Famous Pearls in History
Pearls are among the world’s oldest gems, and from the time they were first discovered, they have remained some of the world’s most sought-after and most revered gems. Throughout time, there have occasionally been a few pearls discovered that stand out among even these rare gems. Many of these famous pearls, some of them thousands of years old, are still around to be admired today. These pearls are remarkable reminders of the rich pearl history.
The Pearl of Allah
The Pearl of Allah, (Pearl of Lao-Tse) the largest pearl on record, was recovered from a giant clam on May 7, 1934, off the coast of Palawan Island, Philippines. The pearl is 9.4 inches long and weighs about 14 lbs. According to the « Guinness Book of Records, » the San Francisco Gem Laboratory has valued the pearl at $40 million. The Muslim diver who found the pearl said its surface bore the image of a turbaned face, and he named it the Pearl of Allah.
The Hope Pearl
Most likely the largest and most famous natural saltwater pearl ever discovered, the Hope Pearl, is an astonishing gem. The pearl weighs 1,800 grains (450 carats), or approximately 4 ounces! The Hope is a white, drop-shaped blister pearl, measuring approximately 2 x 4 inches, and ranging in color from greenish-gold on one end to white on the other.
Currently residing in the British Museum of Natural History, the Hope Pearl was once owned my Henry Philip Hope, the one-time owner of the Hope Diamond.
The Bao Dai / Sunrise Pearl
The Bao Dai/Sunrise Pearl that has achieved international fame as the world’s largest and roundest melo-melo pearl, is believed to have been part of the collection of Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, who like his predecessors was an ardent admirer and collector of melo-melo pearls, in keeping with age old tradition of reverence for these natural « fireballs » of nature, believed to be a symbol of perfection in Buddhist thought and was considered as one of the eight precious emblems of the Buddha, and as such became an object of veneration by Buddhists. Melo Melo pearls eventually became a symbol of sovereignty, and was highly valued by emperors. The pearl with a diameter of 37.97 x 37.58 mm and a weight of 397.52 carats has gone down on record as the largest and roundest melo-melo pearl in the world.
Known once as the Phillip II pearl, La Peregina, (not to be confused with La Pellegrina) was once the most celebrated pearl of its time. Weighing a large 203.8 grains, La Peregrina was celebrated not only for its great size, but also its perfect pear shape, and bright white coloration.
La Peregrina was found off the coast of Panama in the 16th century, and was promptly delivered to King Phillip II of Spain who presented the gem to his new bride, Queen Mary of Spain. The gem later belonged to Queen Margaret as well as Joseph Bonaparte, before the British Marquis of Abercorn acquired it.
In 1969, La Peregrina was purchased by actor Richard Burton for a mere $37,000, as a gift for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth Taylor, a pearl lover and a catalyst of Tahitian pearl popularity, owns La Peregrina to this day.
The published history of the ‘La Pellegrina’ pearl does not discount the claims of the French that the pearl was originally part of the French crown jewels. The historical records of La Pellegrina simply state a description of the pearl similar to that of La Reine De Pearls, and states that the saltwater pearl was found off the coast of South America. Once a part of the Spanish crown jewels, La Pellegrina was brought to Russia from India in the 18th century, and was known as the Zozima Pearl. As the true stories of La Reine De Pearls and La Pellegrina will probably never be proven, this will continue to be a mystery of pearl history.
La Reine De Pearls
This large round pearl of a reported 27.5 carats was once a part of the French crown jewels. It was listed in the crown jewel inventory in 1791 for an astonishing 200,000 francs. It had been purchased for 40,000 livres from a gem dealer in 1961. The listed description of the pearl describes it as, “a virgin pearl, perfect, round, and of fine water.” The majority of the French crown jewels were stolen from the Garde-Meuble in 1792, and the thieves also made away with a pearl, many of which believe was ‘La Reine De Pearl’. It is also believed that this pearl made its way into the possession of the Zozima Brothers (jewelers of the Czar of Russia), who promptly renamed the gem ‘La Pellegrina’.
The Big Pink Pearl
Valued in 1991 at $4.7 million US dollars, the Big Pink Pearl is listed in the Guiness book of World Records as being the largest natural abalone pearl ever found. This baroque gem weighs a full 470 carats.
The purported owner of this gem is Wesley Rankin, who found the pearl while diving at California’s Salt Point State Park in Petaluma California in 1990.
The Jomon Pearl
The Jomon pearl is the oldest known pearl in the world. This pearl reportedly dates back more than 5,500 years, and is named after a period in Japanese history called the Jomon era, from 10,000-300BC. Although there are no written records of this era, dating has been deduced through the many artifacts (such as the Jomon Pearl) recovered at the site where it was found.