World's largest freshwater pearl "The Sleeping Lion" set for Dutch auction

It is the first time the object has gone on sale in 240 years

World's largest freshwater pearl "The Sleeping Lion" set for Dutch auction

The Sleeping Lion. Image: Venduehuis Auction House

The largest known freshwater pearl in the world is due to go on sale in the Netherlands next week.

It is the first time "The Sleeping Lion" has gone on sale in 240 years - and it could be yours if you are willing to part with the €540,000 estimated price.

The extremely rare pearl is renowned for its history and its next owner will join a prestigious group - with previous owners including colonial merchants, noblemen and European royals, including the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great.

Weighing in at almost 120 grams, the 2.7 inch pearl owes its name to its unique shape.

A print with a true-to-size depiction of the Sleeping Lion Pearl, May 1778. Image:  Amsterdam City Archives

Originating in China, the pearl is thought to have formed during Qianlong Emperor’s reign between 1700 and 1760.

Chinese emperors were entitled to all noteworthy pearls found in Chinese waters at the time - but it is believed the Sleeping Lion was smuggled out of the country between 1765 and 1769.

It eventually resurfaced in Batavia - now Jakarta in Indonesia - in the hands of Dutch merchant Hendrik Coenraad Sander.

The Sleeping Lion pearl. Image: Venduehuis

The pearl is due to be sold at the Venduehuis in Den Hague on May 31st with a guide price of as much as €540,000.

It comes with the box that has housed the pearl for at least 250 years and contains a handwritten note from the seller's great-grandfather - who purchased the pearl in Rome in 1865.