Doyle New York auctioned a pair of rare natural pearls for $3,301,000, a world auction record for a pair of natural pearls, at its Important Jewelry sale on April 28th. The drop-shaped pearls were purchased by an anonymous telephone bidder.

“The pearls attracted bidders from all over the world,” Ann Lange, Senior Vice President and Director of the Jewelry Department at Doyle New York told Pursuitist.

The staggering price far surpassed the prior world record for a pair of natural pearls set last year, when in May 2013, Sotheby’s Geneva sold a pair of natural pearls from the collection of Gina Lollobrigida for $2.4 million. That pair broke the earlier record of $1.99 million set by Christie’s New York at the sale of the collection of Elizabeth Taylor in December 2011.

“The pearls are mesmerizing from the beautiful length to the shape and roundness,” says Lange. “The color is unusual while the luster and nacre (the skin of the pearl) are beautiful. All of those attributes contribute to the rarity and beauty of the pearls.”

The pearls measure approximately 9/10 inch in height and 1/2 inch wide, and are warm gray in color. They are mounted with antique silver and diamond caps and set onto a circa 1920 platinum and diamond pendant.

The pearls were accompanied by a hand-written note referring to the pearls as having belonged to Empress Eugenie of France. In 1887, following the fall of Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenie, an historic auction of the French Crown Jewels took place in the Louvre, lasting twelve days.

The pearls then descended in the family of two prominent industrialists of America’s Gilded Age. They were first purchased by George Crocker (1856-1909), the son of Charles Crocker, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in California and left a fortune estimated between $300-400 million. The pearls were later owned by the descendants of Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909) of Massachusetts, an American industrialist who made a fortune as a partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil and a founder of the Virginia Railroad.

A report from the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) states the pearls are natural saltwater pearls with no indications of artificial color modification. The Institute added a special statement describing the pearls in remarkably enthusiastic language: “Assembling a matching pair of natural pearls of this size and quality is very rare and exceptional, and thus this pair of pearls can be considered a very exceptional treasure of nature.”

Photo courtesy of Doyle New York