neck ruff, to a gala in London in support of the women's health charity Birthright.

The cross was owned by the Naim Attallah, a Palestinian-British businessman and writer until his death in 2021 at the age of 89, when it was inherited by his son Ramsay.

Made in the 1920s by jewellers Garrard, formerly Asprey & Garrard, in London, it has never been worn nor seen in public since the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Mr Attallah, the former group chief executive of Asprey & Garrard, on occasion would loan the necklace to the royal mother-of-two, with whom he was acquainted.

“Princess Diana and my father were friends and I remember that she often came to see him at the historic Garrard store on Regent Street, where his office was, and she would ask to borrow the pendant on several occasions — she really loved the piece,” Ramsay Attallah said.

The Attallah Cross is expected to fetch up to £120,000. Photo: Sotheby’s

The bold, colourful pendant consists of square-cut amethysts and is accented by circular-cut diamonds. The cross has a total diamond weight of 5.25 carats and measures 136 x 95mm.

It forms the showpiece of Sotheby’s annual Royal and Noble sale, which runs until next Wednesday.

Each year, the event showcases objects with royal and aristocratic links, from furniture and ceramics to decorative items and gemstones.

The rare piece went on display at the auction house in the upmarket Mayfair district on Thursday. Bidding has opened and will close on the final day of the sale.

Kristian Spofforth, Sotheby’s head of jewellery, said Diana’s choice of the crucifix to accessorise the outfit by couturier Catherine Walker marked a turning point in her fashion legacy.

“Jewellery owned or worn by the late Princess Diana very rarely comes on to the market, especially a piece such as the Attallah Cross, which is so colourful, bold and distinctive,” he said.

“To some extent, this unusual pendant is symbolic of the Princess’s growing self-assurance in her sartorial and jewellery choices, at that particular moment in her life.

“We are confident that this unique 1920s piece of jewellery by Garrard, with such an exceptional provenance and only ever worn by the Princess herself, will attract the attention of a wide variety of bidders, including royal and noble jewellery collectors, as well as fans of the Princess keen to share part of her history.”

In 2017, Mr Attallah was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature and the arts.

Dozens of pieces from his extensive collection were auctioned by Sotheby’s months after his death in an event called A Gentleman’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

As with the cross, many of his items, including medallions and plaques, hinted at the entrepreneur’s Christian faith.

Princess Diana had a long-standing relationship with the jewellers, having selected her engagement ring from Garrard in 1981.

Over the years she would wear pieces from the illustrious jewellery house, including after her divorce from the former Prince of Wales, now King Charles III.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 9:00 AM