Note: This article is from the Guardian.
A pair of pearl earrings that were kept in the back of a desk drawer for 35 years because the owner did not like them could fetch £500,000 at auction.
The piece was a gift from a Romanian king to his mistress, who left them to a British friend upon her death in 1977.
She had no idea of their worth and kept them in the desk drawer for years as they struck her as too big and ostentatious to wear. They were inherited by her nephew, who casually showed them to a shocked auctioneer when he was selling some other items.
Their emergence has generated huge interest from collectors around the world and they are being tipped to sell at auction for £500,000 or more.
Jonathan Edwards, from Woolley and Wallis auction rooms in Salisbury, Wiltshire, said: "The couple who own them brought in a few bits and pieces to sell, then mentioned these pearls almost as an afterthought. They had been kept in a box in a desk drawer since the late 70s. The man's auntie never liked them.
"The couple had no idea of their value and never gave them a second thought. They were blown away when I told them the estimate."
Edwards said the pearls were wonderful objects with an interesting story behind them. King Carol II of Romania bought them for his mistress Elena.
Carol abdicated following the romance and he and Elena lived in exile in Portugal. After Elena's death some of her jewellery was left to a British friend she knew in Portugal. The unnamed woman brought them back to Wiltshire but consigned them to the drawer.
In the catalogue they are estimated to be worth up to £120,000 but Edwards said they could fetch five times that. The market has boomed in recent years thanks to interest from the Middle East and China.
The pearls have been examined by the Swiss Gemmological Institute. It concluded the pearls "possess outstanding characteristics and merit special mention and appreciation".
The institute added: "Their colour is white with rose and blue overtones. It is very rare to assemble a matching pair of pearls of this size and quality. Thus, the described pair of natural pearls represent a very exceptional treasure."
The auction takes place in Salisbury on Thursday.
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