Above, some of the seized jewelry of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos was displayed earlier this month at a press conference in Manila. The Philippine government is considering selling the gems at auction.

Marcos jewels
could be sold

The collection of the Philippines' former
first lady is worth at least $10 million

MANILA » The Philippine government is considering a Manila auction of former first lady Imelda Marcos' spectacular multimillion-dollar jewelry collection, drawing keen interest from international auction houses.

"We have been thinking of possibly auctioning them in the Philippines," said Ricardo Abcede, a member of a government commission recovering the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos family's ill-gotten wealth.

Abcede said there was not enough time left to prepare for previous plans to hold the auction in Geneva, Switzerland, in November.

London-based Bonhams auction house has inspected two of the three collections up for sale and found "some spectacular pieces," Bonhams Chairman Robert Brooks said.

"This is one of the highest-profile collections to come to the market for some time, (and) there will be a lot of interest worldwide if these collections come for sale," Brooks said. "This is a world event ... if it happens."

Abcede said the auction could be timed around the major jewelry fair in Hong Kong in March, during which participants could easily take an hour's flight to Manila.

Marcos, wearing polished turquoise and diamond ring jewelry, is trying to block the sale.

Marcos has asked a Manila court to stop the auction, but no order has been issued yet.

Abcede said there was no legal impediment to selling the jewelry.

"I can understand her attachment to her jewelry, but the law is the law," he said.

Last week, experts from Christie's auction house also appraised the jewels at the Philippines' Central Bank, where they have been held in a vault since they were seized following massive street protests that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Officials said Sotheby's, another auction house, also expressed interest.

The government plans to sell three collections of Marcos' jewelry, initially estimated at least $10 million, said Abcede.

It includes a set of a diamond-encrusted bracelets, earrings and brooch believed to be worth at least $1.48 million. Also part of the collection is a piece with a 37.5-carat diamond, plus a diamond-ringed 150.01-carat Burmese ruby pendant, bigger than a thumb.

A note in a box from a former Marcos aide said the ruby pendant was once worth $290,000.

The Marcoses are believed to have illegally amassed billions of dollars during Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule.

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