Papal Bling for Sale Again

Two ornate jewelry items previously owned by two popes are once again up for sale—though this time, not on eBay. 

In 2011, jeweler Alan Perry offered them for sale on the auction site, but they ultimately failed to sell.

“There was a lot of hoopla at the time, but they ended up not getting an offer,” says Peter Hernandez, jewelry sales manager for New Orleans–based M.S. Rau Antiques, which is now selling the items. “We feel that eBay was not the way to go about this.”

Instead, the same widow of the prior owner who tried to sell them through Perry is now selling them through M.S. Rau.

“We are known for carrying unusual items,” Hernandez says. “There has been a lot of interest. We are confident they will go.”

He adds: “To find any Vatican or papal jewelry outside of museums or the Vatican is highly unusual. We don’t know many other pieces that are out there.”  

One of the items is a 7-inch 18k yellow gold cross—called a pectoral cross since it is large enough to be worn on the chest with a cord or heavy chain. Its front is decorated with more than 60 cts. of mine-cut white diamonds—ranging in weight from 3 to 8.66 cts.—and Colombian emeralds. Its price is $1.25 million. 

The Cross necklace (courtesy of M.S. Rau)

The accompanying ring, which has a more modern style, is set in platinum and features a 13 ct. white diamond in the center, as well as two squares on either side decorated with diamonds and rubies in the shape of a cross. It is selling for $650,000.    

The items come with a special box and book. If they are sold separately, “we would have to figure out” what will happen to those elements, Hernandez says, but he hopes they will be sold together.

According to the dealer, the ring and the cross are engraved with the Christian Chi-Rho symbol, indicating they were probably made by Vatican jewelers in the early 1900’s with gemstones from the Vatican collection.

The items were believed to have been given to Pope Pius XII when he was a cardinal, who then passed them on to Pope Paul VI. In 1965, the pontiff auctioned the pieces with proceeds going to United Nations human relief funds.

At that sale, they were bought by Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson, ended up changing hands many times, and were at one time owned by motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.

“They are beautifully made,” says Hernandez. “When the Vatican does jewelry, it does it right.” 

For more information, see the M.S. Rau website.

JCK News Director