Throughout history, pearls have always been treasured as the gemstones of royalty. Their timeless beauty and rarity have made them coveted adornments for crowns, scepters, and royal jewelry down through the centuries.
But even among all these luxurious displays of wealth and power, a few individual pearls have always stood out as being especially perfect, especially unique, and especially precious. They have experienced the singular honor of being named, and passed down from dynasty to dynasty. Many of them reside in museums today, though some have been lost to time. A few others have been sold for incredible sums at auction. But no matter what their fate, they have all secured a place in history.
The Hope Pearl
Everyone’s heard of the Hope Diamond, but did you know that there is a Hope Pearl, as well? Named after its one-time owner, Henry Philip Hope, who was also the owner of that famous diamond, it can currently be seen in the BritishMuseum of Natural History. The Hope Pearl is the largest – and most famous – natural saltwater pearl ever discovered. It weighs an astonishing 1800 grams, which is approximately 4 ounces! Ranging in color from greenish-gold on one end to white on the other, the Hope Pearl is a drop-shaped blister pearl, and measures about 2 inches by 4 inches.
The Huerfana (Spanish for The Orphan)
One of the most renowned gems in the Spanish Crown Jewels, the Huerfana was not found in an oyster – it was discovered in a shell bed in the Gulf of Panama. It was prized by royalty because of its perfect shape, large size, and brilliant luster, but unfortunately, was destroyed in the 18th century, when the Spanish palace burned.
The Gogibus Pearl
King Phillip IV of Spain bought this incredible pearl from a merchant named Gogibus in 1620. The merchant had been wearing it as a button in his cap, but the king saw the true value of this 126-carat gemstone. At that time, it was the largest known pearl in the world. This pear-shaped marvel had been discovered off the coast of the West Indies.
The Arco Valley Pearl
This famous baroque pearl was given to Khubilai Khan, the emperor of China, by Marco Polo. It weighs 575 carats, and is white with pink and brown overtones.
The Charles I Pearl
This pearl was owned by King Charles I of England, but is now either lost or, intriguingly, might be hidden away by a private collector. Anthony van Dyck, an artist who painted portraits of the king, always portrayed him wearing this large pearl drop earring in his left ear. One of these paintings is on display at WindsorCastle. In 1649, King Charles I was executed, and it was said that as soon as his head had fallen from his body, the crowd of spectators surged forward, all trying to steal the famous pearl.
Which of these tales of great pearls from the past fascinates you the most? Let us know in the comments section below! And don’t forget to check in for Part 2 of our series on famous pearls throughout history next week!