A South Sea cultured pearl and diamond necklace famously worn by Princess Diana to a performance of Swan Lake at London’s Royal Albert Hall — one of her last public appearances before her tragic death two months later in August of 1997 — is expected to fetch up to $15 million when it is presented for auction by Guernsey's as part of the "Swan Lake Suite." The event will take place at the Pierre Hotel in New York on June 27.
A design collaboration between Diana and British crown jeweler Garrard, the necklace features 178 diamonds, five 12mm South Sea pearls and a diamond total weight of 51 carats.
The Princess of Wales, who was also England’s Patron of Dance, proudly wore the lavish piece to the high-profile Swan Lake event, where her dazzling image was captured by numerous news outlets and celebrity publications. Diana and the Swan Lake necklace even made the cover of People magazine's "Yearbook 1998."
After the event, Diana returned the necklace to Garrard, where their designers were finishing up matching earring for the ensemble. The jeweler wanted to have the necklace on hand so the diamonds and South Sea pearls of the earrings would perfectly complement the necklace.
The drop earrings are highlighted by 12mm South Sea cultured pearls adorned by a cluster of brilliant-cut and marquise-shaped diamonds totaling 9.38 carats.
Sadly, Diana would never wear the complete ensemble.
Harrods heir and Diana's then-boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, had ordered the suite from Garrard and intended to give the pearl jewels to Diana as a gift. Both he and Diana would perish together in a car accident in Paris.
According to Guernsey's, the crown jeweler was faced with a dilemma. What would become of the Swan Lake Suite.
Two years after Diana's death, her family authorized Garrard to sell the Suite, with a portion of the proceeds going to UNICEF and its initiatives to ban landmines — a cause the Princess passionately supported.
The crown jeweler consigned the jewelry to the New York-based Guernsey's, which set out to find a buyer via an aggressive public relations campaign, which included live interviews on NBC’s Today Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
On the day Oprah Winfrey was featuring the Swan Lake Suite, she was also hosting guest James McIngvale, a Houston businessman known as “Mattress Mack.” McIngvale was so taken by the pearl jewelry that he purchased the Suite at auction for a reported $580,000.
A decade later, McIngvale informed the auction house that he wanted to resell the jewels. The Swan Lake Suite was then sold to its current owner, Mark Ginzburg, a Ukrainian real estate developer.
Ginzburg has pledged that a portion of the proceeds from this new sale will be dedicated to the re-building of Ukraine.
It's no secret that Diana was a big fan of pearls. In this photo from a private White House dinner hosted by Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 1985, guest of honor Diana is wearing a seven-stand pearl necklace centered by a large blue sapphire at she greets actor Tom Selleck. It was one of her favorite pieces and she wore it at many formal events throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
“While many accomplished figures fade from view with the passing years, Princess Diana is as vibrant today as when she was indeed the most admired woman on the planet,” Guernsey's commented. “And with her son Prince William destined to one day become king, Diana’s star will be shining brightly for decades to come.”
Credits: Swan Lake Suite photo courtesy of Guernsey's. Princess Diana greets actor Tom Selleck at the White House in 1985. Series: Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989Collection: White House Photographic Collection, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.