SSEF age-dated the “Ana Maria Pearl,” set as a detachable drop on this carved emerald and diamond brooch with an Audemars Piguet watch on the reverse, which the lab said is a first for a historic natural pearl.
Basel, Switzerland—The Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF said it has, for the first time, radiocarbon age-dated a historic natural pearl.

The Swiss lab said it used carbon-14 to determine the approximate formation date for the “Ana Maria Pearl,” which is set to go up for sale at Christie’s May 15 jewelry auction in Geneva.

Once owned by Ana María de Sevilla y Villanueva, XIV Marquise of Camarasa (1828-1861), the pearl is presumed to have been discovered during the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the 16th century.

According to SSEF, data from the radiocarbon analysis puts the formation age for the Ana Maria Pearl between the 16th and mid-17th century, which aligns with its documented historic provenance.

Jean-Marc Lunel, senior jewelry expert at Christie’s Geneva, said the SSEF’s age-dating was “a critical addition to the extensive work” the auction house does to document provenance and origin of exceptional items before sale.

SSEF offers the carbon-14 research and services in partnership with the Ion Beam Physics Laboratory at leading university ETH Zurich.

“We are honored to be able to provide additional scientific evidence to the historic provenance of this important natural pearl,” SSEF Director Michael S. Krzemnicki said. “We are in the process of further developing radiocarbon analysis and other scientific techniques to verify the historic provenance of antique jewelry and iconic natural pearls.”

The natural saltwater “Ana Maria Pearl” is a slightly baroque drop shape, weighs 30.24 carats and is set as a detachable drop on a carved emerald and diamond brooch that has an Audemars Piguet watch from the 1960s on the reverse side.

The piece is expected to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million when it hits the auction block Wednesday at Christie’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale.

The jewelry auction also features an emerald and diamond sautoir that can be traced to Catherine the Great of Russia and an aquamarine and diamond Fabergé tiara given by a German royal to his bride in the early 1900s.

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