Trinket sale nets Ellen Barkin $20m of revenge

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Ellen Barkin may have been unceremoniously dumped by her billionaire husband Ronald Perelman earlier this year, but she has found a way to take sweet revenge: she auctioned off the sizeable cache of jewellery he gave her during their six years of marriage and turned an unprecedented multimillion-dollar profit.

The 52-year-old actress offered up 102 pieces featuring diamonds, rubies, sapphires, pearls and other stones for sale at Christie's auction house in New York on Tuesday, expecting to earn anywhere up to $15m (£8.1m). The sale, though, ended up netting more than $20m.

"In five years, to be able to sell it and get more than you paid for it - it hasn't happened before with jewellery," Fred Leighton, the Madison Avenue dealer who sold many of the pieces to Mr Perelman and Ms Barkin in the first place, told a Bloomberg reporter at the auction.

The split between Mr Perelman, the heir to the Revlon fortune, and Ms Barkin, who made her name with such 1980s Hollywood hits as The Big Easy and Sea of Love, became instant tabloid fodder earlier this year.

It appeared, from media reports, that Mr Perelman served her with divorce papers just a few days before a key deadline laid out in their prenuptial agreement. He then posted security guards at their mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side while his blindsided wife moved out along with the two teenage children she had by her first husband, Gabriel Byrne.

Ms Barkin later characterised her entire marriage to Mr Perelman as an exercise in accessorising. Since, in her view, she was just an accessory to Mr Perelman, she found it appropriate to sell off all the accessories that he had given her.

Among the items sold at Christie's was Ms Barkin's diamond wedding ring.

Clearly the celebrity scandal cachet was attractive to buyers, because it fetched $156,000, more than three times the anticipated sale price. Also on the block was a 32-carat apricot diamond ring that Mr Perelman gave his wife just weeks before their divorce, a pair of emerald and gold cuffs originally designed for the Duchess of Windsor and 17 pieces designed by the top-of-the-line Parisian jeweller JAR.

Mr Perelman and Ms Barkin met at a Vanity Fair Oscar night party in Hollywood in 1999, and were married for just under six years. Ms Barkin all but gave up on her film career during that time, largely because of the objections of her husband, but is now determined to revive it.

She is now shooting Ocean's Thirteen, the third installment in the Steven Soderbergh-directed crime caper series, in which she plays the female lead in the star-studded cast, which includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Al Pacino.

She plans to plough the proceeds from the Christie's jewellery sale into a new production company she is setting up with her brother, George Barkin. Not that the divorce itself left her destitute: she walked away with about $20m.