A brooch that was traded around some of magic's most powerful families was recently auctioned for $72,000 at a sale held by Potter & Potter. The owner, Arlene Larsen, plans to use the proceeds to help fund the creation of The Magic Castle Cabaret, a new home for close-up magic in Santa Barbara, CA.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Harry Houdini was the recipient of a diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald crown pin that Bess Houdini made into a brooch. While its origin is definitely from someone with a hefty Russian pedigree, opinions differ on the specific source. Some claim it came from Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, while others say it was a gift from Czar Nicholas II himself.
While its provenance maybe be cloudy, the brooch's path once it was in Houdini's hands is well documented. Houdini's wife, Bess, gave her prized brooch to her good friend Gerrie Larsen, who was a TV performer known as The Magic Lady, and whose son Milt would found The Magic Castle. Gerrie gave it to Milt’s wife Arlene. The brooch was auctioned off with other incredible magic ephemera, including a volume of Natural Magick dating back to 1658, an antique straightjacket and a talking skull from circa 1930.