Today, Sotheby’s in London will hold a special “Royal & Noble” auction featuring items connected to royals and aristocrats from Britain, Belgium, Egypt, Portugal, and Italy—including a striking gem-set cross once worn by Diana, Princess of Wales.
The cross pendant is made of bright purple amethysts and white diamonds. The Sotheby’s lot notes describe it as a “Fleurée cross set with square-cut amethyst and accented by circular-cut diamonds.”
The piece dates to the early years of the 20th century—the 1920s, more specifically—and was made by Garrard. The jewelry firm either kept the cross in their collection from the date of its making or reacquired it later, as it was owned by the firm in the 1980s.
In October 1987, Garrard loaned the cross pendant to the Princess of Wales for a special gala occasion: a charity fundraiser for Birthright, one of Diana’s patronages. The event was held at Garrard’s flagship location on Regent Street in London. (A few years later, the same location was in the news for a less happy reason.)
Diana wore the cross pendant with a striking gown by Catherine Walker that featured a ruffled neckline and cuffs and a drop waist. The entire ensemble had a baroque feeling about it.
For the event, the pendant was hung from a long strand of pearls. Diana also wore the diamond and pearl drop earrings that had been given to her as a wedding present in 1981 by the Emir of Qatar.
The lot notes from the Sotheby’s sale state that the Birthright event wasn’t the only time that Diana wore the cross: “Over the years, she would go on to collaborate with Garrard, borrowing her favourite amethyst and diamond cross on many more occasions.” But those events must have been private ones—I’ve never been able to track down a photo of Diana wearing the pendant on any other occasion. The pendant always remained the property of Garrard during Diana’s lifetime. After her death, it was purchased by Naim Attallah, the Palestinian-born publisher who became CEO of Asprey, the firm that merged with Garrard for a short period starting in 1998. The Sotheby’s lot notes describe Attallah as a “good [friend] of the Princess.” He passed away in February 2021.
The pendant has reportedly never been worn since the days when Diana borrowed it from the jewelry firm, and now Attallah’s family has decided to sell it at auction. The estimate for the jewel is set at £80,000-120,000 GBP (or around $97,000-145,000 USD). That expected sale price definitely folds in the royalty/Diana factor. We’ll have to wait until later today to see if it meets or exceeds that estimate.