Origin of Name

The Putilov Pearl Brooch gets its name from Alexey Ivanovich Putilov (1866, Russia – 1940, Paris), the Russian financier, banker, entrepreneur and industrialist, or borrowing a term from the Marxist Philosophy, a prominent member of the bourgeoisie or capitalist class of pre-socialist Russia, with close connections to the aristocratic class, whose members became the target of violence, destruction and elimination, by the working class led by V. I. Lenin during the October Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Putilov and his family fled Russia in the Spring of 1918, to escape violence and certain death at the hands of the revolutionists, crossing the Soviet-Finnish border and reaching the safety of Paris, the capital city of France, where the family settled, and Putilov resumed his banking carrier under a Gallicized name. During this forced evacuation of the members of the capitalist and aristocratic class from Russia, most of them carried their valuables with them, including jewelry, which could be easily transformed to hard cash in an emergency. The Putilov Pearl Brooch appears to be one such piece of jewelry carried by the Putilov family during their forced emigration to Paris. Having resumed his banking career in Paris, Alexy Putilov’s family were economcally well placed, in comparison to other Russian refugees who also settled down in Paris. Hence, their was no need to transform the Putilov Pearl Brooch, into hard cash, and the 19th-century brooch remained a valuable heirloom in the family, passing down from generation to generation, until a great-granddaughter of Alexi Putilov, put up the brooch for auction at the Rago Arts and Auction Center held at Lambertville, New Jersey, on December 07th, 2014. The proceeds of the sale was intended to cover the expenses of caring for an elderly grandmother and perhaps also to pay for a daughter’s college education.

Characteristics of the Putilov Pearl Brooch

Design of the Pearl Brooch

Designed as an oval-shaped, open-work, silver and gold brooch with a floral motif, having  dimensions  2″ x 1 5/8″ (5.08 x 4.1275 cm.), the centerpiece of the brooch is occupied by the large near-spherical Putilov Pearl, immediately surrounded by the open-work floral motif, set with numerous small rose-cut white diamonds on silver-topped gold. Bordering the brooch are 16 near-colorless, cushion-shaped, old mine-cut diamonds, with a total weight of approximately 28 carats, set in cutback collets of silver-topped gold. The detachable pin findings of the brooch can be oriented either horizontally or vertically. Total weight of the brooch is 19.7 pennyweights equivalent to 30.64 grams. The frame of the 19th-Century brooch  bears the unrecognized scratched maker’s marks KAM and N677.


GIA Pearl Identification Report in respect of the Putilov Pearl, Report No. 2165503254 states that the pearl is a natural, saltwater pearl originating in the Mollusk Pinctada species. The dimensions of the pearl are given as 19.08 x 18.88 x 16.50 mm, with a near round shape, white body color and orient overtone. The pearl  does not show any indications of treatment. The report further states that the pearl is full-drilled, with nacreous plugs, but one of the plugs now detached. The weight of the pearl is not given in the report, as the pearl was observed while still on the mounting and under comments the report says – Pearl described insofar as mounting permits observation. An accurate detemination of the weight of the pearl is possible only if the pearl is dismounted from its setting, which necessarily entails a possible damage to the 19th-century setting. 

The Shape of the Putilov Pearl – Is it Round or near-Round (Spherical or near-Spherical) ?

A perfectly spherical or round pearl is defined as a pearl having the same diameter all round or has a variation in diameter of less than 2%, between its shortest and longest diameters. A near-spherical pearl is defined as a pearl having a variation in diameter between 2% and 20%. If the variation in diameter is approximately 20% the pearl is known as a button pearl.

By calculating the variation in diameter of the Putilov Pearl, given the longest and shortest diameter of the pearl, are respectively 19.08 mm and 16.50 mm, we can decide whether the pearl is round (spherical), near-round (near-spherical) or button-shaped. 

The variation in diameter = (1 – shortest diam./longest diam.) x 100%

                                     = (1 – 16.50/19.08) x 100

                                     = (1 – 0.865) x 100

                                     = 0.135 x 100

                                     = 13.5%

The variation in diameter is 13.5%, which falls within the range of 2% and 20%, and hence by definition the pearl is near-round or near-spherical. Thus the shape of the pearl given as near-round in the GIA report is perfectly correct. 

The Color of the Putilov Pearl – Hue, Overtone and Orient

The color of a pearl is a combination of its body color and overtones. A pearl’s color is the net effect of three traits, known as hue, overtone and orient. Hue is the overall pearl color that one sees on first impression. In otherwords it is the body color. In this case it is white. The white color is due to absence of color-causing pigments associated with conchiolin component of nacre, allowing the white color of aragonite component of nacre to show through.

Overtone, which may or may not be present, is the secondary color associated with the main color, such as pink associated with white known as pinkish-white. Overtone colors appear to float over the surface of the pearl. Overtone is not caused by a pigment, but like Orient is an optical effect produced by refraction of light as it passes through successive layers of aragonite. In the Putilov Pearl, according to the GIA report there are no overtone colors. 

The orient or iridescence of a pearl, also not always present, is a colorful rainbow-like sheen caused by the scattering of light by the aragonite platelets in the nacre. Both Overtone and Orient are optical effects caused by refraction, as light passes through successive layers of aragonite. The GIA report says the pearl has a white body color and orient overtone; which means there are no secondary colors associated with the main body color, but only the orient, a colorful rainbow-like sheen, caused by the scattering of light and floating over the surface of the pearl. 

Luster of the Putilov Pearl  

Luster is a measure of the quality and quantity of light that reflects from the surface and just under the surface of a pearl.The GIA report does not state anything about the luster of the pearl. However, the report says the pearl is a saltwater pearl, which necessarily implies that its luster is excellent, given the fact that saltwater pearls tend to have a  greater luster than freshwater pearls. Luster is dependant on the thickness and translucency of the nacre. In general thicker the nacre the more lustrous is a pearl. A high quality luster results only when the nacre is translucent and the aragonite plates overlap in such a way that the pearl appears lit from within.

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Surface Quality of the Pearl

Pearls being creations of nature always have flaws and blemishes on their surface, to the extent that their presence is a proof of their genuineness. A hundred percent blemish-free pearl does not exist. A pearl that appears blemish-free to the naked eye, may still show some blemishes under a magnifying glass or microscope. GIA classifies surface quality into four categories :- 1) Apparently blemish-free or spotless, or contain minor blemishes not visible to the naked eye.  2) Lightly blemished  3) Moderately blemished  4) Heavily blemished.

The surface quality of this pearl is not given, but close examination of photographs of the pearl shows, that it may fall under category 1 – Apparently blemish-free or spotless or contain minor blemishes not visible to the naked eye.

Is the Putilov Pearl  the largest near-round natural saltwater nacreous pearl in the World ?

According to the table of famous nacreous single pearls arranged in descending order of weights the largest near-round natural saltwater nacreous pearl in the world as at May 1st, 2014, is the 33.147-carat  (132.59 grains) near-round pearl that appeared at the Wooley & Wallis auction held in London on May 1st, 2014 and fetched a staggering £811,000 equivalent to US$ 1,368,075. In the table the 33.147-carat, near-round natural saltwater nacreous pearl occupies the 23rd position. There is another larger near-round natural nacreous pearl weighing 60.36 carats (241.44 grains) occupying the 14th position on the table, but this pearl is not a saltwater pearl but a freshwater pearl. Hence, the largest near-spherical nacreous pearl in the world irrespective of environmental origin, is the 60.36-carat freshwater pearl occupying the 14th-position on the table. This pearl appeared at Christie’s Dubai Sale in April 2008 and sold for US$ 713,000, the highest ever paid for a natural freshwater pearl.

The Putilov Pearl Brooch appeared at the Rago Arts and Auction Center Jewelry auction held at Lambertville, New Jersey, on December 07th, 2014 and sold for US$ 813,750. Advertising the sale of the 19th-century brooch with a Russian aristocratic provenance, in early November 2014, Rago Arts and Auction Center, referred to the Putiov Pearl as the largest known near-round natural saltwater pearl discovered to date. As pointed out earlier GIA only gave the dimensions of the pearl but not its weight. The dimensions of the pearl  are 19.08 x 18.88 x 16.50 mm. The size of the pearls in the table of famous nacreous single pearls is given in terms of the weight of the pearl and the pearls are arranged according to descending order of the weights of the pearls in terms of carats or grains. As the precise weight of the Putilov Pearl is not known, we cannot include it in the table based on carat  weight or grain weight. 

Hence, to decide whether the Putilov Pearl is in fact the largest near-round natural saltwater pearl in the World, we have to make use of its dimensions, the only available measurement of the pearl. The 33.147-carat near-round natural saltwater pearl  that appeared at the Wooley & Wallis auction on May 1st, 2014 had dimensions of 17.44 x 16.51 mm, the longest and shortest diameters respectively of the pearl. In contrast the Putilov Pearl has dimensions of 19.08 x 16.50 mm, the longest and shortest diameters of the pearl. Comparison of the dimensions of the two pearls show that the shortest diameters of the two pearls are almost identical, but longest diameters differ significantly. The longest diameter of the Putilov pearl is greater than that of the 33.147-carat pearl by 1.64 mm. This works out to a percentage of 1.64/17.44 x 100 = 9%. Hence, making use of the diameter difference alone the Putilov Pearl is at leat 9% larger than the 33.147-carat pearl. 

Calculating the volume of the near-spherical pearls using the longest and shortest diameters/radii and applying in the formula V=4/3 πr3

We have Volume of 33.147-carat pearl lying between 2.36 cm3 amd 2.78 cm3

and volume of Putilov Pearl lying between 2.35 cm3 and 3.64 cm3

Hence average volume of 33.147-carat pearl is 2.57 cm3 and average volume of Putilov Pearl is 2.995 cm3.

The difference in the two volumes of pearls = 0.425 cm3

Hence, the Putilov pearl is 0.425/2.57 x 100 = 16% larger in volume than the Wooly & Wallis pearl.

Thus in terms of volume the Putillov Pearl is larger than the Wooly & Wallis Pearl by at least 16%. Assuming the density of saltwater pearls from any species of Pinctada is the same,  in terms of weight too, the Putilov Pearl is undoubtedly larger than the Wooley & Wallis Pearl. 

Table relating weight of pearls in grains to diameter in millimeters and inches from the Book of the Pearl, by Kunz & Stevenson

An altenative way of solving this predicament is to convert the dimensions of the pearl into weight units in grains using the table relating weight of pearls in grains to diameter in millimeters and inches and vice versa appearing in Chapter 13, page 328 of “THE BOOK OF THE PEARL,” written by Kunz and Stevenson and published in 1908. The table extends from a lower range of 1/16th of a grain to an upper range of 500 grains. The average diameter of the Putilov Pearl = 19.08 + 16.50/2 = 17.79 mm. According to this table a round pearl of 17.63 mm has a weight of 150 grains. The difference between  17.79 and 17.63 mm is only 0.16 mm and not significant. Hence, the weight corresponding to 17.63 mm can be taken as the approximate weight of the Putilov pearl. Thus, the approximate weight of  the Putilov Pearl is 150 grains, equivalent to 37.5 carats which is greater than the Wooley & Wallis Pearl weighing 33.147 carats or 132.59 grains.

Hence, the Putilov pearl is 13% larger in weight than the Wooley & Wallis Pearl. Thus, the Putilov Pearl having a weight of approximately 37.5 carats or 150 grains is undoubtedly the largest near-round natural saltwater nacreous pearl in the world.

Table of famous nacreous single pearls arranged in descending order of weight

S/NName of PearlWeight in Carats and GrainsShape of PearlType of PearlColor of Pearl
1Danat Sheikha Fathima bint Mubarak Pearl856.58 carats, 3426.32 grainsBaroqueSaltwater, nacreous pearlConvex front-Purplish brownish gray. Concave back- dark gray to black
2Pearl of Asia600 carats, 2,400 grainsBaroque, garden-egg shapedSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
3Arco-Valley Pearl575 carats, 2300 grainsBaroqueSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
4Big Pink Pearl470 carats, 1,880 grainsBaroqueSaltwater, nacreous abalone pearl Pink
5Hope Pearl450 carats, 1,800 grainsBaroque drop-shapedSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
6Christopher Walling Abalone Pearl187.5 carats, 750 grainsHorn shapedSaltwater , nacreous pearlMulti-colored
7Imperial Hong Kong Pearl127.5 carats, 510 grainsIrregular dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
8Gogibus Pearl126 carats, 504 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
9Shah Sofi Pearl125 carats. 500 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous perl White
10Survival Pearl90.35 carats, 361.40 grainsBaroqueFreshwater, nacreous pearl White
11La Regente75.67 carats, 302.68 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
12Pearl of Kuwait64.35 carats, 257.40 grainsAsymmetrical drop-shapeSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
13Paspaley Pearl60.94 carats, 243.76 grainsPerfectly sphericalSaltwater, nacreous, cultured pearl White
14Largest natural freshwater nacreous pearl in the world, that appeared at Christie’s sale 7664 at Dubai60.36 carats, 241.44 grainsNear-SphericalFreshwater nacreous pearlYellowish- orange to pinkish-orange
15Natural Grey/Brown Pearl56.81 carats, 227.24 grainsSymmetrical drop-shapeSaltwater, nacreous pearl Grey/Brown
 La Peregrina (Original weight)55.95 carats, 223.8 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
16Sara/Tavernier/Shaista Khan Pearl55.0 carats, 220 grainsDrop-shapedSaltwater, nacreous pearl Gray
17La Peregrina after drilling and polishing in 191350.96 carats, 203.84 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearlWhite
18Peacock Throne Pearl50 carats, 200 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater nacreous pearl Yellow
19Mancini Pearls50 carats, 200 grains. 50 carats, 200 grainsDrop-shaped pearlsSaltwater nacreous White
20Moghul Pearls45.5 carats, 182 grains. 45.5 carats, 182 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater nacreous pearls White
21Putilov Pearl37.5 carats,150 grains.Near sphericalSaltwater nacreous pearl White
22Drexel Pearl33.80 carats, 135.2 grainsSymmetrical drop-shapeSaltwater nacreous pearl Black Tahitian
23La Pelegrina one33.29 carats, 133.16 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
24Largest natural near-spherical saltwater nacreous pearl in the world that appeared at Wooley & Wallis auction in London WW33.147 carats, 132.59 grainsNear-sphericalSaltwater, nacreous pearlWhite
25Charles II Pearl32.5 carats, 130 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
26Tararequi Pearls31 carats, 124 grainsPear-shaped dropSaltwater, nacreous White
27Bapst Pearls113.75 grains, 113.25 grainsPerfectly spherical pearlsSaltwater nacreous pearls White
28La Pelegrina two27.88 carats, 111.5 grainsPerfectly spherical pearlSaltwater nacreous pearl White
29La Reine De Pearls27.5 carats, 110 grainsPerfectly spherical pearlSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
30Oviedo Pearl26 carats, 104 grainsPerfectly spherical pearlSaltwater, nacreous White
31Queen/Patterson Pearl23.25 carats, 93 grainsBaroqueFreshwater, nacreous pearl White
32Paspaley Drop-shaped Pearls18.75 carats, 75 grains. 18.75 carats, 75 grainsDrop-shaped pearlsSaltwater, nacreous pearl White
33Finest black pearl in Europe in 190012.25 carats, 49 grainsPear-shaped drop pearlSaltwater, nacreous pearl Black pearl with green overtone

Please do not copy our tables. We may be compelled to inform the search engines if our content and tables are plagiarised and/or file a DMCA Request (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) .

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History of the Putilov Pearl

The Probable Pinctada species in which the Putilov Pearl Originated 

GIA Pearl Identification Report has identified the bivalve mollusk that produced the Putilov Pearl as Pinctada species, but has not ventured to identify the exact Pinctada species from which pearl originated. However, given the enormous size of the pearl (19.08 x 16.50 mm) and the fact that the pearl appeared in the second half of the 19th-century in Russia, one might be able to express an opinion about the exact species from which the Putilov Pearl was derived. 

Out of the large number of pearl oyster species in the Genus Pinctada, under the family Pteriidae, which have the potential of producing pearls, only around seven species have been identified that had been involved in the production of natural pearls worldwide and even today have great commercial value, being used in Perliculture. These species are 

1) Pinctada radiata – Gulf pearl oyster

2) Pinctada imbricata – Atlantic pearl oyster

3) Pinctada fucata – Akoya pearl oyster

4) Pinctada martensii – Akoya-gai pearl oyster

5) Pinctada maxima – White-lipped and Gold-lipped pearl oyster

6) Pinctada margaritfera -Black-lipped pearl oyster

7) Pinctada albina – Shark bay pearl oyster

Modern scientific research has found that the first four species of Pinctada above, Pinctada radiata (Gulf pearl oyster), Pinctada imbricata (Atlantic pearl oyster), Pinctada fucata (Akoya pearl oyster) and Pinctada martensii (Akoya-gai pearl oyster), although classified as different species previously, have now been found to belong to the same species, as they have the same genetic profile and similar morphological characteristics. The four species fucata/martensii/radiata/imbricata are now known as a species complex, which represent components of a cosmopolitan, globally distributed species, with specific locally adapted traits. Cross breeding between the four species produces fertile offspring, showing that the four different species, actually belong to one and the same species. 

Given the enormous size of the pearl with a shortest and longest diameter of 16.50 mm and 19.08 mm respectively, the oyster that produced the pearl should be equally enormous to accommodate the growing pearl within its tissues. Such an oyster species which can produce such enormous pearls is Pinctada maxima, which can grow to a maximum diameter of 30 cm (12 inches). Pinctada maxima is reputed to be the largest naturally occurring pearl oyster in the world and today used in the sericulture of white and golden pearls.

Pinctada maxima commonly known as the South Sea Pearl Oyster, occurs in nature as two different varieties, the silver-lipped pearl oyster and the golden-lipped pearl oyster, that produce respectively silvery-white and golden pearls. The pearls have a range in size from 8 mm to 20 mm (Average 13 mm). The dimensions of the Putilov Pearl, 16.50-19.08 mm falls within this range. On the other hand, the range in size of pearls produced by fucata/martensii/radiata/imbricata species complex is 2 mm to 11 mm (Average 6 – 8 mm), apart from large quantities of seed pearls produced by species like radiata and imbricata, under natural conditions. An enormous pearl of dimensions 16.50-19.08 mm being produced in the species complex is highly unlikely and a very remote possibility. The species Pinctada margaritifera produces black/grey pearls and hence not relevant to our discussion. Nevertheless, the range in size of pearls produced by Pinctada margaritifera,  9mm to 14 mm (Average 9.5 mm), cannot accommodate a pearl of dimensions 16.50-19.08 mm. Hence, in all probability the Putilov Pearl was produced inside the South Sea Pearl Oyster, Pinctada maxima. 

Having deduced the probable oyster species where the Putilov Pearl originated, we can also predict in which part of the oyster, the irritant responsible for the formation of the enormous pearl was lodged. Since the pearl has expanded equally on all sides and formed a large near-spherical pearl, in all probability the irritant that was responsible for the formation of the pearl, lodged deep inside the pearl, probably in the gonads, surrounded by soft tissues, making equal expansion on all sides possible. 

The Possible Region where the Putilov South Sea Pearl Originated

The natural habitat of the oyster species Pinctada maxima in which the Putilov Pearl originated, is the South Sea, situated between the southern coast of China and the northern coast of Australia, connecting the Indian Ocean to the Pacific ocean, and withing which the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea are situated. Given the fact that the Putilov Pearl Brooch originated in the mid-19th Century, the Putilov Pearl most probably originated in the first-half of 19th-Century. The natural pearl fishing grounds in the South Sea that was being actively exploited during this period are the ancient pearl fishing grounds situated along the coastline of Southern China and Southeastern China, which had been exploited for over 2,000 years. All three species  Pinctada maxima, Pinctada margaritifera and Pinctada fucata (species complex) were found in these fishing grounds, producing South Sea pearls, Black pearls and Akoya pearls respectively. 

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Pinctada maxima occurs in the Gulf of Tongking, particularly on the coasts of Hainan Island, from where some of the large so-called Mandarin Pearls of the past, were exported to the West.  These pearls were also imported to China from the Mergui Archipelago in Burma (Myanmar) and Malayan Archipelago, from where some of these pearls found their way to the west. The Sulu Archipelago pearl fishing grounds in the Philippines were also exploited by the Chinese in the 19th-century, most of the produce being taken to China and the most beautiful pearls being retained by the Sultan of Sulu. The exploitation of Pinctada maxima pearl fishing grounds in Western Australia began only after the 1860s. Hence, the Putilov pearl most probably originated in one of the Pinctada maxima pearl fishing grounds situated on the coastline of Southern China, Mergui Archipelago in Burma, the Malayan Archipelago or the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines, all exploited by the Chinese pearling fleets. 

Circumstances under which The Putilov Pearl Brooch appeared at the auction block at the Rago Arts and Auction Center Jewelry auction held at Lambertville, New Jersey, on December 07th, 2014 

The Putilov Pearl Brooch had remained a valuable heirloom of the Putilov family, since its creation in Russia in the mid-19th Century, and after its arrival in France in 1918, following the October 17th Bolshevik Revolution. The pearl brooch had remained with the descendants of Alexey Putilov and his wife for 96 years after its arrival in the west. During this period, the family were fairly well off and there was no need to dispose of the valuable heirloom. The consignor of the brooch is the great granddaughter of Putilov and his wife. The brooch was inherited by her mother, who was born and reared in France and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. 

Another interesting fact that emerged after the successful sale of the brooch was that the  brooch was not entrusted to Rago Arts and Auction Center directly by the family, but it arrived  through the offices of an honest jeweler, known to the family. The owner of the brooch carried it to the jeweler for sale, to raise sufficient funds to take care of an elderly mother at home, and perhaps to help pay for a daughter’s college education. The jeweler was astounded when he saw the antique piece of jewelry that was brought to his store. He knew that the piece was exceptional, particularly the central pearl, which he suspected to be a natural pearl, and worth quite a fortune. Rather than take advantage of the ignorance of the owners of the brooch, the honest jeweler directed them to the Rago Arts and Auction Center, where he knew the innocent owners would get the true worth of the jewel.

Having received the pearl brooch for sale, the jewelry department of Rago Arts, who suspected the central large pearl to be natural, sent the brooch to GIA for testing and certification. As anticipated by the jewelry experts the Putilov Pearl turned out to be a natural saltwater pearl, with a near-round shape and dimensions of 19.08 x 18.88 x 16.50 mm. GIA subjected the pearl for testing without dismantling it from its ancient settings. In keeping with the pearl’s natural and historic  provenance, experts at Rago Art and Auction Center, assigned a pre-sale estimate of US$ 100,000-500,000 to the Putilov Brooch, and was assigned Lot No. 2557 at its auction that was due to come up on December 7, 2014. Comparing the dimensions of the Putilov Pearl with the dimensions of the Wooley & Wallis pearl that appeared seven months ago at their London auctions on May 1, 2014, Jewelry experts at Rago Arts were convinced that the Putilov Pearl was undoubtedly the world’s largest natural near-spherical saltwater pearl and accordingly  Lot 2557 was assigned the title, “The largest known near-round natural saltwater pearl, The Putilov brooch.” 

The Putilov Pearl Brooch incorporating the world’s largest known near-round, natural saltwater nacreous pearl sells for a staggering US$ 813,750 at Rago Arts and Auction Center’s jewelry auction on December 7, 2014

Sarah Churgin, head of the jewelry and silver department at Rago Arts and Auction Center, in a press release dated November 14, 2014, described the Putilov brooch as one with “a pearl the size of a quail egg on a cracker of diamonds.” Sarah Churgin together with Katherine Van Deli, a jewelry specialist at Rago, painstakingly reconstructed the history of the 19th-Century, Putilov Pearl Brooch, using family records and other research tools, over the past 100 years and its flight from Russia to France and then the United States. 

The consignor of the brooch, was the great grandchild of Putilov and his wife Vera. The brooch was inherited by her mother, who was born and reared in France and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s.  It was a family lore that the Putilov Pearl was actually part of an earlier necklace. This was confirmed by the GIA report which stated that the pearl is full-drilled, with nacreous plugs, but one of the plugs now detached.

Descendants of Putiov’s family attended the December 7, 2014 auction held at Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, New Jersey. Sarah Churgin said the sellers of the Putilov brooch were a modest and unassuming family, who were selling the valuable family heirloom, to meet the mounting costs of taking care of an elderly mother at home. She also said, that they have an American teenage daughter with an interest in French, and the proceeds of the sale, perhaps may help pay for her college education. She said that before the bidding started, a family member told her, they hoped for enough to pay off mounting eldercare bills. 

The winning bidder was also in the auction room in Lambertville, and there was an aura of excitement and expectation in the room. Churgin said, “It was wonderful; there was great energy and the room was buzzing. We had a great time.” 

She said that nearly every interested buyer sent an agent or personally viewed the brooch. The bidding process was intense and competitive. The bidding value exceeded both the lower estimate of US$ 100,000 and the upper estimate of US$ 500,000. Finally, the hammer was brought down when the value reached US$ 813,750. The winning bidder was an Englishman of Russian descent, who went all out to acquire an important piece associated with the past history of his ancestor’s great country. Churgin said, he had traveled to the United States specifically to bid for the brooch, but also bought a couple of other pieces at the auction. 

After the brooch was sold for a staggering US$ 813,750 the family of the consignor were virtually in tears. Churgin, who too was happy by the unexpected results, said, “They’re just lovely people, just so grateful. It’s going to change their lives.”

While thanking the honest jeweler who directed the owners of the Putilov Brooch to the Rago Arts and Auction Center, enabling them to get the true worth of the jewel, Churgin has a word of advice, to people who own antique jewelry.  Before consigning or selling an antique piece to a jeweler, she advises owners to seek an appraisal from a trustworthy appraiser. driving home her point,  Sarah Churgin said, at the December 7, 2014 auction a freshwater pearl bracelet sold for 10 times the price a jeweler had sought. The price quoted by the jeweler, she said  was appropriate for cultured pearls.  Antique jewelry, she said  is “a whole different world.” 

She also cautions owners of antique jewelry to consider other alternatives, before dismantling fine antique and vintage jewelry, to reset in modern settings. She says this is done to create new “eternity” bands and to share stones among more than one child. According to her a better option would be to learn first if the piece is worth more in its original setting than when altered. If it is worth more in its original antique setting, it would be better to sell it and use the money to gift new pieces to the children. Alternatively, instead of dismantling the antique/vintage piece, it can be gifted to one child, and the equality issue settled differently. The Putilov Brooch appear to have survived to this day because of the latter alternative. 

A Short Biography of Alexey Ivanovich Putilov

Alexey Ivanovich Putilov was born in Russia on June 24, 1866. After competing his primary and secondary education, Alexey Putilov entered St. Petersburg University, where he studied Law and passed out as a law graduate in 1889, at the age of 23 years. He joined the Ministry of Finance in 1890. In the Ministry of Finance he served as the Director of the General office from 1902 to 1905 and was subsequently Assistant to the Minister of Finance from 1905 to 1906. 

He resigned from the Ministry of Finance and became a director of several financial and industrial enterprises, including the Russio-Asiatic bank of which he remained Chairman until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.  His family founded the Putilov Metal Works Company, that became a major supplier of railway products for the Russian government railway, and artillery for the Imperial Russian Army.  Hence, prior to the revolution, Putilov had been a powerful man in Russia, with close connections to the Emperor’s family, and government and business circles. 

According to Russian historians, it was the strikes by the workers at a Putilov mine in February 1917, and a subsequent speech delivered at the mine by Vladimir Lenin, that contributed directly to the Russian Revolution. After the Revolution, Lenin personally signed a decree, confiscating all of Putilov family’s real and personal property. Putilov family fled Russia, and in the spring of 1918, Alexy Putilov and his family crossed the Soviet-Finnish border and then proceeded to Paris, the destination of most of the Russian refugees of the October revolution.. Putilov’s family carried only a few personal belongings with them, and that included their valuable jewelry. Alexey Putilov and his wife Vera are believed to have carried the Putilov Pearl Brooch with them, and this remained a valuable family heirloom, being inherited by one of their children and later by a granddaughter and great- grandaughter. Putilov resumed his banking career in Paris under a Gallicized name. Putilov died in 1940 in Paris at the age of 74 years. 

1 thoughts on “The Putilov Pearl Brooch

  1. sarah churgin says:

    Good afternoon,

    I am Sarah Churgin and having just noticed this delightful and informative post, I’d like to make a
    minor correction to the record:

    Our noble jeweler had no idea that the pearl might have any significance. ( Most jewelers do not understand that
    cultured pearls are, in general, a 20th c. phenomenon.) but he recognized that the brooch might be worth more than the $32,000 he was offered for it on Philidelphia’s Jewelers’ Row.

    The had GIA had originally determined the pearl to be button shaped, it stated depth was not measurable due to mounting
    I picked up the brooch and report and, that night, affixed a stiff pin to the arm of a K&E digital machinist’s gauge, zeroed it out, measured the pearl, made the calculations.
    Their pearl specialists met me in reception the next day, took my gauge back to the lab, tested it, used it to remeasure the pearl and revised the pearl report.

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