Maria Callas jewelry fetches $1.86 million at auction

Jewelry formerly belonging to the late opera diva Maria Callas fetched a total of $1.86 million at auction in Geneva, three-times the low-end estimate, The Associated Press reports.

Some 200 collectors, opera fans and the plain curious packed the Sotheby’s auction room for the sale at the city’s plush Le Beau Rivage hotel. “It was a very animated room and a great motor for an auctioneer,” Sotheby’s Executive Director David Bennett, who ran the sale, reportedly said.

“It was demonstratively [sic] a great success,” he reportedly told reporters, following the Nov. 17 auction “All the lots sold above their highest catalog estimate.

The sale included 11 pieces, most of which were given to Callas by her husband, the wealthy Italian industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini, in the 1950s.

The most expensive of the jewels—an 11.7-ct., marquise-shaped diamond ring—sold for $340,000. It had been expected to go for between 136,000 and $204,000, Sotheby’s reportedly said.

A diamond and ruby necklace that Callas often wore at recitals went for almost double its estimate, selling for $280,000.

The cheapest item in the catalogue attracted the heaviest bidding.

The 18-ct. yellow gold and diamond evening bag made by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1957 was listed at between $5,524 and $10,200. It sold for $44,875.

Callas married Meneghini in 1949, but later left him for Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Most of the items on sale were given to Callas in the 1950s, during the best period of her marriage and the peak of her fame.

When she died in 1977 at the age of 53, Callas had no heirs and did not leave a will. She reportedly gave the jewels to a friend upon her death, and that person, whom Sotheby’s refused to identify, is selling them now.

Bennett reportedly said more Callas pieces could come onto the market.