Pearls with a Past

When Horace E. Dodge sold Dodge Automobiles to Henry Ford in 1919, he promised to buy his wife Anna any “earthly thing she wanted” with his payment of $12.5 million. She wanted pearls, and he promptly obliged with a pearl necklace purchased at Cartier New York in the belief that they had once belonged to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

On December 16, Bonhams auction house will offer the necklace (estimated at $500,000 to $700,000) as part of its New York jewelry sale. The three-strand necklace with a diamond clasp, which has been modified from its original five-strand design, is currently owned by descendents of the Dodge family. While proof of a direct connection between the pearls and the Empress remains inconclusive?despite research by Bonhams to uncover the necklace’s early provenance?it is a fact that in the early 1900s many Russian aristocrats fled with prominent jewels that reached the open market. Other important pieces in the sale include a Cartier Art Deco diamond bracelet, a David Webb rock crystal and diamond pendant, and a fancy colored diamond pendant featuring a 13.44-carat natural dark brown-yellow diamond center. (www.bonhams.com/jewelry)

Jill Newman

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