La Peregrina Pearl
One of the most famous pearls was found off an island in the Americas. It is a fabulously large natural pearl that is the size of a pigeon’s egg. It has had many illustrious owners, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Philip II of Spain, and Mary Tudor of England. I had the extreme pleasure of trying it on when I worked the sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry at Christies Auction House. La Peregrina is a perfectly symmetrical natural pearl with the incredible size of 17.35 X 17.9 X25.5mm. The size makes it a very heavy pearl that literally, fell out of its setting numerous times. La Peregrina was given to Spain by Queen Elizabeth I of England as a gesture of good will, where it remained in the crown jewels for 250 years. In the early 1800s, Napoleion’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte ruled Spain briefly. He was ousted with the French defeat at the Battle of Vittoria. Joseph left Spain for France with a pocketful of crown jewels. Hence the beautiful pearl was given the name of La Peregrina, the wanderer. It was eventually sold to the Duchess Louisa Hamilton and remained in that family until 1969 when it was auctioned by Sothebys in London to Richard Burton as a Valentines gift for Elizabeth Taylor. Both she and Richard adored the pearl. Elizabeth commissioned Al Durante of Cartiers to design an appropriate necklace for the pearl. After much work, it was created in an elaborate setting that befitted the size and beauty of the pearl. Elizabeth wore it many times until her death in 2011. It was then that Christies of New York had the auction of the illustrious collection of her jewelry. La Peregrina was sold to an anonymous buyer for $11 million. Maybe we will see it again someday, but it was such a thrill to be able to hold this precious gem.