The Peregrina is a pearl of unusual size and shape. The Pearl is considered one of the most valuable and legendary gems in the history of Europe. It was discovered in the waters of the archipelago of Las Perlas in Panama in the 16th century. It passed into the hands of King Philip II of Spain, forming part of the jewels of the Crown of Spain.
The mythical Pearl has almost five centuries of history, but it appeared in the waters of Panama in 1560. In 1597 King Philip II bought it. Since then, it was part of the Spanish Crown’s jewelry box. Philip III, Anne, and Margaret of Austria wore it because of its value. The last royal owner was Napoleon III, husband of the Spanish Eugenia de Montijo.
In 1969 La Peregrina was put up for auction, and the news caus an uproar in Spain. The actor Richard Burton acquired it for the extraordinary amount of 37,000 dollars to his beloved Elizabeth Taylor.
The famous actress wore the Pearl in her brief appearance in Anne of the Thousand Days. She later incorporated the Pearl into a ruby and diamond necklace. This was in Renaissance style and designed by the prestigious Cartier jewelry store in Paris. Until her death, Liz Taylor was still the owner of this copy of La Peregrina.
A shocking event is often told: a poodle of the actress nibbled the gem. A memoir confirms this fact by Taylor herself: My Love Affair With Jewels.
According to her, while she was staying with Richard Burton at Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, the Pearl came off its setting. It fell into a thick carpet in the room. As Liz could not see it, she took off her shoes and walked along the carpet, hoping to feel the Pearl with her feet. But a poodle had beaten her to it; it had the Pearl in its mouth, and Liz had to snatch it from it carefully.
On March 23, 2011, Elizabeth Taylor died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 79 years old. Nine months later, a spectacular set of six emerald pieces went on sale. They sold it at Christie’s auction house in New York for 19 million euros.
Before that lot was sold, Burton gave her the Pearl as a token of love was auctioned. The royal jewel reached a record auction price of 11.8 million dollars. These exorbitant prices only make the value of the Pearl higher. And it shows us that many times, history is worth a lot.
More Than Necklaces
Like all precious stones, pearls have a special symbolic meaning. They are considered as good luck and symbolized many things. The world of pearls marked even religion. The Parable of the Pearl is also called the Pearl of great value. It is one of Jesus’ parables. It appears in St. Matthew’s Gospel and illustrates the great value of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Within Christianity, there was much criticism of those who saw jewels. They associated a value more than physical to the pearls, transforming them into something passionate.
The “pearl of great price,” quoted in St. Matthew, refers to the one who sees a great pearl. He sells everything he has and buys that pearl. The image is quite elementary: leave everything and exchange it for what is most valuable, for what is worthwhile.
Just as pearls became something of great value for Christianity, so also for the Spanish Crown. This became a very honorable element. Great characters of history used it in their necklaces and hats.
Just as La Peregrina exists, there are other pearls of great value. One of them, undoubtedly the most important, is “The girl with a pearl earring” by Vermeer. But this pear did not exist physically but was an artistic work.
The painting The Girl with the Pearl Earring is one of the most famous works of the painter Johannes Vermeer of Delft. He painted it around 1665. The Girl with a Pearl Earring gained great fame thanks to its expressive beauty and technical perfection.
In addition, the work proved enigmatic for modern audiences, to the point of inspiring a novel and a film of the same name. Its first owner was Vermeer’s patron, and then it passed into the hands of his son-in-law. However, its whereabouts remained unknown for the next two centuries.
The work appeared at auction in The Hague in 1881. Andries des Tombe, a Dutch naval officer, and art collector. He acquired it to prevent it from falling into foreign hands. It cost the collector the ridiculous sum of two guilders, which is equivalent to one dollar today.
After the officer’s death, the Royal Mauritshuis Picture Gallery in The Hague in 1902 received the canvas donation. It has remained there ever since, except for traveling exhibitions that have been held around the world.
History Of Pearls
The oldest and longest-lived jewelry in the history of humanity is shells. They began to adorn our necks and wrists a hundred thousand years ago. Only very recently, around 5300 B.C., in Mesopotamia, someone thought of using them as ornaments. Those white spheres hidden in some mollusks were ornaments.
The passion for pearls was born, at first in the Asian civilizations. These miracles of mother-of-pearl were in their seas, precisely in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Indian coasts. The caravans carried the mother-of-pearl to the West and began a journey that has lasted up to the present day.
The first western people to fall in love with pearls were the Romans. According to Pliny, it all began when Pompey celebrated his victories in Asia Minor with a portrait made of pearls. Byzantium continued the Romans’ love affair with pearls. Emperor Justinian decreed that only he and his wife Theodora could wear them.
In the Middle Ages, it became an essential part of Christian imagery. Especially as a symbol of the purity of the Virgin. They decorated devotionals, chalices, and objects of worship and crowns, clothing, and symbol of those who commanded by divine design.
The orb and Crown of the Holy Roman Emperors contain more pearls than any other precious stone. From the 13th century, with the rise of the cities, the passion ceased to be exclusive of aristocrats. Pearls were a symbol of status. In addition to jewelry, they started using them in clothing.
Those who could not afford the original ones resorted to fake ones. Ones made with enamel. Leonardo da Vinci himself left a written formula for manufacturing them.
That a jewel or precious stone has its name and recognition already denotes unusual importance. But on top of that, it has been around the necks of some of the world’s most essential heads for centuries. This is the history of La Peregrina.
It may seem strange to us that people give so much value to a pearl necklace. But knowing the history of this one shows us the reason for its value. History is the richness of La Peregrina.
A work like La Peregrina is impossible to create. It is estimated that one oyster in 10,000 can produce a pearl of moderate value. And to you must add the fact that it will not have such a history.
People wonder the name is La Peregrina, and it has a reason. La Peregrina could be called this way because of the number of journeys that she lived. We have already told you about all the places and hands she has passed through. Spain, Panama, France, United States, and many seas were witnesses of this. But this is not the real reason.
So, her nickname La Peregrina is not due to her travel history but to her peculiar shape. In previous centuries, the adjective pilgrim meant rare, whimsical, unique. Also, pearls have always been a symbol of imperialism. And this Pearl is no exception, symbolizing wealth, spiritual purity, and beauty. La Peregrina marked a milestone in the history of art. So, La Peregrina revolutionizes the world of jewelry, and even today, it is considered very important.