The Pearl, the Queen of the Gems

  • The Pearl, the  Queen of the Gems


The pearls are, without any doubt, one of the most valued gems throughout the human history. In fact it starts as an incommodity for a living creature. The process of its formation begins when a grain of sand or other particle enters the shell of an oyster, and it can't be expulsed. The animal starts to extract and layer a white substance we call nacre. It is a slow process, as is the life in the seas itself. A pearl of 10mm in diameter needs between 10 and 36 months to reach the size.

A Few Curiousities Regarding The Pearls

Image The oldest pearl in the world.The most ancient pearl discovered so far is located in Abu Dhabi. It is a beautiful pink specimen, 3mm in length. Exhaustive carbon 12 testing of the neighbouring rocks was made and resulted the age between 5 000 и 5 800 BC. This situates it in the neolithic time.
In other words, if you opt for buying a pearl jewel, chances are to dure long enough to be inherited by your grandchildren. You should keep and take a good care of the piece, of course, so that can happen.

Image Cleopatra dissolving a pearl in vinegarAnd talking about care and protection.... You must keep in mind that as the pearls are of organic origin, these can be seriously damaged by acids. Cleopatra knew about this peculiarity of the gem and used it to win one of the most famous bets ever. She challenged Marc Antony saying she would give the most expensive dinner ever. She was supposed to spend 10 million sesterces in a single feast (according to some estimations, these would be about 16 250 000 euros today. See more in, in Spanish). He accepted and she organized the evening. The dishes were exuberant, but far from the betted amount. At a certain moment she took off one of the priceless pearls from her earrings and put it into a cup of vinegar. It did its job, and the pearl dissolved in it. Cleopatra drank the cup thus proving that even a single person can inherit a huge amount of money in a single evening.
What we know today is that the pearl is built by a calcium carbonate, which turns into calcium and carbon dioxide once in contact with vinegar. She knew it, too, and would explain it equally good by using the appropriate terms of her time.
The following drawing represents the act and reflects the vision Joshua Reynolds had about it in 1752.

Image The Peregrina pearl worn by Elizabeth Teylor

One of the most famous pearls ever is deeply related to the Royal Court of Spain. Its name is La Peregrina and reflects its destiny of change of owners and places.
It was found back in 1579 by a slave in Panama (some sources point 1515 as the foundation year). It was bought by the Spanish king, Philip II as a gift to his future wife, Isabel de Valois. According to some contemporary documents, the weight of the pearl was 58.5 carats. Its shape represents a perfect drop and is highly valued at the times.
The first destiny of La Peregrina was to join glory along with an emblematic diamond, named "El Estanque", a 100 carat exclusive stone, into so called "joyel rico de los Austrias", an exclusive piece of jewelry, which was proudly worn by various queens - Margarita of Austria, Isabel de Bourbon to name a few.

France takes over Spain in 1808 and is when Jose Bonaparte, named Emperor of Spain, takes all Bourbon jewelry he can reach, including La Peregrina pearl. Once the legitimate king of Spain, Fernand VII had returned, he manages to recover it for the Royal Treasure.

On January, 23-rd, 1969, La Peregrina appears in an auction in Park Bernet Hall, New York. Richard Burton wins it and pays the impossible for the epoch amount of $37 000. He buys it to demonstrate his love to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. She commissioned Cartie with the creation of the exclusive pearl necklace seen on the last picture. La Peregrina has its central attention-grabbing role, a well deserved one.

Interested in learn more about the pearls, how to recognize them or where to buy from? Please comment and give your opinion, so that we can create the next article full of information useful for you.

External articles on the "pearls" topic

Las joyas de pasar
by Fernando Rayón, in Spanish



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