Exquisite Bejeweled Cross and Ring Once Owned by Pope Paul VI (and Evel Knievel) Hit the Market for $1.9 Million

March 25th, 2014

Two rare and exquisite papal treasures — an emerald-and-diamond cross and a ruby-and-diamond ring — have hit the market with a combined price tag of $1.9 million.

Designed by Vatican ataliers circa 1920, the jewelry was famously gifted by Pope Paul VI to the United Nations in 1965 in the hope that the proceeds from the cross and ring would contribute to the UN’s efforts to end human suffering. Since then, the jewelry has seen various owners, including American daredevil Evel Knievel.

The pectoral cross, which is seven inches tall and four inches wide, is intricately carved in 18-karat yellow gold and inlaid with Colombian emeralds and Old Mine white diamonds for a total of 60 carats in gems. The meticulous workmanship is evident by viewing the back of the pendant, which is as beautifully finished as the front. Its selling price is $1.25 million.

Handcrafted in platinum and featuring a 13.5-carat diamond center stone surrounded by a halo of 14 complementary diamonds, the Papal ring has a distinctive ruby-encrusted cross on each side of its shank. The ring’s diamond total weight is 75 carats and the price is $650,000.

Both pieces may be purchased via the New Orleans-based M.S. Rau Antiques. “Not only are these two pieces historically significant, they are remarkable due to the fact that papal jewelry rarely comes on the market,” M.S. Rau Antiques owner Bill Rau told Forbes.

The cross and ring are engraved with the Christian Chi Rho symbol, indicating that they were likely designed by Vatican jewelers using gemstones from the Vatican’s own collection. The pendant also bears the stamp of “Cassio,” a jewelry-design studio that served the Vatican.

Pope Paul VI donated the jewelry on the occasion of being the first pontiff to address the United Nations. An auction took place two years later, with both pieces purchased by Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson for $64,000. The proceeds were shared by four UN agencies.

During the past 47 years, the papal jewelry has had a number of owners, including the Snake River Canyon-jumping Evel Knievel.

The early provenance of the jewelry places the pieces in the possession of Pope Pius XII when his was a Cardinal. Pius XII, who was Pope from 1939 to 1958, gifted the jewelry to Pope Paul VI (then known as Giovanni Battista Montini) when he was Pius XII’s right-hand man. Pope Paul VI was coronated in 1963 and served until 1978.

Photos: Courtesy of M.S. Rau

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