Pearls on Auction: Interesting Finds and Record-Breaking Prices

This week we’re doing a roundup of a few interesting pearl jewelry pieces sold on auction. Probably the most famous pearl of them all is The Wandering Pearl, and the most surprising piece is the Pearl Carpet of Baroda. We hope you enjoy our list!

La Peregrina (The Wandering Pearl)

La Peregrina is the Spanish word for “Pilgrim” or “Wanderer”. The pearl is almost 500 years old and was found by an African slave in the Gulf of Panama. The slave used the pearl to buy his freedom. La Peregrina was passed on to the Spanish royal family, where it stayed for most of the time. Famous people who owned the necklace included Queen Mary I of England (also called Bloody Mary), the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Hamilton family from Britain.

The 16th century pearl necklace set two world auction records. In 1969, Richard Burton bought the pearl on auction for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor for $37,000. After the gem fell out of its setting a few times, it was re-designed by Cartier, who incorporated the original natural pear-shaped pearl, diamonds, rubies, and cultured pearls into the new design. After Taylor’s death, the necklace was sold at auction in 2011 at a record price of $11.8 million to an unknown buyer.

The Gulf Pearl Parure

In 2006, the Gulf Pearl Parure, designed by Harry Winston, was sold at the The Royal House Sale auction by an unknown family for $4.19 million. The set consists of a necklace, bracelet, ear pendants, and a ring. There are 193 natural pearls and 166 diamonds in total between these matching pieces. The necklace is made up of two rows of pearls, two rows of diamonds, and ends with a fringe of eleven natural pearl drops.

Art Deco Pearl and Diamond Necklace

In 1948, Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden, received a diamond necklace from her grandmother, H.M. Queen Mary, for her 18th birthday. Princess Margaret was very fond of the necklace, and it featured in many portraits since that day. The pearl necklace is made up of five rows of pearls with a clasp mounted in platinum. In 2006 it was sold in Geneva for $509,312.

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda is an iconic Indian masterpiece of over 140 years old. It was sold at a Doha auction for $5.45 million in 2009 to an unknown buyer. The carpet was commission by Gaekwar Khande Raho, the Maharaja of Baroda, in 1865, and was completed around 1870. The carpet was intended for the tomb of Mohammed at Medina, but the Maharaja died before the carpet could be sent to the tomb after which the family decided to keep the artwork.

The foundation of the carpet is made out of silk and fine deer hide. On top it is embroidered with strings of English colored glass beads and natural Basra pearls, each between 1-3 mm in size. The carpet has over 2.2 million pearls and beads, and it’s estimated the pearls alone are between 1.2 and 1.5 million beads.

High-value pieces are often sold at auction – whether it is to get the best price possible or to make us ordinary people jealous is up for discussion. Regardless, it’s fascinating how pearls can become so famous and valuable over time. If you know of any interesting finds sold at auction, tell us about it.

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