The Sleeping Lion Pearl, which once belonged to Catherine the Great and believed to be the world's largest freshwater pearl, is displayed before being auctioned in the Hague, Netherlands on May 28, 2018.
Yves Herman—Reuters
By Casey Quackenbush
June 1, 2018

The world’s largest freshwater pearl, known as the ‘Sleeping Lion’, sold at an auction in the Netherlands Thursday for $374,000.

It was the first auction in 240 years for the pearl, which is 2.75 inches in length and weighs over 5.4 ounces, BBC reports.

The pearl, which was once owned by Catherine the Great, sold below its estimated value between $397,000 and $630,000, according to the Venduehuis auction house catalogue.

It was auctioned by the Amsterdam Pearl Society in the Hague and bought by a Japanese trader, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Sleeping Lion is believed to have formed in China between 1700 and 1760. Despite the Qing Dynasty’s ban on exporting large pearls, the jewel was shipped to Europe via the Dutch East India Company. The first European owner of the pearl is said to have been Hendrik Coenraad Sander, the accountant general for the company.

It was then auctioned off in 1778 in Amsterdam and sold to Russian empress Catherine the Great.

For the next 200 years, the pearl was sold among various jewelers and aristocrats until the Amsterdam Pearl Society acquired it in 1979.

Write to Casey Quackenbush at casey.quackenbush@timeinc.com.

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