Doing Good: Mitzi Perdue
A ring, an auction and a gift to Ukraine
The Hope Diamond may well be the most recognized gem of all time, but the award for best cut stone of 2022 goes to Mitzi Perdue’s Atocha 5.27-carat emerald engagement ring. Presented to Mitzi back in 1988 by future husband Frank Perdue, second-generation chicken king of Perdue Farms, the green beauty had a measure of notoriety from the get-go. The original much larger rough stone was recovered from the 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, perhaps the most famous Spanish galleon ever, discovered by treasure hunter Mel Fisher about seventy miles off the Florida Keys in 1985. Perdue, an early investor in Fisher’s salvage company, received the emerald as part of his dividends from the find.
Mitzi, a well-known philanthropist, and author, traveled to Ukraine recently, was touched by the patriotism and resolve of the people there, and wanted to help. She engaged Sotheby’s to auction off the ring in mid-December, dedicating all proceeds to humanitarian efforts in the war-torn nation. With a presale high estimate of $70,000, bidding on the ring quickly escalated, astounding even the most seasoned auctioneers. Sotheby’s characterized it as a “five-minute bidding frenzy.” The final hammer price of $1.2 million will enable Mitzi to go far beyond her dreams of making a meaningful contribution: After fees and commissions, the sale yielded about $950,000.
Speaking to Family Business Magazine after the sale, Mitzi said, “Except for getting married or giving birth, this was about as exciting as it gets. The Atocha emerald ring sold for seventeen times the estimate.
“The proceeds will go for items requested by the mayors of Kyiv and Lviv, including warm clothes, flashlights, small generators to help people from Ukraine get through the winter. Putin has caused 40% of the power stations in Ukraine to be bombed, and the funds from the sale of this ring can help some people have at least a somewhat easier time of coping with the freezing weather. Ukraine has a climate something like the state of Maine, and it gets COLD.
“By the way, I still wear the wedding ring Frank gave me. But I know he’d endorse using the Atocha emerald for something that will help so many people.
“If anyone wants to do what I did and put up for auction something valuable to benefit Ukraine, please contact me [through Family Business Magazine]! If you choose to help Ukraine in this way, I predict you’ll be seriously happy that you did! And I can share what I learned about the process. There was no downside to it, but there were several things relating to, for instance, taxes, that I wish I had looked into way ahead of time. As it was, I was talking with accountants, lawyers, financial advisors right up until almost evening the night before about how to manage the tax side of things.”
Mitzi, an anti-human-trafficking advocate, returned from another trip to Ukraine just before Christmas even more determined to help the people there: “The money that the emerald sold for will be going for humanitarian efforts in the country. The effort that catches my heart most is the work underway to get back the more than 200,000 Ukrainian children who’ve been abducted and taken to Russia and then put up for adoption there. We know about this both from Ukrainian police sources and from think tanks that monitor Russian social media.
“There are countless reasons to want to make sure Russia doesn’t win the Ukraine War,” Mitzi says. “Among them, the Ukrainians deserve to have their children back. And the guilty need to be held accountable before an international tribunal.”
Scott Chase is a writer, an advisor, a pilot and a grandpa. He is a frequent contribor to Family Business magazine.
Photo credit: Atochha emerald ring photo courtesy of Sotheby's.