By Michelle Graff
Hong Kong--A single-strand of natural gray pearls with historical provenance could fetch up to $7 million when it goes up on the auction block in October.

The Cowdray pearl necklace, once owned by connoisseur and collector Viscountess Cowdray Lady Pearson, could sell for up to $7 million in October. It contains 42 natural gray saltwater pearls.

The Cowdray pearl necklace, strung and mounted by Cartier, features 42 extremely rare natural gray saltwater pearls that are “well matched” in luster, shape and size, Sotheby’s said, noting that it could be the most important single strand of gray natural pearls ever to appear at auction. The color of the pearls varies subtly in different shades of gray and brown, combined in part with rose, purple and green overtones. 

The strand, which and first appeared at auction at Sotheby’s London in 1937, belonged to English noble Viscountess Cowdray Lady Pearson, a connoisseur and collector who lived from 1860 to 1932.

It is accompanied by a pair of natural gray pearl earrings with mounts by Cartier London. 

Sotheby’s upcoming Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite fall sale is scheduled to take place on Oct. 7 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

The auction house will put the Cowdray pearls on display in Singapore, Taipei, New York, London, Geneva and the Middle East prior to the Hong Kong auction.

Sotheby’s believes a buyer will pay between $4.5 and $7 million for the strand, not an unreasonable estimate at a time when the price of natural pearls at auction continues to rise.

Arguably the most famous and celebrated single strand of natural pearls, according to Sotheby’s, is the Kelly and Calvin Klein pearl necklace. It was gifted by Queen Mary to King Edward, who later became the Duke of Windsor and gave it to the Duchess of Windsor to add to her personal collection. It was first sold in Geneva in 1987 and again at Sotheby’s New York in 2007 for $3.6 million.

A more recent example of gray pearls at auction is the Wrightsman pearl brooch featuring one fine single gray pearl from the collection of American philanthropist Mrs. Charles Wrightsman. It sold at Sotheby’s New York in December 2012 for $1.9 million, setting a world record for a single natural gray pearl at auction.

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