Sunday, 4 February 2024
February 2024 Newsletter
La Peregrina Pearl
I thought you might like to read about the ultimate Valentines gift given by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor. This jewel has history, provenance, romance, and a few trip-ups along the way including being discovered in the mouth of one of Elizabeth’s Pekinese!
La Peregrina Pearl was discovered by a slave in the Gulf of Panama in the late 1500s who was given his freedom by King Philip II of Spain, whom the pearl was given to. It remained in the possession of the Spanish Royal Family until the early 1800s and after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain it then became part of the Bonaparte family collection. In the mid-1800s when Napoleon III needed to raise some money, he sold it to one James Hamilton, The Duke of Abercorn. James’s wife Louisa wore it often and mislaid it on a couple of occasions, the most famous of which was in between some cushions on a couch at Buckingham Palace!
It remained in the Abercorn family until 1969 when it went to auction and from here it was purchased by Richard Burton for US$37,000.00 and he gave it to Elizabeth Taylor for her Valentine’s Day present. As I quote in my Talk 'Elizabeth Taylor’s greatest love affair... with jewels' — Richard loved the game of buying such pieces, outbidding the snobs and aristocrats who thought they had more money than this Welsh actor. They wrongly assumed he could never have afforded such a piece, where in this instance, he even outbid a member the Spanish Royal Family.
And so once in the possession of Richard and Elizabeth, they had Cartier create a new necklace featuring this 25.5mm natural and perfect pearl drop to hang from the centre.
In Elizabeth Taylor’s auction after her death Christie’s sold this magnificent necklace for just over US$11.8 million.
Now that's what I call the perfect Valentine’s gift!
Image source: Winterson.co.uk