THE MOST FAMOUS PEARL IN THE WORLD
THE PEARL ISLANDS
Named after one of their most prized natural resources, the Pearl Islands (Islas de las Perlas), have long been famed for the rich pearls that abound in the shoal waters off the shore of the archipelago.
The pearl fisheries have been worked since the islands Spanish occupation, and hundreds of thousands of gems have been discovered throughout that time. The pearls found around the Pearl islands are renowned for having a superior brilliancy of lustre, and can range in value from a few dollars to thousands.
The most famous of all pearls ever found, the La Peregrina pearl is one of the largest pearls discovered, and has fascinated both European and Hollywood royalty alike. Found on the coast of Panama, around the early 1500’s, the gem has gone down in history as one of the most magnificent jewels ever found.
Originally weighing 223.8 grains (55.95 karats/ 11.2g), at the time the La Peregrina was the largest pearl ever found. In 1913 it became smaller when it had to be cleaned and drilled, but it still remains one of the most perfectly symmetrical and beautiful pearls in the world.
A part of the crown jewels of Spain for 250 years, it was favored by several queens as their favorite piece to wear. In 1605, Margaret of Austria wore the pearl at a celebration to commemorate peace between England and Spain after many years at war. There is also documentation, in the form of portraits by Diego Velazques, that show the pearl being worn by Elizabeth of France and Mariana of Austria.
The pearl was reportedly so heavy that it fell out of its setting more than once, being lost in both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
SOTHEBY’S, PANAMA & THE PEREGRINA
In 1969, the Hamilton family sold the pearl at our very own Sotheby’s auction house in London, where it was bought by Richard Burton for $37,000 as a gift for his then wife Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth Taylor gave the pearl to Cartier to re-design it, and diamonds, pearls, and rubies were added to it. In 2011, the La Peregrina was sold for more than $11 million on the same diamond necklace made by Cartier for Taylor.
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