La Peregrina- A natural pearl, diamond, ruby and cultured pearl necklace by Cartier
As jewels are my first love and jewelry collecting has long been a pastime of my family, I’ve always loved researching gems and jewelry making. Therefore, I’ve decided to share the glitz by bringing some of the world’s most fabulous jewels in a monthly feature on the blog. To start things off, join me in appreciating one of the world’s most fabled and famous pearls, the unparalleled, La Peregrina!
Currently dangling from a necklace co-designed in 1972 by Elizabeth Taylor and Al Durante of Cartier, La Peregrina necklace is a two- strand choker comprising of fifty-six natural pearls and four cultured pearls, intersected by eight ‘flame motif’ stations of circular-cut diamonds and cushion-cut rubies set in platinum and gold. Suspended from the necklace hangs detachable links- a pearl and a ruby, a large ‘flame motif’ gold station set with old mine and rose- cut diamonds with a large pear- shaped ruby, and finally, La Peregrina. This pearl pendant is a natural teardrop shaped pearl weighing approximately 50.06 carats (202.24 grains) and measuring approximately 17.35 – 17.90 x 25.50 mm. The pearl is entirely detachable, allowing the choker- length necklace to be worn on it’s own, the ruby pendant station to be worn as a brooch and La Peregrina can be worn either with this setting, or as a pendant for a seed pearl and platinum necklace that accompanied the set.
One of the most storied pearls in the world, the name La Peregrina translates to “The Pilgrim” or “The Wanderer”, and is a gem with over 500 years of recorded Royal history. First recorded in the mid- 16th century, it was the largest pearl then discovered at that time and remains one of the largest perfectly- symmetrical pear- shaped pearls in the world.
Found off the cost of Santa Margarita in the Gulf of Panama, La Peregrina was carried to Spain by the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa and gifted to the Spanish King Ferdinand V. It remained a part of the Spanish Crown jewels for over a century until King Phillip II presented it to his bride Mary I of England, on their wedding day.
Queen Mary had the pearl set as a pendant to a brooch and wore it often in many famous portraits. After her death in 1558, La Peregrina was returned to the Crown of Spain, where it remained as part of the Crown jewelry for the next 250 years. It was a favourite ornament of many Spanish queens, particularly Anna of Austria (second wife of Phillip II), Margaret of Austria (wife of Philip III) and Queens Élizabeth of France and Mariana of Austria, the wives of Philip IV. It appears in many Spanish royal portraits, and it’s image appears in some of the most cherished paintings of the world’s finest museums- particularly Spain’s Museo National del Prado.
La Peregrina became part of the jewels of the French Bonaparte ‘Royal’ family in 1808 when Joseph Bonaparte was installed by his brother as king of Spain. It remained in Spain during the five years of Bonaparte’s rule until he returned to France after the Battle of Vitoria with part of the Spanish Crown Jewels. Napoleon III inherited the pearl after his uncle’s death, but was forced to sell it to the Marquis of Albercorn in 1848 after falling into financial difficulties.
After this, little is known about the pearl’s history until it was sold at auction by Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York in 1969 to Richard Burton, who bought it as a Valentine’s Day present for his wife, iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor. La Peregrina was set as a pearl pendant in 1972 by Cartier’s Al Durante and suspended from the stunning Cartier necklace. Prior to this, La Peregrina was worn as a brooch, a pendant on a necklace, the centerpiece of a necklace and as a hat ornament.
La Peregrina remained with Elizabeth Taylor until her death in March 2011. It was then sold at auction (mounted on the Cartier necklace) as part of her private jewelry collection for the record price of more than $11 million (£7.1m). It was purchased by an anonymous buyer.
What a fittingly adventurous story for such an amazing gem.
Xx – Ana