Few pearls have created more excitement, enthusiasm and even obsession as the world renowned “La Peregrina”. This perfectly symmetrical, pear-shaped pearl has witnessed bloody and tempestuous periods in history, bad marriages, betrayals, bankruptcies and a lot of closed door shenanigans.
Sounds to us like this beauty is cursed. Let’s take a look.
Over 500 years, La Peregrina has had at least 13 owners including 8 Spanish kings, 2 French leaders, an English aristocratic family, and a beloved Hollywood celebrity. The current owner is “anonymous” and we really, really wish we could know more about them.
They say that La Peregrina was found by a slave in the Gulf of Panama in the 16th century. As the story goes, the slave owners were so astounded by its beauty that they felt appreciative enough to free the slave. There is no proof of this – especially since there were no documented slaves in Panama at the time – but it does provide a positive narrative to what most likely was the more typical, plundering way of acquiring precious goods at the time.
It ended up in the hands of Spanish Royalty, of course.
Cue the ominous music… In 1554, King Phillip II of Spain gets the pearl and gifts it to his bride, Queen Mary I of England. History remembers her as Bloody Mary because of the number of Protestants she orders killed/ burned at the stake. Phillip cheats on her relentlessly. And she dies heartbroken.
From there, the pearl becomes part of the Spanish Crown Jewels for 250 years and witnesses murders, betrayals, inbreeding deformities, affairs, and other relentless conquests.
In 1813, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, invades Spain. He loses the Battle of Vitoria but gets the pearl and gives it to his nephew, Napoleon III who is in exile in London.
Napoleon III goes broke and sells the pearl to an aristocratic English family, the Duke of Abercorn. They proceed to lose the pearl twice: once in Windsor Castle and then in Buckingham Palace but seem to be spared from too much bad juju. That we know of.
Cut to 1969. Richard Burton, looking for the perfect gift for his wife Elizabeth Taylor, buys the pearl from the Duke at an auction for $37,000. She loves it and wears it everywhere, including in some of her movies. But then they too are affected by the pearl’s curse. “The Battling Burtons” become so legendary that people pay to hear them fight. Elizabeth becomes addicted to pills; Burton becomes an alcoholic philanderer. They divorce and remarry, and divorce again within a span of a few years.
Taylor keeps the pearl during a series of strange and failed marriages, and ultimately dies with the pearl but without a husband. Upon her death, her estate sells it for a whopping $11,842,500 to an anonymous bidder.
And now, we can’t help but wonder what legacy the new anonymous La Peregrina owner will give it. Or what legacy La Peregrina will give the owner. We anxiously await for it all to be revealed. All we can say is long may you travel dear Peregrina, and please be kind.