World’s largest freshwater pearl auctioned for first time in 240 years


The world’s largest freshwater pearl is expected to fetch up to €540,000 when it goes up for sale in The Hague this week.

Nicknamed the Sleeping Lion, the jewel is thought to have formed during the reign of the Qianglong emperor between 1700 and 1760.

It was originally plundered by a Dutch merchant from Chinese waters in 1765. Chinese law at that time stated that all large pearls were the property of the emperor.

A decade later it was acquired by the Russian empress Catherine the Great for her collection at the Hermitage. More recently it belonged to an Amsterdam-based family of jewellers for four generations before passing into the hands of its current owners, the Amsterdams Parel Genootschap.

The pearl weighs 120 grammes and has an estimated value of €340,000 to €540,000. The sale at the Venduehuis in The Hague is the first time it has been offered at auction since Catherine the Great bought it 240 years ago.

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