Antiques show experts are stunned by woman‘s diamond-studded crucifix ‘containing splinters from cross on which Jesus died‘ – but outrage viewers by convincing her to sell for just £37k
Experts on the German version of Antiques Roadshow have been slammed for convincing a mother and daughter to sell a unique papal crucifix said to contain splinters from Jesus‘ cross for just £37,000.
Cosima Birk, who works as a nurse, and her daughter Stephanie Huber wowed experts of the TV programme ‘Bares für Rares‘ by producing a diamond-studded cross for the programme‘s experts to value.
The antique turned out to be a 300-year-old papal pectoral cross – a cross worn on one‘s chest – studded with 40-carat diamonds.
To top it off, experts on the show – which is the German version of the ‘s Antiques Roadshow – found that it contained three splinters said to be from the True Cross which Jesus Christ was crucified on, according to reports.
The family inherited the cross from Cosima‘s maternal grandmother, who was bequeathed the precious jewel by an old woman who she always accompanied to church on Sundays.
Expert Dr Heide Rezepa-Zabel said the discovery was ‘amazing‘ and found that the materials used to make the cross alone were estimated to be worth 17,000 euros (£15,015).
She estimated the value of the pectoral cross to be between 60,000 and 80,000 euros (£53,000 and £71,000).
Rezepa-Zabel said that the perfectly intact seal on the back of the cross bears the symbol of the apostle Peter and ‘clearly points to the Congregation of Pope Clement IX‘.
She also said she was certain that in the window of rock crystal, which is embedded in the antique, there are real pieces of wood from the cross of Jesus Christ.
In the ensuing bidding battle, the papal cross was however sold for just 42,000 euros (£37,095) to trader Susanne Steiger, although it was still the most expensive item in the show‘s history.
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Steiger said: ‘I do not know what to say, it‘s almost like finding a needle in a haystack. I found it here tonight. I‘m so happy.‘
She added that she now wants to loan it to a museum, adding: ‘So many people have come to me who would like to see the cross, so I would like to make it available to the public.‘
Cosima and Stephanie, from Ruelzheim in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, were also pleased with the sale.
Although the item was sold for a price below the highest estimate, it will allow Stephanie to finish her studies debt-free and still have cash left over.
According to local media, there was a wave of online complaints blasting the show for not sending the mother and daughter to a proper auction house where they might have received significantly more money for the pectoral cross.
Christo Loco Knell wrote: ‘In the big auction houses in the United States they would have easily got 100,000 or more for it.‘
Cuth Ana added: ‘The two ladies allowed others to take advantage of them.‘
Lawyer Friedemann Ungerer even went further with his criticism and said the sale might even be illegal citing a paragraph in the German criminal code which defines immoral business and usury.
He said: ‘In particular, a legal transaction is void by which a person, by exploiting the predicament, inexperience, lack of sound judgement or considerable weakness of will of another, causes himself or a third party, in exchange for an act of performance, to be promised or granted pecuniary advantages which are clearly disproportionate to the performance.‘
Ungerer said the law paragraph could be applicable here given the inexperience of Cosima and Stephanie.
It is unclear if the mother and daughter will now contest the sale.