Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maharajas' Jewels: the Baroda Pearls

Pratapsingh Gaekwar, this photo makes my husband smile

His second wife the Maharani Sita Devi with the Diamond necklace featuring the
Star of the South a Brazilian diamond, makes me giggle....

In the 19Th century, the Maharajah of Baroda, Khande Rao Gawkwar, came to possess the necklace that became known as the Baroda Pearls.The necklace was among the most expensive pieces in the Baroda Royal Treasury and remained one of its prized jewels throughout the 20Th century.
 The original “Baroda” necklace, kindly worn of our eyes by the  Pratapsingh Gaekwar, was estimated to  be worth a half a million dollars . It was composed by seven immaculate strands of magnificent natural pearls.

According to Christie’s the current necklace is composed of two large strands made of pearls from the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh strands of the original, joined by a cushion-cut Cartier diamond clasp. The 68 graduated pearls match in color, luster, and shape. The previous record for natural pearls at auction was set by Christie's in Geneva in November 2004 at $3.1 million, for a two-strand natural pearl necklace.
So you better go watch in your jewelery case and take out that simple strand your Grandma left you... keep reading the story.....

Since about 1949, the natural pearl market was basically D.O.A (dead on arrival) though price lists like The Guide have continued to quote wholesale prices for natural pearls; there was essentially no market for natural pearls in the United States. A  tragic combination of the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the emergence of the cultured pearl in the late 1920s basically killed the market. According to Elisabeth Strack author of Pearls the market fell by 85% in one day in 1930 when banks refused to accept pearls as collateral for loans to pearl dealers.

Then on the pearls made their come back as the solo jewelry object that a polish woman should have. From Marilyn Monroe to Jacqueline Kennedy from a housewife from Wisconsin to a chic Parisienne all women of the world started to wear pearls, everyday, all the time. Makimoto introduced the cultured pearls and now this miracle gifts from nature become availble to all the jewelry counters of America and the world.

As technology progresses the value of cultured pearls decreased, a lesson  from  Mr. Guido Pennisi, owner of the enchanting Pennisi Gioielli Antichi, Milano, a legend in vintage jewelry. Mr. Pennisi graciously offered to help in finding the North Star in this ocean of pearls, where frankly I was quite lost.
So I went to see him in his boutique-museum in Milan and we had a conversation about the value of natural pearls, he showed me some incredible pieces that even a Maharaja would have raved.
According to Mr. Pennisi the Maharajas of India had the best collection of jewelry on Earth, a combination of opulent design and incredible craftmanship, stones to die for and no restrain at all in size. Pretty darn magic combination if your last name is Cartier. La creme de la creme of the Jewelry Makers of last century all expressed their best for this bizarre crowd of Indian Maharajas and their several wifes. The result is one of the array of humanity's most original objects.

Back to our pearls: today there are many ways to obtain a strand of pearls and any woman can choose the size, the color, the lenght. One thing you should really focus is what you are buying. If is costume jewelry buy it for what it is worth, cultured pearls come from Australia to Japan and they are all beautiful but be aware that their value in on the negative scale, buy them for the look not for an investment. Vintage natural pearls are very much in domand, do not overlook any possible simple strand you might have from your Family Heritage, some could be worth a small fortune, really.
The best place to buy vintage pearls is from a reputable source, when it comes to such an investment turn into a professional that can guide you like Mr. Pennisi and his delightful equipe did for me. You are not going wrong to ask to the Masters.

A selection of my own Maharaja ESSENTIAL library:

Published by Mercury Books London

Lustre Press - Roli Books

One of my top ten books, by Assouline

Published by New Holland

Published by Antique Collectors Club.

My next purchase will be:

Pearls by Elisabeth Strack

The foto of the books are MilaneseGAL own library,
the b/w picture archive findings to illustrate the greatness of Indian Jewelry.

Pennisi Gioielli is located in Milano, Via Manzoni at the Hotel de Milan
tomorrow I will be posting a story on this incredible store.
Do not miss it.