A 10.5-carat diamond ring that belonged to Bernard L. Madoff and his wife, Ruth, sold for $550,000 today in a New York auction as collectors and dealers competed for mementos owned by the formerly high-living confidence man.
The emerald-cut stone was estimated to go for as much as $350,000. The staccato-tongued auctioneer Bob Sheehan, of closely held Gaston & Sheehan, said the ring “supposedly” was Ruth’s engagement ring. The winning bidder, a man with salt-and-pepper hair, wearing chinos and a tweed jacket, declined to identify himself.
Earlier, Madoff’s Steinway & Sons grand piano sold for $42,000.
“It’s got a little bit of history to it, and it’s hysterical,” real estate developer John Rodger of East Islip on Long Island told a scrum of a couple dozen reporters after placing the winning bid. “It makes it a conversation piece.”
The 6-foot-2-inch piano had a high presale estimate of $16,000. Rodger, who said he owns eight other pianos, figured this piano, circa 1917, would have been valued at $22,000 without the Madoff provenance.
The all-day, almost 500-lot sale has attracted hundreds to a frigid ballroom at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, as well as others online. The items were from Madoff’s East Side Manhattan apartment and Montauk, Long Island, beach house.
The sale was overseen by the U.S. Marshals Service to repay, in part, victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. All items are being sold without commissions.
Empty photo albums and picture frames went for $1,000. A leather footstool depicting a bull went for $3,300, almost 10 times its presale high estimate of $360.
As of Sept. 30, approximately $1.5 billion has been recovered for Madoff’s investors, the trustee overseeing Madoff’s bankruptcy, Irving Picard, said in a report.
When he was arrested in December 2008, Madoff’s account statements reflected 4,900 accounts with $65 billion in nonexistent investments, according to Picard. Investors lost about $20 billion in principal.