Page last updated at 18:37 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:37 UK

Onassis jewel sale breaks records

By Jane Peel
BBC News

Jewels belonging to Christina Onassis - including a 38-carat diamond which sold for £3.5m - have sold for twice their estimated value in London. How did the auction go?

Onassis diamond
Athina Onassis reportedly thought the jewels were out-of-date

If, like me, you rarely grace the sale rooms of the top auction houses, then you would probably be forgiven for feeling a frisson of excitement when stepping into Christie's for their London jewellery sale.

It is a "sale" in just one sense of the world.

Only the wealthiest individuals would have considered the lots on offer a bargain (the starting price for an art deco diamond necklace was just £150,000, for example).

But a buzz there certainly was, not least because going under the hammer today were spectacular diamonds and jewels once owned by the super-rich Christina Onassis, the troubled daughter of the Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis.

The collection was inherited by the sole survivor of the Onassis dynasty, Christina's daughter Athina, who was just three years old when her mother died in 1988.

Athina has not fallen victim to the credit crunch.

Designer handbags

With a fortune some estimate to be a £1bn or more, she has reportedly decided that the gems which graced her mother at grand society balls in another century do not fit with her modern lifestyle.

As John Souglides, international director of jewellery at Christie's told me: "It's being sold because you can't keep jewels in safety deposit boxes forever.

"So it was time for other people to enjoy these items."

Faberge Buddha
Maybe not to everyone's taste, the Buddha sold for £1.2m

Some of those people, eager to pick up a morsel from the collection, packed into the sale-room - men in suits, women with designer handbags.

Most of the serious bidders were invisible, at the end of a telephone line, possibly relaying their offers from their third home in Monaco, or one of the yachts in the Med.

But they could not see the jewels close up. We could.

They dazzled from the other side of the room on the necks, wrists and fingers of beautiful young models, dressed in black low-cut cocktail dresses.

There was a big smile on the face of the model who got to wear the prize in the collection.

The Christina Onassis Diamond is a pear-shaped flawless 38-carat diamond pendant necklace.

Soaraway sale

Its estimated sale price was between £1.8m and £2.2m. It went to an anonymous telephone bidder for £3.625m.

E-bay this was not.

If you fancied something a little cheaper, there was a bangle made of braided elephant hair (yes, elephant hair), inscribed with the inititals of Christina Onassis and her husband - a snip at around £1,500.

The quirkiest item was surely the Faberge Buddha. Standing just over 11 centimetres high, the finely carved bowenite figure has a nodding head, waving hands and a ruby tongue.

It once had pride of place in the study of Aristotle Onassis's yacht. It would not be to everyone's taste. It sold for more than £1.2m.

The entire collection dramatically exceeded its estimate of £2.5m, reaching a total of £6.8 million.

You can be sure that the lucky new owners will not be fretting too much about the soaring price of fuel.


SEE ALSO
Onassis heiress weds in Sao Paulo
04 Dec 05 |  Americas
Callas auction hits $1m
04 Dec 00 |  Europe

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