Like any legendary and coveted gemstone, pearls have had a few rare and outstanding examples that have made a name for themselves around the world as the finest and the best in breed – pearls that fire up the imagination as much as they stun the senses should you ever have the honor of seeing them in real life. Of course, these astounding wonders of nature have stories that match their brilliance.
Following are some of the most famous pearls:
La Peregrina: Perhaps the most famous of pearls. Discovered by an African slave almost half a millennia ago on the coast of the isle of Santa Margarita in the Gulf of Panama, it passed through the hands of European royalty and finally onto Hollywood royalty – Elizabeth Taylor, in 1969. It cost Richard Burton $37,000 at the time and was sold in 2011 as part of her estate for over $11 million. The original pearl weighed 55.95 carats and has a perfectly symmetrical pear-shape.
Elizabeth Taylor (left) Bloody Mary (right)
La Pellegrina: No, this is not a typographical error. La Pellegrina with two “L’s,” is over 350 years old, and has a convoluted history with many gaps in its lineage. It was also the property of European kings and queens and the 33.29 carat pearl traveled from the Gulf of Panama to Spain, France, and Russia. The pearl was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1987 for $463,800.
The Hope Pearl: When people have the means and appreciate the better things in life then apparently the sky really is the limit. Although it currently resides in the British Museum of Natural History, the Hope Diamond was owned by Henry Hope, the one-time owner of the incredible Hope Diamond. The 450 carat Hope Pearl weighs an amazing 450 carats and is probably the largest and most famous natural saltwater pearl ever discovered. It is a white, drop-shaped, blister pearl.
The Arco Valley Pearl: Weighing in at 575 carats, this white baroque pearl with pink and brown overtones was apparently given to Khubilai Khan by Marco Polo – talk about pedigree…
The Big Pink Pearl: Once listed in the Guiness book of World Records as the largest natural abalone pearl ever found (it has subsequently been superseded by a 685 carat behemoth), this 470 carat pearl, discovered off the coast of California by Wesley Rankin in 1990 is purportedly still owned by Rankin. It was valued in 1991 at $4.7 million. This pearl is camera-shy – there are no available images of it online.
These are just five examples of some of the most famous pearls in history. The common theme is that all these pearls are extremely large, most were owned by royalty and historically significant identities, the pearls are very well traveled, and there is enormous intrigue associated with these amazing treasures.