By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - If Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme proved one adage correct, it might be this: all that glitters is not gold.
His jewelry, however, is another matter.
The U.S. Marshals Service on Tuesday began auctioning off several high-priced pieces of jewelry seized from Madoff and his wife, Ruth, including a diamond tennis bracelet, a gold money clip and two Patek Philippe watches.
The proceeds from the auction, which ends on Feb. 19, will be added to a restitution fund for Madoff's victims.
Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to masterminding a decades-long fraud at his firm that cost investors an estimated $17 billion in lost principal. The scheme, in which Madoff used money from some investors to pay profits to others, went undetected for decades.
The minimum opening bids for the watches and the bracelet was $21,250, while the money clip, made by Tiffany & Co, started at a relatively affordable $380. The auction is being handled by Texas-based Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers and is available online at www.txauction.com.
U.S. authorities have sold numerous items in the past seized from Madoff and members of his family.
In 2011, 14 pairs of Madoff's boxer shorts sold for $200. Auctions in 2009 and 2010 netted million of dollars in total for items such as a 10.5-carat diamond ring, Madoff's New York Mets jacket and his boats.
Madoff, 77, is serving a 150-year prison sentence. Fourteen others, including Madoff's brother Peter and several employees of the firm, have been convicted either at trial or via guilty plea in connection with the scheme.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)