$21M Jewelry and Gem Collection of Former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos to Hit Auction Block

On this day in 1986, in the face of mass demonstrations and charges of embezzlement, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda were forced to flee the presidential palace in Manila and seek refuge in Hawaii. Although Imelda dreaded leaving behind more than 1,200 pairs of designer shoes, she did bring along a cache of fine gemstones and jewelry that are valued today at $21 million.

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The jewelry was confiscated in Hawaii, and now, 30 years later, will be sold to the highest bidder.

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Among the dazzling pieces in Imelda's collection were a barrel-shaped 25-carat pink diamond estimated to be worth $5 million and a Cartier tiara also valued in that same range. Imelda is currently 86 years old; Ferdinand died in 1989 at the age of 72.

Seized in three batches and totaling 300 pieces, the jewelry will be displayed in a public exhibition before it hits the auction block.

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"The exhibition of these ill-gotten jewels will be a great vehicle to raise awareness — especially for the younger generation and those who have forgotten — and to remind the Filipino people of the perils of the two-decade regime of corruption that was under the Marcoses," noted Richard T. Amurao, chairman of the Philippine's Presidential Commission on Good Government.

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The Hawaii batch will be the first to be sold. The other two are still being contested in the Filipino court system.

During the Marcos' 20-year regime, the couple reportedly amassed a fortune that included paintings by Pablo Picasso, Francisco de Goya and Michelangelo — all while the country was in economic decline.

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The jewelry in Marcos' collection was appraised recently by both Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses. The Philippine government will soon determine the dates of the public exhibition and auction.

Credits: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images; ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images.