21 MARCH 1998 THE PRINCESS BALL IN LOS ANGELES; A FUNDRAISER FOR THE PRINCESS DIANA MEMORIAL FUND

The programme cover from The Princess Ball

The programme cover from The Princess Ball 1998.

A secret bidder has paid 2.2 million dollars to take home the heart-shaped diamond and sapphire necklace inspired by the film “Titanic”.

The diamond and sapphire necklace was auctioned in Los Angeles at the Princess Ball a charity event raising money for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
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Stars gathered for a Princess Diana fund-raiser to auction a replica of the heart-shaped necklace featured in “Titanic,” – and to bid for other items that had belonged to the Princess.
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Saturday’s Princess Ball, with Angela Lansbury, John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Rupert Everett co-chairing the event, is part of a gala benefit for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Aid for AIDS.
image The event, held in the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, was the first official US tribute to the Princess sanctioned by her fund.

After the limousines finished dropping off their high-priced clients, and the five-hundred dollar a plate meals eaten, the big show got under way.

With the lights down, Richard S. Wolf got the highly-anticipated auction underway.

“Now we are about to prove that there is no free dinner. Even though you’ve paid five-hundred dollars for it. We have a number of items we’re going to auction this evening. All of the proceeds will be going to the charities represented this evening and I expect you to bid often, to bid early, and to let your generosity flow forth.”

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The first item up for bid was of mostly sentimental value.

It was a blue oval box painted with the letter “D” and decorated with the Spencer family coronet.
image Diana gave the box as a birthday gift to her butler, Paul Burrell.
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Burrell, who was known as the princess’ confidante and who worked at Buckingham Palace for two decades, was the first manager of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in 1998.
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Bidding began sluggishly, as Wolf had trouble getting the audience to wave their hands in the air furiously if they wanted to make a bid.  But once the crowd got going, the box went for the hefty sum of $6K thousand dollars.

Between the cornerstone items were a number of package holidays which relived the Diana days.image

The trips went from Los Angeles to London, New York and the British Virgin Islands, all favourite Diana destinations.

Some of the more classic items included photographs, and sketches of her wedding dress.
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But the centre of attention was when the diamond and sapphire replica of the costume necklace featured in the movie “Titanic” went up for bids.
image The original was donned by actress Kate Winslet and served as a symbolic thread of love and memory in the blockbuster hit.

Called “La Coeur de la Mer,” or “Heart of the Ocean,” the necklace created by Asprey of London features a 170-carat sapphire and diamond necklace valued at $3.5 million dollars.

The marine-blue gem, culled from mines in Sri Lanka, is set in platinum and encased by a collection of 36 carats of diamonds.  Asprey London also created the costume necklace for the film, and bidding for the replica was expected to begin at  $1.5 million dollars.

It started lower, at $1 million, and the eventual owner of the necklace looked to be getting a bargain.

The bids started rising and crested at about $2 million when two bidders were going neck and neck.
image It was finally sold for $2.2 million and the lucky bidder looks to have found himself a bargain by $1.3 million.

However, the bidder was not actually present as the bids being taken via cellular telephone.

Even though the bidder was not present, his representatives were grilled by the media shortly after Wolf’s gavel hit the podium for the last time.  It was reported at the time that the necklace would be loaned to Celine Dion to wear at the upcoming Oscars Ceremony that March.
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The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established by Kensington Palace following Diana’s death in an August 1997 car accident.

The fund will help charitable groups supported by Diana, including AIDS research and other humanitarian causes.
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