Going for a song: £400,000 to buy a touch of Callas sparkle

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The Independent Online

They are the rubies, pearls and diamonds that once adorned the world's favourite diva. And now anyone with the cash will be able purchase a touch of Maria Callas sparkle.

Eleven stunning pieces of jewellery once owned by the operatic soprano are being sold at auction this November for a figure estimated at around $700,000 (£400,000).

Most are thought to have been given to her by Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a wealthy industrialist whom she had married in 1949 and who came to dominate her career.

As she stepped out over the next decade, her jewels were the crowning ornamentation of a public image that was never less than immaculate.

In the 1950s Callas, the American-born daughter of Greek parents, attained worldwide fame with triumphant performances at La Scala, Covent Garden and the Met.

Rubies and diamonds feature prominently in the collection of pieces, which were all given to a member of her circle after her death in Paris in 1977 and have not come up for sale before.

The pieces Callas was most frequently seen wearing were a pair of ruby and diamond earrings, estimated at up to $25,000, a ruby and diamond necklace, estimated at up to $140,000, and a bracelet of rubies and diamonds, thought likely to make $80,000.

The most expensive piece in the collection is a marquise-shaped diamond ring, weighing 11.7 carats. It is estimated to fetch up to $180,000.

She was also fond of emeralds. One dazzling emerald and diamond necklace in which she often performed is up for sale at an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 while a claw-set emerald and diamond ring is expected to make up to $140,000.

Brett O'Connor, head of the jewels department for Sotheby's in Geneva, said: "Every single item is of exceptional quality. A lot of people in the spotlight tend to have chosen quantity over quality, but these are really wonderful pieces."

The sale will take place at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva on 17 November.