Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cartier Pearls

LA PEREGRINA PEARL:  In Spanish, la peregrina means "the Pilgrim."  A naturally formed pearl, it is considered one of the most historically important pearls in the world.  Legend has it that in the 16th century, a slave in the Gulf of Panama discovered the pearl and exchanged it for his freedom. (I sure hope he made it out).  King Ferdinand V (1479-1516) made the pearl part of the Spanish Crown Jewels.  It was then passed to his successor, King Charles V (1516-1556).  King Phillip II of Spain gave the pearl to Queen Mary I (Mary Queen of Scots) in anticipation of their marriage in 1554 (there are many portraits of her wearing the pearl which is very cool when you think about it in current times).  It was also owned by Spanish royalty, the Bonapartes of France, and the British Marquis of Abercorn.

The pearl, almost 56 carats in weight, was hanging from a very beautiful tiny pearl and platinum chain necklace when Richard Burton purchased it in 1969 for Elizabeth Taylor. Three years later, Liz and Dick took La Peregrina, along with a copy of a painting of Mary Queen of Scots, to Cartier in New York with a request to have the pearl reset in a necklace similar in design to the one worn in the painting. The new necklace design is based on the necklace worn in the painting from the 16th century.   

Liz's Convincing Conversation to Dick...

Dick....guess what?  I've decided this thing is way way too small and it does not counterbalance my bubbies.  I can hardly stand to wear it.  I must redo the whole thing and make it as ostentatious as possible.  I think I'll copy Queen Mary's necklace from that painting we like.  You know Dick, remember we're British so we're almost like royalty and stuff.  Hell, I deserve it.
The painting of Queen Mary with PMS, by Flemish artist, Hans Eworth, which is believed to have inspired Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  It shows the monarch wearing the giant pearl known as La Peregrina.  What could Mary possibly be so pissed off at?  Is a pearl the size of a bird's egg too heavy around the neck?  Elizabeth Taylor will look slightly less pissed off when Richard Burton buys the pearl for her 400 years later.

Cartier's hand drawings of Taylor’s new necklace which will hold La Peregrina.  Based on the PMS'ing Queen Mary painting shown above.  

Le Peregrina on Cartier Necklace:  In 1969 Richard Burton gave the magnificent pearl to Elizabeth Taylor for Valentine's Day (hell, I only ever get a card).  Purchase Price:  $37,000.  Shortly after receiving it, Ms. Taylor temporarily lost it later finding it in her dog’s mouth (like my mother used to say, "Gem, you just have too much crap laying around").  Realizing an egg sized pearl on a chain was just not enough, Taylor asked Cartier to design a necklace to hold it.  The new necklace features a double strand of different sized pearls, with ruby and diamond stations interspersed throughout with La Peregrina attached as an elaborate pendant. The centerpiece of the pendant is a floral design consisting of a pear-shaped ruby surrounded by diamonds in a floral pattern. 

The final Cartier necklace which, of course, Liz could have worn anywhere - anytime.
MY MANSION FOR YOUR PEARLS:  In 1916, Cartier put a beautiful double-stranded, natural pearl necklace on tour around Europe, which eventually made its way to New York City.  This necklace was valued at $1.2 million and they were the first pearls to ever be priced over $1 million.  The pearls caught the attention of New York socialite, Maisie Plant, who was married to Morton Plant, the son of a railroad tycoon.  She fell in love with the pearls, however, her husband refused to buy them.  As the couple was planning to sell their mansion on 5th Avenue and 52nd St., Maisie decided to offer Cartier her mansion in exchange for the necklace (both were being offered at around $1,000,000) - plus $100.  Cartier accepted and had the mansion turned into their flagship New York store.  The mansion still remains the Cartier Headquarters of New York City and in 1970 was designated a NYC landmark.

She should have listened to Morton.  Maisie's pearls were sold at auction in 1957, a year after her death, for $170,000.  The current value of the Fifth Avenue mansion...priceless.  Silly girl... Maisie Plant.  I'm all about instant gratification but girl, you just did not think this thing all the way through.


Jessie said...

What a fascinating historical tour of pearls! It makes me want to visit the Cartier store on 5th Avenue. Maybe the ghost of Maisie haunts the place...

Starry Diadem said...

Not Mary Queen of Scots, but Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII.