Pearls are one of the oldest and most coveted precious gemstones in the world – and wild, natural pearls today regularly rank among the most highly valued gems you can buy. The history of pearls being used as jewelry stretches back over 6,000 years – and with that kind of staying power, it’s no wonder that everyone from royalty to celebrities and collectors has yearned to own them, regardless of price.
Natural pearls of high quality suitable for fine jewelry are incredibly rare – for every 10,000 to 15,000 wild oysters fished from the sea, only 1 or 2 will yield a pearl. Due to their extreme rarity, and their illustrious history and provenance, natural pearl jewelry will always be more highly valued than our modern cultured pearl cousins.
Keep reading to reveal the Top 10 Most Expensive Pearl Necklaces in the World.
1) La Peregrina – Last Sold For: $11.8 Million, December 2011
No list would be complete without mentioning La Peregrina, also known as “The Pilgrim” or the “The Wanderer”. This large, gorgeous natural pearl got its name due to its 500 year journey through history and royal collections. Originally found in the Gulf of Panama by an African slave, La Peregrina was brought back to Spain, and presented to King Philip II who gifted it to his bride to be, Mary I of England. Upon her death, La Peregrina returned to the Crown Jewels of Spain, and remained there for 250 years.
By 1808, Joseph Bonaparte – Napoleon’s older brother – became King of Spain. He was forced to abdicate his throne in 1811, and La Peregrina was among the treasures that he took with him in his flight. The pearl was willed to Napoleon III after his death, and La Peregrina eventually was sold to the Duke of Abercorn in England. It stayed within the family’s collection for nearly a century before finally being purchased at auction by actor Richard Burton in 1969 for $37,000.00.
Burton famously gifted La Peregrina to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor – a known jewelry and pearl connoisseur. Taylor treasured her Valentine’s Day gift, and wore it often in many configurations over the decades, until she had the jeweler Cartier create a show stopping necklace of pearls, rubies and diamonds to showcase the gem. Taylor could be seen wearing La Peregrina until her death, and the pearl was sent to Christie’s Auction House in 2011.
2) The Baroda Pearl Necklace – Last Sold for $7.1 Million, April 2007