Elizabeth Taylor and the pearl La Peregrina.
In 1969, Richard Burton spent $37,000 (outbidding Prince Alfonso de Bourbon Asturias) to buy La Peregrina, a stunning pear shaped pearl, for Elisabeth Taylor’s thirty-seventh birthday.
The original weight of this pearl was 223.8 grains (55.95 carats, 11.2 g). At the time of its discovery, it was the largest pearl, but in 1913 the pearl had to be drilled and cleaned to secure it firmly to its setting. Afterwards, the pearl’s weight decreased to 203.84 grains. Nevertheless, La Peregrina remains one of the largest perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world.
La Peregrina is a Spanish word that means “the Pilgrim” or ‘the Wanderer’. It was found in the Gulf of Panama (isle of Santa Margarita) but a slave who recovered his freedom in exchange for it. Don Pedro de Temez, the administrator of the Spanish colony in Panama, gave it to the king Carlos I of Spain and when his son married Mary I of England (bloody Mary), La Peregrina was his present.
After Mary death, La Peregrina returned to Spain and it was one of the main jewels of different Spanish queens until 1808, when Napoleon invaded the country and his brother, Jose (future Joseph I of Spain) was named king. Joseph Bonaparte stolen the pearl when France was defeated and in his will, he left the pearl to his nephew Napoleon III, who sold the pearl to an England family: the Hamiltons.
Trip after trip, the legend of this pearl continued being lost and recovered in different occasions. In the end, in 1969, the Hamilton family sold it at auction at Sotheby’s in London.
Elisabeth Taylor commissioned Cartier to redesign the old necklace where it pended. Then La Peregrina was set with diamonds and rubies.
In December 2011, La Peregrina was auctioned at Christie’s in New York as part of Elizabeth Taylor’s collection ($11 million).
Now, the legend keeps on.