Joanna Lumley took time out of her schedule recently to be photographed wearing an absolutely fabulous necklace that is to be auctioned for charity.

Joanna Lumley Models Born Free Necklace
Joanna Lumley Models Born Free Necklace

The unique, breathtaking, the diamond-adorned, solid gold Shere Khan Necklace, to be auctioned by the Born Free Foundation, will hopefully raise at least £300,000 to help save the wild tiger from extinction. Experts have valued the necklace at over half a million pounds.

The Shere Khan Necklace is a world exclusive: an exquisite, unique, handcrafted piece created by the internationally-acclaimed and award-winning jeweller, Catherine Best.

Born Free Foundation Necklace
Born Free Foundation Necklace

The equally unique and iconic Joanna Lumley took time out of her schedule before filming the new series of Absolutely Fabulous, to be photographed wearing the Shere Khan Necklace by the legendary John Swannell.

The outstanding result is five evocative portraits by Swannell, beautifully portraying Joanna reflected in an antique mirror. In one pose, a classic black polo-neck contrasts superbly with the intensity of the vibrant jewels. Another, with the impressive weight of the Shere Khan Necklace laid bare on her décolletage, captures Joanna’s mood; full of emotion, wild-willed and passionate, reflecting her energy and personal commitment to the cause.

Speaking at the shoot from the sumptuous surroundings of the Gondoliers’ room at London’s Savoy Hotel, Joanna said, ‘“I feel very much that it’s almost a royal piece. The necklace is so special it can be worn with anything, though I feel a strapless evening gown and long evening gloves would show it to perfection. The moment you put the necklace on, it comes alive!"

Joanna continued; “It feels great, like a badge of office, but it’s incredibly comfortable and easy to wear. It reminds me of the fabulous pieces in the Duchess of Windsor’s collection – panthers and leopards. I adore extreme looks and this is blingtastic!”

The worldwide auction will be by sealed bids only and will commence on the 31st May 2011 at 12:00 GMT and will close at 20:00 hrs GMT at a star-studded gala evening on the 17th June 2011 to be held at the Savoy Hotel. The evening marks the 80th Birthday of the actress and wildlife campaigner, Virginia McKenna OBE, who founded the International wildlife charity Born Free.

Photographs of Joanna wearing the Shere Khan Necklace are showcased on a specially set up website and sealed bids will be monitored through a secure email and hotline number, with confidentiality and discretion assured.

The Shere Khan Necklace takes its name from the tiger famously depicted in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. It holds an impressive collection of 182 diamonds and gemstones intricately set in nearly a kilo of 18ct gold. The necklace is delicately enamelled and adorned with a staggering 11.952 cts of round diamonds, over 7 cts of emeralds which combine to highlight the jeweller’s pièce de résistance – each magnificent tiger, male and female, holds a heart in its paws. The male embraces an incredible 27 ct rubellite tourmaline while the female boasts a diamond weighing over 4 cts – truly making it the heart of the necklace.

Catherine Best was inspired to create the Shere Khan Necklace after meeting the Born Free Foundation and hearing first-hand of their work around the world, including their desperate struggle to save wild tigers. Inspired by their strength and beauty and motivated by their dwindling numbers and fight for survival, Catherine and her team began the task of sourcing the very best diamonds and gemstones for what she knew would be a once-in-a-lifetime piece. This involved reaching out to everyone they knew and viewing what seemed like every stone ever cut until they had the perfect ensemble.

The colossal and striking scale of the Shere Khan Necklace makes a unique and memorable statement which has already caught the eye of and profoundly impressed jewellery expert and star of the Antiques Roadshow, Geoffrey Munn. Geoffrey has handled some of the most iconic and sought after jewellery in the world, including pieces sourced for the Royal Family.

Speaking from his offices at the London jewellers, Wartski, Geoffrey said, “In this jewel the beauty of the tiger is made permanent with the use of incorruptible precious stones and gold, subtly combined with Catherine’s artistry and skill. Yes, this is a necklace, a jewel, but it is also an heirloom which, unlike the tiger, is beyond the reach of extinction. Anyone lucky enough to acquire it will not only have something that will bring joy forever but will be helping the Born Free Foundation build a permanent future for the wild tigers of the world.”

All net proceeds from the sale of the necklace will go towards conserving tigers in the wild and Born Free’s work. It is estimated that only 3,500 wild tigers remain and numbers of this iconic species are continuing to decline. The main threats to wild tigers include: habitat loss and fragmentation due to mining, logging, farming and human settlement; depletion of their prey base; conflict with humans; and poaching for their skins, bones and other body parts for Traditional Asian Medicine.

In a recent worldwide summit, Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, together with China’s Premier Wen Jiaboa, Leonardo DiCaprio and some of the world’s most influential figures, noted that the tiger’s current plight resulted almost entirely “from human selfishness and cruelty”, declaring that “the main task ahead of us is to preserve tigers in the wild”, adding, emphatically, that “we can do it.”

By purchasing the Shere Khan Necklace, the successful bidder will be rewarded not only with a fabulous collector’s item but will be making an outstanding and significant investment in the future security of wild tigers.

The necklace is open to the world to bid for. Anyone who is interested can go to the website and register a bid, click here.

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