A rare 50.6 carat pearl, known as La Peregrina, from the collection of late Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels set a new record price on at Christie’s in New York on Tuesday.
The 203-grain pear-shaped 16th-century pearl, regarded as one of the most famous pearls in the world, was expected to sell for up to $3 million but ended up bringing in $11.8 million – the highest amount any pearl has ever fetched at an auction.
Discovered off the Gulf of Panama in the 1500s, the pearl is believed to have once belonged to King Philip II of Spain and later to Spanish queens Margaret and Elizabeth. The latter wore it when Velasquez painted her 17th-century portrait.
According to Bloomberg, Richard Burton, the former husband of the late Taylor, picked up priceless gemstone at an auction in 1969 for $37,000, after successfully outbidding a member of the Spanish royal family.
In addition to La Peregrina (seen below), the Christie’s auction, titled “The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor,” featured an array of designer gowns, paintings and jewelry collections that was owned by the late actress. The exclusive collection had been forecast to fetch around $50 million by the auction house.
Instead, the gems alone achieved more than that on the first night, and by the evening’s end the entire 80-item lot raked in a total of $116 million, becoming the most valuable private collection of jewels sold at the auction, beating the 1987 sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s pieces in Geneva.
For more on Christie’s “Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” auction, including the La Peregrina Pearl, go here.
Part of the proceeds from the auction, which continues through Friday (Dec. 16), will go to the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.