While not precisely a recycled movie costume due to the fact that this beautiful piece was not originally created for use in film or on television, this sensational necklace and the pearl at the end of it has been used several times in films.
But there is more wonderful history and re-use of this spectacular jewel than in various films. The pearl and the necklace have a fabulous history that spans almost five hundred years!
The pearl attached to the fabulous necklace is called La Peregrina, which in Spanish means “The Pilgrim.” or “The Wanderer.” This pearl lives up to its name, having had many owners and having traveled the continents, appearing first in paintings, a coin, and finally in film.
Originally the pearl weighed 223.8 grains, and upon its discovery around 1513 off of the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama, it was the largest pearl ever found.
The pearl was found, legend says, by a slave who was given his freedom upon its discovery. The pearl was put into the Spanish Crown Jewels during the reign of King Ferdinand V, or possibly Charles V, where it remained until Phillip II gave the pearl as a gift to Mary I in anticipation of their upcoming marriage in 1554. Mary is very often depicted wearing this prized jewel given to her by her husband. There is even the possibility that the pearl is depicted on coinage from Mary I’s reign.
After Queen Mary died, the pearl was returned to Spain, where it would remain for nearly 250 years. It was again part of the Spanish crown jewels, and the famous painter Velazquez painted the mother and wife of Phillip IV, both wearing the famed pearl.
In 1808, Spain was captured by Napoleon, and he placed upon the throne his brother Joseph, who took possession of the pearl. When the French were defeated at the Battle of Vitoria, it is believed that Joseph actually carried the pearl upon his person while fleeing the city of Madrid.
From there, the pearl was given into the hands of Charles Louis Napoleon, who eventually sold it to the 2nd Marquess of Abercorn, in whose family it would remain for some years.
On two occasions, the pearl was very nearly lost by the wife of the Marquess. The first time was at a formal event at Buckingham Palace, when it was discovered missing from her necklace and was soon discovered having fallen on the train of another woman’s gown. The second time it went missing was at Windsor Castle, where it was eventually found on a sofa.
In 1969 the pearl was put up for Auction at Sotheby’s in London, where it was purchased for $37,000 by Richard Burton for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Burton lavished jewels on Elizabeth and especially enjoyed pieces with historical significance.
Not long after the purchase, the pearl went missing again, much to the horror of Elizabeth, who concealed its disappearance from her husband. However, after a quick search, she soon found the pearl in the mouth of one of her dogs! Thankfully, the pearl was not damaged.
That same year, Elizabeth would wear the pearl for her small, unbilled role as a courtier in Anne of the Thousand Days, where it appeared on a small platinum strand with several smaller pearls spaced throughout. Not long after this time, both Elizabeth and Richard agreed that the pearl needed a more secure and magnificent setting. So it was given over to Cartier to create a fantastic necklace that would adequately display the jewel.
The result was a glittering confection of diamonds and rubies, which Elizabeth later wore in Divorce His – Divorce Hers in 1973 and then again in 1977 in A Little Night Music.
The La Peregrina was put on display at the Cartier Boutique in Beverly Hills, on loan from Elizabeth Taylor for the 100th anniversary of Cartier in America. When Elizabeth Taylor passed away, her jewelry was auctioned off at Christie’s. The necklace, expected to sell for two to three million dollars, fetched a record 11.8 million!
To learn more about the history of this fantastic pearl, go here. Or for its later history in the hands of Elizabeth Taylor, where it appeared in three films, read Elizabeth Taylor’s My Love Affair With Jewelry.