The heritage pearl, one of the lots in the opening auction of the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor by Christie’s in New York, was estimated at $3 million.
It was sold after four and a half minutes of fierce bidding on telephone, a statement by Christie’s said Wednesday.
The pear-shaped pearl was suspended from a necklace, custom-designed for Elizabeth Taylor by Cartier, and has been widely hailed as one of the most iconic jewels of the actress.
The price for La Peregrina surpasses the previous world auction record for a pearl jewel, set in 2007 at Christie’s New York auction with the sale of The Baroda Pearls from India for $7,096,000, the auction house said.
La Peregrina is 203 grains in size – equivalent to 50 carats – and was first discovered around the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama.
King Philip II of Spain was among the first recorded owners of the pear-shaped pearl, which later passed on to the Spanish queens Margaret and Elisabeth, who proudly wore the pearl in the 17th century portraits painted by Velázquez himself, Christie’s said.
Richard Burton purchased the pearl for Elizabeth Taylor at an auction in 1969 for $37,000, after successfully outbidding a member of the Spanish royal family.
Inspired by a 16th century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth Taylor later commissioned Cartier to design an exquisite new mount of matched natural pearls and rubies to offset what she called “the most perfect pearl in the world”.
At the Christie’s auction Tuesday, La Peregrina sold to a client on the phone after a round of competitive bidding involving over 20 bids.
The lot opened at $2 million and quickly jumped to $4 million and on from there, with clients shouting out bids in increments of $1 million or more.
Rahul Kadakia, head of jewellery for Christie’s America, took the winning bid on telephone, Christie’s said.