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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Imelda's 'crown jewels' to go under the hammer
By Sarah Toms
BBC's East Asia Today, Philippines

Imelda Marcos may be famous for her shoe collection, but she also enjoyed fine jewellery.

Later this year, collectors will get a chance to bid for some of the necklaces, bracelets, tiaras and other baubles that were seized when Mrs Marcos and her husband Ferdinand were forced to flee the presidential palace by a popular revolt in 1986.

Imelda Marcos, former Philippines First Lady
Imelda was famous for her extravagant lifestyle

The collections, now locked away in the central bank's vault for safe keeping, are expected to fetch millions of dollars when they go under the hammer.

"I have never seen stones like this in my life and I am 47 years old, " said Grace Tan, who works for the government commission trying to recover the $5bn the Marcoses are alleged to have siphoned off from the Philippines.

"I have seen blue diamonds, yellow diamonds, pink diamonds, different sizes, different shapes, rubies, sapphires... really, really big - as in big!" she said.

Mrs Marcos denies any wrong-doing as she faces dozens of criminal and civil cases stemming from her husband's 21-year rule.

The woman who coined the word "Imeldific" as a synonym for ostentatious extravagance, has made no comment about the jewellery auction.

A leading Philippine jeweller, who asked not to be identified, said the Imelda name would attract interest but that jewellery collectors and dealers would be focusing on the value of the pieces.

Just one stone, a pebble, could finance a programme for urban poor residents
Reuben Carranza, member of government commission
Highlights include a Persian-style necklace with more than 100 carats of canary and pink diamonds, and a diamond-studded bracelet with a 31-carat marquise as the centre-stone.

This should mean, he said, that the auction would have little trouble topping a 1996 valuation of $12-20m for the collections.

"People will definitely be interested in looking," said the jeweller. "Whether they will buy is a different matter," she added.

The Philippines, where a third of its 80 million-strong population lives on a couple of dollars a day, and hefty budget deficits are the norm, would be happy for the extra money.

"Just one stone, a pebble, can really finance a programme for urban poor residents," said Reuben Carranza, another member of the government commission seeking the alleged Marcos millions.

"You can imagine how many housing projects, how many classrooms, how many hospitals, bridges, how much in terms of public benefit can be funded by selling all of this jewellery," he said.

'Suitcases of pearls'

Gems the size of golf balls and suitcases full of pearls were seized by US and Philippine customs officers when the Marcoses fled Manila for Hawaii 17 years ago.

One collection of around 60 pieces was taken from Demetriou Roumeliotes, a Greek friend of the former First Lady, as he tried to leave the country.

At first, customs officers left the jewellery laying about on desks because they did not believe it was real, Ms Tan said.

A second collection of 400 pieces was seized by US Customs in Honolulu.

A third collection, the Malacanang, was left behind in the presidential palace and is still under litigation, but the government hopes the case will be settled in time for the auction.

The jeweller said there may be some relative bargains at the auction, but Ms Tan said she was worried that the associations of the jewellery with the Marcos regime may put people off buying.

"If perhaps they realise the proceeds of this jewellery would be for a good cause - and that is the Republic of the Philippines, because we really need the money - then they might just (buy)," she said.

"We can probably throw in some of her gowns and some of her fabulous shoes with the jewellery and they would get a real good souvenir," she added.


SEE ALSO:
Philippines loses out on Marcos millions
01 Feb 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Imelda Marcos free to travel abroad
03 Dec 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Imelda Marcos faces arrest
16 Oct 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Homage to Imelda's shoes
16 Feb 01  |  Asia-Pacific
The day I met Imelda Marcos
31 Oct 00  |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines cult idolises Marcos
08 Dec 99  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: The Philippines
03 Aug 01  |  Asia-Pacific


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