A Pearl has been a source of fascination to mankind for the last 3000 years. They are oldest gems known to man, and their sheer beauty has led to them being treated as jewels of the God.
Many of these great historical jewels have contributed in no small degree to the adornment of royalty in various ages, and have been the subject of strange stories connected with the fortunes of the great. The Pearls we have handpicked for you here have been possessed by some of the most eminent historical personalities and have been prized for personal decoration by the most admired beauties of all ages.
The Servilia Pearl – circa B.C. 44.
After the Roman conquests in the East, the Pearl became highly valued, not only in Rome, but throughout the Roman empire.
The ladies wore them in profusion. Julius Caesar, after his return from his Egyptian campaign, presented to Servilia – the mother of Brutus – a magnificent Pearl, which he had retained as part of the spoils of war.
The same Brutus murdered him later. The value of this gem was estimated at a sum equivalent to £42,600,000 or US$ 67,410,635 today!!
The Cleopatra Pearls – circa B.C. 30.
These celebrated Pearls were possessed by the famous Cleopatra, queen of Egypt She had a pair of pearl earrings .
According to the well-known story, one of these gems was dissolved in vinegar, and drunk by the queen at a banquet given by her in honor of Marc Antony, de facto ruler of the East, just to prove one-upmanship over the ruler conqueror.
You may wonder what happened to the other pearl saved from its fate? The other Pearl of Cleopatra’s pair which was preserved from a similar end, passed into the possession of the Roman emperor, and was afterwards cut into half and made into earrings, for the statue of the goddess Venus, in the Pantheon.
The Sassanian Pearl, circa. A.D. 500.
This was worn by the monarch as a fitting mark of sovereignty. The Sassanian dynasty reigned in Persia from the year 226 to 641 A.D. Procopius who lived in the reign of Justinian, relates in his History of the Persian wars that a daring diver obtained, by the sacrifice of his life, a Pearl of great size from the custody of a shark.
This Pearl, considered a miracle of nature, was worn by King Perozes, who ultimately lost it in a war with the Huns. This noble jewel was never recovered.
La Peregrina, 1579.
La Peregrina is a Spanish word. It means “the Pilgrim” or “the Wanderer” Philip II of Spain possessed this famous Pearl which is described as being as large as the biggest pigeon’s egg, the original weight of this pear-shaped pearl was 223.8 grains, (55.95 carats, 11.2 g).
At the time of its discovery, it was the largest pearl ever found.
This remarkable Pearl was pear-shaped, and came from the Panama fisheries.
The Pearl was presented to Philip II, by Don Diego de Têmês. Philip II presented the “La Peregrina” pearl to Mary Tudor.
Queen Mary wore the pearl as a pendant to a brooch, After her death in 1558, the pearl was returned to the Crown of Spain, where it remained as part of the crown jewelry for the next 250 years.
In 1808 the elder brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, became the king of Spain.
His rule continued for five years, and when he was forced to leave the kingdom, after the defeat of the French forces at the Battle of Vitoria, he took some of the crown jewels with him, including La Peregrina.
At that time, the pearl got its name “La Peregrina – the Wanderer.”
Later Emperor Napoleon III,during his exile in England, sold it to Duke of Abercorn who bought the pearl for his wife. The pearl was very heavy and it fell out of its necklace’s setting on at least two occasions.
In 1913 the pearl had to be drilled and cleaned to secure it firmly to its setting. After drilling and cleaning, the pearl’s weight decreased to 203.84 grains(10 g).
The first time, the pearl got lost in a sofa in Windsor Castle; the second time, during a ball at Buckingham Palace. On both occasions, the pearl was recovered.
TheHamilton family owned the pearl until 1969 when they sold it at auction at Sotheby’s in London.
Richard Burton purchased the pearl at the Sotheby’s auction for $37,000. He gave it to his wife Elizabeth Taylor as a Valentine’s Day gift during their first marriage.
As per the book : My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor, the pearl again went missing in the Burtons’ suite at Caesar’s Palace, Paradise, Nevada.Taylor later found the pearl, much to her relief.
It was sold mounted on the diamond Cartier necklace. Its value had been estimated at $3 million, but the bidding vastly exceeded the estimate and reached $10.5 million.La Peregrina remains one of the largest perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world.
The Youssoupoff Pearl, 1620.( La Pelegrina/La Regente)
La Pelegrina belonged to King Philip IV and he gave it to his daughter Maria Teresa when she married Louis XIV of France in 1660. However, there is no document to confirm that this pearl was among the French royal jewels.
The pearl appeared again in 1826 in the Yusupov (Youssoupov) collection.
In the second half of the 19th century Princess Zenaida Youssoupov, mother of Prince Felix Youssoupov, is documented to have worn the pearl hanging from a long sautoir, like this on the painting on top.
She wore the 111-grain silver pearl (“The Incomparable”), to Queen Victoria’s coronation.
In 1953 Prince Felix sold it to Jean Lombard, the Geneva based jeweler. Lombard in turn sold it to a European collector.
The Aurungzeb Pearl, 1650.
This pearl was a perfectly spherical pearl, going by French traveler Tavernier’s description and also perfect in every respect.
The beauty of this pearl, was even able to capture the imagination of such a hard-hearted Emperor, who did not normally have an aesthetic sense to appreciate the beauty of jewels.
Most of the jewels Aurangzeb owned was either appropriated from his elder brother Dārā Shikoh after he was killed, or were presents which he received from monarchs of neighboring nations, after he ascended the throne.
The Hope Pearl
The most famous of these was the often-described Hope pearl, one of the largest known; the value of which, however, is not in proportion to its size, owing to its irregular formation.
This oriental pearl is of an irregular pear-shape, weighs 1800 grains, or three ounces, measures two inches in length, and in circumference four and one half inches at the broadest and three and one fourth inches at the narrowest end.
The color at the larger end is of a bronze or a dark green copper tint, this gradually clearing into a fine white luster for within one and one half inches of the smaller end.
This baroque pearl was firmly attached to the shell, and the point of attachment has been polished so as to correspond to the remaining portion.
It is attractively mounted, the smaller end being capped with an arched crown of red enameled gold set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.
After remaining in the Hope jewel collection at the South Kensington Museum for many years, it was sold at auction, at Christie’s, in 1886, when that collection was placed on the market.
In 1975, the “Hope Pearl” resurfaced again and was purchased by H. E. Mohammed Mahdi Al-Tajir, ambassador of the UAE to Great Britain and France.
Today, the “Hope Pearl” is the property of an anonymous private collector from England, who has loaned the famous pearl to be displayed at the British Museum of Natural History.