Christie's to auction $120,000 pearls

March 3, 2008 7:00:09 PM PST
An antique pearl necklace given to Egyptian music icon Umm Kulthoum by the former ruler of the United Arab Emirates is to be auctioned in April.

Kulthoum received the gift from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who served as the UAE's president from 1971 until his death in 2004, Christie's auction house said Monday in a statement.

The nine-row, approximately 1,888-pearl necklace is expected to fetch $120,000 when it goes on sale in Dubai, the UAE's capital, on April 29, Christie's said.

"Christie's is thrilled to be offering this historic jewel from one of the greatest icons of the 20th century," said David Warren, Christie's director of Jewelry Middle East.

Kulthoum was born in 1904 in Egypt's Nile Delta. She learned to sing from her father, a village imam, and made her first recordings in the mid-1920s. By the 1930s, she was already at the top of Cairo's music scene. Her emotive sound transfixed audiences across the Arab world. A close friend of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of her songs even served as the country's national anthem between 1960-1979.

An active fundraiser and outspoken supporter of Arab causes, she traveled throughout the Middle East, where she was received by heads of state. Millions lined the streets of Cairo after her death in 1975.

Christie's spokeswoman Clare Roberts said Kulthoum was given the necklace in the early 1970s. It is being sold by members of the singer's family.