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Article: La Peregrina - The Pearl That Has Become An Obsession For Many

La Peregrina - The Pearl That Has Become An Obsession For Many - DSF Antique Jewelry

La Peregrina - The Pearl That Has Become An Obsession For Many

One of the most well-known pearls in the world, La Peregrina is one of the few that has inspired a great deal of awe, passion, and even obsession.

It is thought that the pear-shaped pearl is one of the most symmetrical natural pearls ever discovered. It is rich in culture, history, and folklore.

This pearl has quite the tale to tell, from a road to freedom to an astonishing Valentine's present.

La Peregrina: The Origin Of The Name

Joseph Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon, controlled Spain for nearly five years in the early 1800s.

Some of the crown jewels, including the renowned pear-shaped pearl, were taken back to France by him when he was expelled after the French were defeated at the Battle of Vittoria.

Historians claim that it was at this time that the jewel earned the moniker “La Peregrina - The Wanderer”.

Later, Joseph left the pearl in his will to his nephew, Napoleon III, who would go on to rule France.

As a gift for his attractive bride, the Duchess Louisa Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn purchased La Peregrina from the emperor while he was exiled in England.

La Peregrina once weighed 223.8 grains, or 55.95 carats, 11.2 g, or almost.4 oz. It was the biggest pearl ever found at the time it was found.

For the pearl to be firmly fastened to its setting in 1913, drilling and cleaning were required. The pearl was cleaned and drilled, which reduced its weight to 203.84 grains.

One of the biggest, most symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world is still La Peregrina.

The Pearl’s History
“Commentarios Reales de Los Incas” by historian Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616) has the first mention of La Peregrina, according to Wikipedia.

He describes a rare pear-shaped pearl that was returned to Spain from Panama. It was discovered in the Pearl Islands by an African slave in 1513, and it was given to Don Pedro de Temez, who was in charge of running Panama at the time.

La Peregrina was later given by Temez to King Philip II of Spain (1527–1588), who eventually gave it to his future wife, Queen Mary I of England, in 1554.

The pearl was later made into a Spanish Crown Jewel by King Philip in his testament, and for the next 200 years, it was listed in all royal inventories.

The Spanish queens of the era made it one of their favorite decorations.

During the celebration of the peace agreement between Spain and England in 1605, Margaret of Austria wore La Peregrina.

Both Mariana of Austria and Elisabeth of France loved the pearl, as shown by portraits by Diego Velázquez.

The pearl is visible on Queen Elisabeth in the equestrian painting. Her successor, Queen Mariana, also had the pearl painted on her.

King Philip IV of Spain allegedly wore what is now known as La Peregrina in his hat at the proxy wedding of his daughter Maria Theresa of Spain to Louis at Fontarrabie in June 1660, according to Michel de Grèce's biography of Louis XIV.

There is a rumor that La Peregrina was misplaced among the couches at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. But, it was found in both instances.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
La Peregrina was sold in 1969 by the Hamilton family at auction at Sotheby's in London.
At that time, famous actor Richard Burton purchased the pearl for $37,000 and gave it to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, as a Valentine's Day gift during their first marriage.
Elizabeth  Taylor La Peregrina - the pearl that has become an obsession for many
On one occasion, La Peregrina disappeared from the Burtons' penthouse at Caesars Palace in Paradise, Nevada.

Elizabeth Taylor pens the following in her book, My Love Affair with Jewelry:

“At one point I reached down to touch La Peregrina and it wasn't there! I glanced over at Richard and thank God he wasn't looking at me, and I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed, buried my head into the pillow and screamed. Very slowly and very carefully, I retraced all my steps into the bedroom.

I took my slippers off, took my socks off, and got down on my hands and knees, looking everywhere for the pearl. Nothing. I thought, ‘It's got to be in the living room in front of Richard. What am I going to do? He'll kill me!’ Because he loved the piece'. I just casually opened the puppy's mouth and inside his mouth was the most perfect pearl in the world. It was—thank God—not scratched”.

The Tudor Pearl
Richard Burton believed wrongly that a portrait of Mary I of England wearing the pearl originally belonged to her, even though La Peregrina was first described 21 years after her passing.

Actually, the Tudor Pearl, which is 53.57 grains larger than La Peregrina, is the pearl depicted in pictures of Mary I.

The Burtons gave their most recent buy to the British National Portrait Gallery after learning that the Gallery lacked an original portrait of Mary.

Redesigned by Cartier
La Peregrina was redesigned by Cartier at Elizabeth Taylor's request, and pearls, diamonds, and rubies were used to embellish it.

In 2005, the actress lent her majestic pearl to the Smithsonian Institution for its “The Allure of Pearls” exhibition.

In December 2011, Taylor's collection went up for auction at Christie's in New York, and La Peregrina was one of the items up for bid. It was offered for sale and placed on the Cartier diamond necklace.

Its estimated value was $3 million, but the bidding much outstripped that and reached $10.5 million, rising to almost $12 million once the different fees were taken into account.

Power of Seduction

This unique gem traveled the world and adorned the décolletage of royalty and celebrities alike, living up to its name.

It makes sense why it keeps grabbing our attention.

There isn't a true collector of jewelry or beautiful things who wouldn't like to have La Peregrina in their collection.

Some jewels seem to be meant to spark obsessions, to generate joy or sadness, and La Peregrin is definitely one of them.

Picture Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Picture Elisabeth of France, Queen of Spain wearing La Peregrina - Peter Paul Rubens (photo credit:
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