Pearls of the Rich and Famous
Empire Pawn of Nassau Inc
Class, elegance, wealth; Few gems elicit such feelings of romance and glamour as the little round pearl. In honor of June’s most mysterious birthstone, we take a look at some of the stone’s most famous fans and breathtaking pieces.
Marilyn Monroe’s Akoya pearl necklace
Joe DiMaggio purchased the necklace for Marilyn Monroe from Mikimoto, in Japan, while on their honeymoon in 1954.
The 16-inch, single-strand Akoya pearl necklace consists of 44 Mikimoto pearls. It is currently owned by Mikimoto (America) Co., Ltd. as part of a valuable collection of pearls and pearl jewelry. The necklace has been shown around the world as part of a traveling exhibition sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago.
Liz Taylor’s La Peregrina pearl necklace
La Peregrina pearl, meaning “The Pilgrim,” is a large 203-grain, pear-shaped 50.6 carat white pearl. The pearl was discovered in the Gulf of Panama in the 1500s, and brought to King Phillip II of Spain in 1582, who gave it to his wife, Queen Mary, as a wedding gift.
La Peregrina was then owned by members of the Spanish monarchy, including Queens Margaret and Elizabeth until 1808, when it was obtained by Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte. Later, the royal pearl was held by Prince Louis Napoleon of France and the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn.
In 1969, La Peregrina was famously purchased by actor Richard Burton for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor for $37,000 at auction. Taylor later commissioned Cartier to incorporate La Peregrina pearl into a stunning diamond and ruby necklace.
Shortly after her death in 2011, Elizabeth Taylor’s La Peregrina pearl necklace was sold at Christie’s “The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor’ auction for $11.8 million — about $8 million more than expected, and the highest amount any pearl has ever sold for at auction.
In a “you can’t make this up” piece of Hollywood history, Taylor lost the pearl only moments after receiving it from Burton. According to reports, Burton was on the floor searching the room’s pink shag carpet for the pearl when he heard a crunch from one of Taylor’s two Lhasa Apso dogs. The dog spat it out, and realizing the pearl was scratched, Taylor decided to have Cartier incorporate the pearl into the diamond and ruby necklace.
First Ladies love their pearls
Many First Ladies have loved the simple yet classic elegance of pearl necklaces and bracelets. Barbara Bush was known for wearing her three-strand costume pearl necklace while in the White House. They became so popular that many companies created replicas and sold them as “First Lady Pearls” or “Barbara Bush Pearls.”
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ iconic style influenced a generation of fashion-forward women who embraced her style as their own. Jackie O. loved her pearl necklaces and made them wildly popular while she was in the White House. Her signature piece while First Lady was a triple-strand faux pearl necklace designed by jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane. The necklace went on to sell for $211,500 at a Sotheby’s auction.
Current First Lady Michelle Obama also favors pearls, specifically necklaces with gobstopper-sized pearls and a 16 mm single-strand bracelet by Carolee. At the White House on March 14, 2012, President Obama and the First Lady hosted a state dinner for British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his wife, Samantha Cameron. For the occasion, Mrs. Obama wore a silk teal gown designed by British designer, Georgina Chapman. Her jewelry accent was a multi-strand necklace made up of silver, turquoise and teal pearls and beads. Known as “Pearls in Peril,” the statement necklace was designed by British jewelry designer, Tom Binns.