NEW YORK, N.Y.-
The extraordinary beauty, rarity and provenance of the pearl known as La Peregrina inspired a fierce bidding battle at Christies
New York at the opening auction of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Estimated at $2-3 million, the pearl reached a world auction record price for a pearl at $11,842,500 (£ 7,579,200 / 9,118,725) after four and a half minutes of bidding. The pearl, an historic 16th century pear-shaped pearl suspended from a necklace custom-designed for Ms. Taylor by Cartier, has been widely heralded as one of Elizabeth Taylors most iconic jewels.
La Peregrina is a remarkable pearl of 203 grains in size equivalent to 50 carats that was first discovered in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama. King Philip II of Spain was among the first recorded owners of the pear-shaped pearl, which later passed on to the Spanish queens Margaret and Elisabeth, who proudly wore the pearl in 17th century portraits painted by Velázquez himself.
Richard Burton famously purchased the pearl for Elizabeth Taylor at auction in 1969 for $37,000, after successfully outbidding a member of the Spanish Royal family. Inspired by a 16th century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, Ms. Taylor later commissioned Cartier to design an exquisite new mount of matched natural pearls and rubies to offset what she called the most perfect pearl in the world.
At the Christies auction on December 13 (press release click here, e-catalogue click here), La Peregrina sold to a client on the phone after an inspired round of competitive bidding involving more than 20 bids. The lot opened at $2 million and quickly jumped to $4 million and on from there, with clients shouting out bids in increments of $1 million or more. Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christies America, took the winning bid.
The Evening Sale of legendary jewels from Elizabeth Taylor comprises 80 items in total, and will be followed by two day-sale sessions on December 14, with 190 more jewels on offer.