Pearl fit for an empress fetches $500,000 at auction

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The world's largest known freshwater pearl, which once belonged to Catherine the Great, has been sold for €320,000 (S$500,000), Dutch auction house Venduehuis said.

Known as the Sleeping Lion pearl due to its distinctive shape, it was probably formed in the first half of the 18th century in Chinese waters, possibly the Pearl River. The auctioneers said it weighs some 120g and is close to 7cm long, making it one of the three largest known pearls in the world.

The pearl was bought by a Japanese trader on Thursday.

Around 1765, the pearl was shipped to Batavia, now Jakarta, by a Dutch merchant of the United East Indies Company where it became the possession of the company's accountant, Hendrik Coenraad Sander.

After he died, the pearl was auctioned off in Amsterdam in 1778 and acquired by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 03, 2018, with the headline 'Pearl fit for an empress fetches $500,000 at auction'. Print Edition | Subscribe