An antique necklace made up of 1,888 pearls that once belonged to the Arab world's most famous singer was sold Tuesday for more than $1 million at an auction in this rich Gulf emirate, organizers said.
Christie's Dubai branch said an anonymous buyer from the Middle East bought the nine-strand necklace that belonged to Umm Kulthoum for $1,385,000 - more than 10 times the price expected by Christie's - to a round of thundering applause from the packed room, the AP reported.
The auction house had estimated the half-yard necklace's worth at $120,000, without taking into an account its immense sentimental value.
"It was a far greater amount than estimated," said Matthew Paton, spokesman for Christie's London.
The necklace was one of the few valuables the Egyptian-born singer kept. As a champion of many humanitarian causes and caretaker of the poor, she gave most of her wealth away during her lifetime.
The diva's descendants had offered the necklace for sale. It was Umm Kulthoum's favorite piece of jewelry, one she wore only for special occasions and never while performing on stage.
Umm Kulthoum was famous for her emotive songs that continue to transfix audiences across the Arab world, 30 years after her death. She was also adored by ordinary people and heads of state alike both for her voice and her pursuit of humanitarian causes across the Middle East.
The pearl necklace with its multicolored enamel and white stone details was designed in 19th century India. It was a gift to the diva by the late president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a few years before her death in 1975 at the age of 70.
Millions lined the streets of Cairo during her funeral. Radio stations still play her songs daily and her albums remain top-sellers across the region.