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What secrets holds the most mysterious pearl in the world worn by monarchs and almost lost Elizabeth Taylor: La Peregrina
What secrets holds the most mysterious pearl in the world worn by monarchs and almost lost Elizabeth Taylor: La Peregrina

Historians say that pearls are the first stone known to mankind. He has always been a symbol of power. It was worn by monarchs and the highest ranks. Pearls are mentioned even in the Book of Books - the Bible. The image of this stone is covered with myths and legends. One of the most famous pearls in the world, La Peregrina has been a mystical stone from the beginning. The history of this jewelry is rich in mysterious events that defy rational explanation. The adventures of one of the most mysterious gems in the world, a unique stone called "rare, whimsical and special", is further in the review.

The birth of a legend

La Peregrina, which means Pilgrim in Spanish, is a truly royal gem. Not only because of their enormous size. She was part of the royal collection of numerous monarchs of Spain. The pilgrim is a teardrop-shaped pearl weighing 58.5 carats. Even her discovery is shrouded in a train of legend.

Legendary La Peregrina

According to one version, the stone was discovered on the Panamanian coast by a slave. After that, the governor of Seville, Diego de Tebesa, began to own it. The nobleman presented it to King Philip II. The second version says that the Pilgrim was presented to the European conquerors by the chief of the Pearl Island in Panama. Then the stone ended up in the hands of a Spanish merchant. He sold it to Diego de Teesa. The governor's wife wore pearls for almost two decades, and then sold them to the wife of Carlos I, Empress Isabella. At the same time, La Peregrina, with which the queen adorned herself, first appears in her portrait by Titian. This version is confirmed by the historian Francisco Lopez.

There are two versions of the origin of La Peregrina

Years later, Philip II became the owner of the Pilgrim. After that, the pearl came to the Queen of England, Mary Tudor. Maria just fell in love with this gem, there is not a single image of her without it. Despite all her passion for this decoration, the queen understood that it must remain in Spain in order to become the legacy of the future monarchs of Spain. This is how the Pilgrim was passed down from generation to generation in the Spanish royal family.

The Spanish succession of La Peregrina was interrupted by Joseph Bonaparte in 1808. When he seized the Spanish throne, he took out all the treasures of the royal family, including the famous pearl. After that, it became the property of Bonaparte's wife, Julie Clary. Subsequently, the gem was inherited by Carlos Napoleon Bonaparte, who became Napoleon III. After that, the Marquis of Abercorn became the owner, who broke the chain of royal succession to La Peregrina. In 1969, a London jewelery firm bought the pearl.

At all times, pearls have symbolized high status and wealth

Elizabeth Taylor and La Peregrina

In the same year, the Pilgrim was bought at auction by actor Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. She, like many women before her, fell in love with this stone. He adorned her neck not only at various social events, but also in many films. The incomparable Elizabeth added even more value to the stone by framing it in a ruby ​​necklace.

One day, Taylor nearly lost her pearl. Wanting to put on her favorite piece of jewelry, the actress suddenly discovered that he was not there.Losing her dignity and remnants of self-control, the woman crawled on all fours on the carpet in the hotel room, feeling every centimeter. The teardrop pearl was nowhere to be found. Suddenly she noticed that one of her Pekingese was chewing something very thoughtfully. It was La Peregrina, for which her husband recently paid a fortune!

The decoration gave Elizabeth a lot of trouble, but it was a favorite. For which he was honored to be immortalized in more than one film with Taylor

Pearls in history

La Peregrina's impressive history shows how important pearls have played in human culture at all times. Pearls were considered a symbol of beauty, power, power and wealth. This gemstone became synonymous with glamor and glory in the 1950s and 1960s. It was worn by such famous women as Coco Chanel, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, as well as all representatives of the aristocratic strata of society in the 20th century.

The cultural significance of pearls is worth looking for in ancient times. Archaeologists date back evidence of the extraction of this gemstone as early as 5000 BC in different places on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Pearls have taken over the minds of people so much that it has led to a real obsession. Pearl hunters have formed one of the world's oldest trading networks. She connected all the mining centers of this gem of the Red Sea coast, the Persian Gulf, India and Sri Lanka with all the important cities of that time. In ancient Greece, pearls became a symbol of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The ancient Greeks believed that she was born from the foam of the sea. Most often she was depicted in a shell and in a scattering of pearl jewelry. This left its mark on art. Pearls have come to be considered a symbol of perfect beauty.

Frescoes from Pompeii, including this one from 62 AD, depict Aphrodite being born in a pearl shell

The ancient Romans treated this gem with special fanaticism. In the texts of Pliny the Elder, dating back to the 1st century BC, it is said that pearls are the most important of all earthly treasures. Pearls are present in all portraits of that time. But not everyone could afford it. Mostly imitation glass and silver were worn. Pearls were highly prized. So much so that one ancient Roman commander, according to Suetonius, was able to pay for a military campaign by selling just one of his mother's pearls. Suetonius also argued that the Roman invasion of Britain was prompted by the expectation of finding pearl-rich sites in the rivers of the barbarian country.

Roman conquerors raved about the pearl-rich rivers of Britain

Symbol of holiness

There are several stories associated with pearls in the Bible. Jesus tells what the kingdom of heaven is like, comparing it to a precious pearl. In the Gospel of Matthew there is the following parable: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking good pearls, who, having found one precious pearl, went out and sold everything that he had and bought it."

It was a rare stone, its singularity and great value made pearls an appropriate symbol of holiness. Early Christians even criticized some people for considering pearls to be mere adornments without realizing their true meaning.

Extraordinary beauty, great value and spiritual purity - all these were the qualities of pearls even when the largest pearl ever seen was found. At the end of the 16th century, La Peregrina was found in the Gulf of Panama. The fact that this pearl acquired the status of a royal stone for a long time speaks volumes.

Portrait of Elizabeth of Bourbon (1628-1616) by Peter Paul Rubens depicting La Peregrina

Pearls in geopolitics

The conquest and colonization of the Americas by Spain began with the discoveries of Christopher Columbus. One of the most significant discoveries he made in these new lands was the mining of impressive pearls. The New World was a real treasure chest. So the pearls in the portraits of the royals of that time symbolize not only purity and beauty. This is also the blood, death and tears of the conquered peoples, the colossal profits from the colonies and the incredible power obtained thanks to this.

A truly royal piece of jewelry

La Peregrina has always been a royal decoration. Portraits of Spanish monarchs with her begin with the image of the Spanish Queen Margaret of Austria (wife of Philip III) by Juan Pantoj de la Cruz.Then the Pilgrim adorned the Queen of France Elizabeth (wife of Philip IV) in her portrait painted by Velazquez. In Spain, La Peregrina has become a symbol of the most royal lineage. King Philip IV wore a pearl on his hat.

In all the portraits of that time, by Cruz, Velazquez and Rubens, all women look rather prim, formal and inexpressive. This was the etiquette established for royal portraits. There were a very limited number of allowed positions, you couldn't even smile. La Peregrina was intended to fill the image of each queen with virtue and wealth.

La Peregrina in art

The pearl depicted in Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is most likely a fake or fiction

There were several pearls in the world called La Peregrina. They were similar in shape and size. The most famous of these in art history is undoubtedly the pearl in Vermeer's 1664 Girl with a Pearl Earring. Most likely it was either a fantasy of a poor artist, or a fake. Vermeer could not afford such an expensive stone.

The master used the image of this jewel in many of his paintings. This served as a sign of high status and wealth. Sometimes pearls assumed a religious connotation, being a symbol of spiritual purity. Vermeer was a Catholic in a Protestant country, it was important for him to reflect his vision of the Christian faith.

Where is the unique gem now

The pearl has long been in the possession of the Spanish royal family

The original La Peregrina remained in the possession of the Spanish royal family until the early 19th century. In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. When the hated French were expelled from the country five years later, Bonaparte took with him the treasures of the Spanish crown, including the famous pearl. In France, Joseph presented the Pilgrim to his daughter-in-law Hortense de Beauharnais. Then the stone was inherited by her son Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the future Napoleon III.

When Emperor Napoleon III needed money, he sold the pearl to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn. He presented it as a gift to his wife Louise. She lost it and found it several times. The Abercorns owned the Pilgrim until 1969. Then Richard Burton bought the pearl.

On the portraits of Spanish monarchs

After Elizabeth Taylor managed to extract the pearl from her Pekingese, she became even more valuable to her. La Peregrina has been immortalized in film art, more than once adorning the neck of Taylor's heroines. After the death of the iconic actress, La Peregrina was bought at an auction by an anonymous buyer for $ 11 million.

Real sea pearls are still very valuable. Only one oyster out of ten thousand can give a more or less valuable pearl. There is practically no chance of finding a stone similar to the Pilgrim of the same size and purity. The name "Pilgrim" is quite consistent with the path that this pearl has traveled. From the shell in the Gulf of Panama to the greatest characters in world history. This will always serve as a reminder of how much this stone means to different people. Pearls are not just jewelry. It is a true symbol of imperialism, wealth and power, as well as ideal beauty and spiritual purity.

Another article about a beautiful gem: why pearl hunters were more decent than gold diggers: pearl rush at Lake Caddo.

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