In honor of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m repeating an article that contains a tidbit about her “La Peregrina” pearl necklace. She was a woman with enduring style, grace and beauty. May she rest in peace.
Here are ten (or more) things about pearls:
10. Pearls are said to be ruled by the moon, are symbols of purity and femininity, were once adornment for nobility alone, were consumed as medicines, worn as protection for knights doing battle, have influenced Steinbeck and financed wars.
9. The Persian Gulf was once the richest source of saltwater and freshwater pearls in the world. The discovery of oil in the 1930â€™s spoiled all that.
8. Cleopatra dropped a pearl earring in her wine cup and drank it, proving to Marc Antony that Egyptâ€™s richness was unequaled in the world. That act would cost about $13.5 million today.
7. Pearls are mentioned in the Bible nine times, and the kingdom of heaven is often described as being protected by â€œpearly gatesâ€.
6. Fine freshwater pearls have been found in the United States since the early 1800â€™s, including the â€œdogtoothâ€ pearls in the Chrysanthemum brooch, created by Tiffany & Co and presented in 1904 to Hollywood star Lillian Russell.
5. The â€œQueen Pearlâ€ was found by a carpenter in a stream in New Jersey and sold to Charles Tiffany, who sold it to Princess Eugenie of France, who used it to buy her freedom when fleeing that country in 1870.
4. Kokichi Mikimoto and his wife, Ume, looked upon the worldâ€™s first cultured pearls on July 11, 1893, spent decades perfecting the art, nearly creating the capability â€œâ€¦ to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls.â€
3. â€œLa Peregrinaâ€, a large pear-shaped white pearl discovered in 1513, became part of the Spanish Crown Jewels. In 1554 the pearl was given to Mary Tudor (â€œBloody Maryâ€), the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, by her future husband Philip II, Crown Prince of Spain. Fast-forward 415 years, at which time the pearl was purchased at Sothebyâ€™s by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor, who still owns it. She almost lost it to her Pekingese the very day she received it in 1969 â€“ she had to pry it from her dogâ€™s mouth. Dumb mutt! (Dog story from My Love Affair with Jewelry, by Elizabeth Taylor.
2. Princess Dianaâ€™s 1981 wedding dress, designed by Emanuel, featured 10,000 pearls and sequins. She later commissioned Catherine Walker to design a stunning pearl-studded white gown and jacket for her visit to Hong Kong in 1989. The Princess seemed to glow in pearls, and wore simple, single-strand chokers to pearl ropes to the exquisite â€œSwan Lake Suiteâ€ of South Sea cultured pearls and diamonds, so named after her tragic death in 1997.
1. And finally, Pearl is the symbol for the 30th wedding anniversary and birthstone for the month of June. And itâ€™s my birth month, too!
Today, freshwater and cultured pearls have virtually replaced natural pearls. China, Japan, and Australia are the largest exporters of pearls. There is little availability of natural pearls on the market today – they are extremely rare and prohibitively expensive! Fortunately, most can still enjoy the beautiful simplicity of pearls at a reasonable price.