A Birthday Gift Fit for A Queen

June 1, 2018

 

Lucky June Birthdays!  Its only one of two months that has THREE birthstones associated with it. If you were born in the 6th month of the year, you get to choose from Alexandrite, Moonstone or Pearl.  And....I see no reason why you should not have all three!

 

I’ve been pre-occupied with pearls, I dreamt I found one in my cereal and the next day my strand broke during breakfast. Weird but true-even jewelers break pearl strands sometimes!

 

Pearls...an irritant gets into the oyster and it turns it into a thing of beauty. If we could remember this when our busy distracted lives turn on us....when we’ve been charging our cell phone for an hour and realize its not plugged in. The hour of uninterrupted peace we get with a dead phone is a rare thing of beauty. A pearl. When your friend cancels on you and you end up spending a rare evening alone. Another unexpected gem of time.......ahhhhhhhhhh.

 

Unique among all the birthstones, a pearl is the only one that is a gem but not a stone. All the other birthstones formed underground but the pearl comes from the watery ethereal world of the ocean. Their serene beauty and lustrous glow from within have inspired humans for as long as there has been written history.

 

The most famous, distinguished, resplendent ‘rock’star of them all has to be The Wanderer Pearl - or ‘La Peregrina’ in Spanish. This gem has traveled the globe and passed through many illustrious hands since its discovery more than 500 years ago. Owned first by a slave and then by a string of royalty-Spanish, English, French and Hollywood royals. ‘La Peregrina’ is a natural pearl. This means it formed in an oyster caused by some small grain of sand that has found its way into the tender mantel tissue of the oyster. The oyster grows a protective scar tissue (a BeYooooTeeful scar) and are very rare no matter the size. La Peregrina is not only a natural pearl but huge, at 55.95 carats.

 

Many pearls have left their mark on history but none has had the influence of La Peregrina. The pear-shaped pearl was found in the Gulf of Panama in the mid-16th century off the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. It was found by a slave who was awarded his freedom for it. It was given to Phillip II of Spain who presented it to Mary of Tudor-daughter of Henry VIII as a wedding gift in 1554. Many portraits were painted of her and she was wearing the pearl in each and every one. Later, as a part of the Spanish Crown Jewels, Queens Margarita and Isabel both wore the pearl and it was immortalized in separate portraits painted of the queens by the revered sixteenth century painter, Velasquez. The pearl stayed in the Spanish court for hundreds of years, but then the pearl disappears for over a hundred years. It then reappears in the hands of the Bonapartes (‘women are nothing but machines for producing children’ Napoleon Bonaparte) in the early 1800’s after Napoleon invades Spain and installs his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. In 1813, after being defeated by the Duke of Wellington, Joseph flees Spain and takes La Peregrina with him. After the final fall of Napoleon in 1815, Joseph passes the pearl to his nephew Charles-Louis Bonaparte. After an extravagant and luxurious lifestyle of castle buying and coup attempts, Charles-Louis sells the pearl in 1873 to the Duke of Abercorn. It stays with the Duke’s family for 96 years, but only after being lost twice during that time-once lost in a sofa at Windsor Castle and again at a ball at Buckingham Palace. In 1969, La Peregrina goes to auction again.

 

Shopping for his wife’s birthday gift at this auction, was Richard Burton. He out-bid the highest bidder to spend $37k on La Peregrina for Elizabeth Taylors 37th birthday. Included with that purchase price, was the provenance of the pearl which is as fascinating as the pearl is rare and beautiful. Taylor commissioned Cartier to reset the pearl taking cues from a painting of it being worn as a choker by its first owner, Mary, Queen of Scots. Taylor took every opportunity to wear the rare pearl.  She rocks it in the 1969 film “Anne of the Thousand Days”  She resets it again, this time in a more elaborate setting and it returned to the silver screen in ‘73 and ‘77. Taylor-like most others that owned it-wore and cherished it for her entire life. After her death, La Peregrina toured the world with the rest of her renowned jewelry collection before being sold at a Christies auction in 2011. An anonymous buyer purchased it for 11.8 million. I know....your head just drooped and you cried a little. A ‘someone’ swooped in and took it away. It’s like the feeling at the end of Romeo and Juliet: a story of great love with a huge dose of anguish that finishes in fragmented unanswered questions. I feel cheated out of the satisfaction of watching the next episode unfold. It’s just gone. My biggest horror is that it may be in a super-secret place with no human eyes ever seeing it. Is a thing still beautiful if it’s not witnessed or appreciated?

 

If you have something precious, unique, singularly lovely...wear it, show it, ROCK IT! The feeling we get is the gift and we damn well deserve it.

 

 

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