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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 22:55 GMT
Disputed Greek sale nets millions
One of the lots: a Faberge enamel and gold egg with a portrait of King George in the background
The collection included valuable pieces by Faberge
A controversial auction of Greek royal treasures has concluded in London.

The collection, once owned by King George I of Greece, raised $18.4m (9.3m) - six times pre-sale estimates.

The two-day sale at Christie's went ahead despite protests by the Greek authorities who contested the ownership of the 850 items on sale.

Greece asked the auction house to halt the sale, warning buyers could face legal action if it found the lots had been illegally exported from Greece.

Christie's said all the items had been legally obtained and in a statement said it saw "no reason for the sale not to go ahead as planned".

If someone buys something that proves to be illegal, the state will turn both against Christie's and the buyer
Greek Culture Minister
Giorgos Voulgarakis

The auction's top lot, selling for 579,200, was a pair of Victorian silver pilgrim flasks by London's crown jeweller Robert Garrard.

King George I's silver wedding present from his parents and siblings, a pair of Danish silver soup-tureens and accessories, fetched 232,000 against an estimate of 50,000.

King George ruled Greece from 1863 to 1913. His collection also included antique silverware, paintings, Chinese jade and Faberge items from the former royal estate in Tatoi, north of Athens.

Ownership denied

Before the auction, Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told buyers to think carefully.

"If someone buys something that proves to be illegal, the state will turn both against Christie's and the buyer," he said on state TV.

A nephrite clock up for sale
King Constantine removed the pieces from Greece in 1991
He said Greece had asked the British courts to force the auction house to disclose where it obtained the pieces.

Greece abolished the monarchy in 1973, but in 1991 Greece's last monarch, King Constantine II, was allowed to export some heirlooms from the Tatoi estate.

Now living in exile in London, King Constantine strongly denied he was the unidentified seller.

Christie's said that Mr Voulgarakis himself told parliament earlier in January that the export of the items had been allowed.

And in a statement on his website, King Constantine said that "conclusive evidence" concerning the legality of exporting the items had been "repeatedly presented".

In recent years, Greece has fought hard to repatriate antiquities it says were taken illegally.


SEE ALSO
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