Antiques dealer selling rare papal jewels
March 21, 2014
Antique and estate jewelry dealer M.S. Rau is currently selling two jewels previously owned by Pope Paul VI--a diamond cross and ring, pictured here--for a total of $1.9 million.
New Orleans--One antique and estate jewelry dealer from the South has come into possession of two jewels that were presented to Pope Paul VI early in his reign and is now selling them for a combined price of $1.9 million.
The first piece being sold by New Orleans-based M.S. Rau Antiques is Pope Paul VI’s diamond cross, which is 18-karat yellow gold with a number of large diamonds weighing more than 60 carats total. Smaller white diamonds, ranging in weight from 8.66 carats to 3 carats, also appear on the front of the cross and are nestled between scrolls and leaves filled with Colombian emeralds.
The cross, measuring seven inches in length, also features the stamp of “Cassio,” referring to Cassio Studios, one of the artisan ateliers that the Vatican used.
The second piece is a platinum ring with an approximately 13.5-carat center diamond surrounded by a halo of 14 white diamonds, with additional diamonds and red rubies along the shank. It is engraved with the Christian Chi Rho symbol, which indicates that it was most likely made by Vatican jewelers in the early 1900s from jewels in their own collection.
M.S. Rau is selling the cross for $1.25 million, while the ring is priced at $650,000.
When Pope Paul VI was invited to be the first pope to address the United Nations, he gifted both pieces in hopes that proceeds from the auction would go to human relief funds, according to M.S. Rau. The auction took two years to prepare, and was handled by Parke-Bernet, which was the largest fine art auction house in the United States until it was acquired by Sotheby’s in the late 1960s.
Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson bought both pieces of jewelry for $64,000 and the entire amount was divided between four UN agencies. The jewels were bought and sold several times after that, including, at one point, being in the possession of daredevil Evel Knievel.