It was the exquisite heirloom that sealed one of Hollywood’s most tempestuous love stories.
Elizabeth Taylor’s 50.6-carat ‘La Peregrina’ pearl, given to her by Richard Burton, surpassed all predictions when it went for a $11.8 million (£7.6million) at auction – almost $9 million more than expected.
He bought it for the actress as a Valentine’s Day gift and she later comissioned Cartier to design a ruby-and-diamond necklace mount for the piece.
And the pear-shaped jewel was the top lot when a vast collection of gems belonging to the violet-eyed siren went under the hammer on Tuesday night:
It was the world’s most expensive private jewellery auction totalling $115.9million (£75million) at Christie’s in New York.
The pearl’s fascinating history fuelled the fierce bidding battle.
It was given to Mary Tudor of England upon her engagement to Spain’s Phillip II in 1554 and belonged to a succession of eight Spanish kings until 1808.
When Richard bought ‘La Peregrina’ at auction in 1969, it found a home with Hollywood royalty.
Not that his wife, who was used to dazzling love tokens, always looked after it that carefully.
Elizabeth once misplaced the precious stone which was eventually found in the mouth of her beloved dog after an extensive search.
Richard wasn’t the only one of Elizabeth’s seven husbands to shower her with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
“I mean how many young women get a set of rubies just for doing something wholesome like swimming laps? Or win a diamond ring at ping pong with their husbands?” she wrote in her book My Love Affair with Jewelry.
The collection of Elizabeth Taylor
- The famed 33.19-carat diamond ring given to her by her fifth husband Richard Burton: Sold for $8,181,500 (£5.6million);
- Heart-shaped Taj Mahal Diamond necklace, also gifted to her by Richard on her 40th birthday: Sold for $8.8 million (£5.7million);
- Diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, Elizabeth’s third husband along with the words: “You are my queen”: Sold for $4,226,500 (£2.7million)
- Bracelet with diamond-fashioned monkeys given to the actress by Michael Jackson: Sold for $194,500 (£125,500);
- Diamond and sapphire ring also given to her by Michael Jackson: Sold for $600,000 (£388,000);
- La Peregrina, a gift from Richard that once belonged to a succession of eight Spanish kings: Sold for $11,842,500 (£7.6million);
- Three diamond and jade Lorraine Schwartz bangles: Bought by reality TV star Kim Kardashian for $65,000 (£42,000)
- 33.81-carat pear-shape cognac and white diamond ring and ear pendants gifted to her by Richard on their tenth wedding anniversary: Sold for $314,500 (£203,000);
- Gold and multi-gem charm bracelet: Sold for $326,500 (£211,000);
- Natural pearl and diamond ear pendants by Bvlgari: Sold for $1,986,500 (£1,3million).