Jewelry once owned by a Pope rarely goes up for sale, and when those same pieces were also once owned by a pop culture icon, it is almost unthinkable. However, M.S. Rau Antiques out of New Orleans is selling a cross and a ring that were once owned by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and 70s motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.
The first piece is a diamond-encrusted pectoral cross valued at $1.25 million. The seven-inch long cross is made of 18 karat gold and features 12 diamonds ranging between three and eight carats along the vertical and horizontal line. The cross is filled in with emeralds and smaller diamonds with 18 karat carvings of scrolls and leaves along the edges of the cross.
The ring, valued at $650,000, is centred with a 13-carat white diamond surrounded by 14 smaller diamonds totalling 3.5 carats. The ring is set in platinum and has two diamond pave squares set on either side, each inset with a cross made of rubies.
The history of these pieces suggest that they were made by Vatican jewellers in the early 1900s from existing jewels in their collection. In 1965, Pope Paul VI made a historic visit to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. At the time, he requested that these two pieces be auction off with the proceeds going to human relief funds.
The auction of these pieces took place in 1967 and was handled by Parke-Bernet (now owned by Sotheby’s). Chicago-based jeweller Harry Levinson won the bid for both the ring and cross both for a total of $64,000. The timeline of ownership gets a little fuzzy after this point. Evel Knievel is said to have owned them at some point, however, no one is sure of exactly when he purchased or sold them.
The next public sale of the cross and ring was in April 2011 on the online auction website eBay by a North Carolina jewellery store, Perry’s Emporium. Store owner Jeff Perry said he was selling the pieces for a widow whose husband had bought them in the 70s.
There never has been any public confirmation whether the cross and ring were sold at that time or not. Their appearance this month at M.S. Rau Antiques is the first time they have been publicly available since 2011. So if you are looking for a piece of papal (and pop culture) history, the ring and cross are selling for at a total of $1.9 million.