Susan Miller

·Master of Fine Arts in Jewelry Design, Pratt Institute, 2012

·Bachelor of Arts in Gemology, University of California, Los Angeles, May 2005

·Editor-in-Chief, White Victoria (2018 - present)

·Write and research feature articles and profiles for print and online publication

·Contributing Writer, Modern Jeweler and Ornament

·Write and publish freelance articles for IGS and WSJ Magazine

·Jewelry Appraiser (2012 - 2020)

Expensive Pearls

Pearls are more than just beautiful gems. They have long been associated with wealth and power, making them some of the most coveted items found in the ocean.

Throughout history, everyone from Cleopatra—Egypt's last pharaoh—to modern-day auction-goers has been willing to pay a pretty penny for these lustrous orbs.

Today's record-breaking prices continue to draw interest not only for their beauty but also because each one comes with a story—a thread that connects it to notions of exclusivity and luxury stretching back centuries.

With such unparalleled allure and mystique, it is little wonder that exceptional pearls continue to fascinate collectors as well as those who enjoy tales from days gone by.

Join us on a journey through time (and some serious cash) as we discover the ten most expensive pearls ever sold, each one dripping history along with its natural nacre glow.

Cartier's Million-Dollar Pearl Necklace

Expensive Pearls

Pierre Cartier's journey to becoming a jewelry king is one of drive, persistence – and a little bit of luck. With just $100 in his pocket, he showed Morton Freeman Plant a magnificent double-stranded pearl necklace. It was so beautiful that when Plant's wife saw it, she had to have it – for an astonishing $1m.

During the extravagant 1920s, when pearls were synonymous with wealth and taste, this sale helped confirm Cartier as the jeweler everyone looked to for inspiration.

It also played no small part in creating an international dynasty whose name remains one of the benchmarks for both craftsmanship and design in luxury jewelry.

The pearl necklace is not only a symbol of where Cartier came from and how far he managed to travel under his own steam. It is also proof – if anyone needed reminding–that he has always been able to pick winners because people still love wearing pieces like this today!

Mrs. Plant's Pearls

Expensive Pearls

Mrs. Plant's Pearls are an embodiment of opulence, astute business acumen and exquisite artisanship—an emblem from days gone by. In 1916, luxury jeweler Cartier discreetly assembled a duo of pearl necklaces unequaled in grandeur amid the ostentation of America's wealthy during World War I.

Among the two extraordinary strands were 55 and 73 perfectly matched pearls, respectively. On the larger piece, the frontispiece stone alone measured an astonishing 17 millimeters in diameter. They did not escape the notice of Mae "Maisie" Manwaring, second wife to American financier Morton Plant.

In a shrewd transaction later recounted with glee by Pierre Cartier, he traded these unique necklaces to Mrs. Plant for her Manhattan mansion—thereby enabling him to establish Cartier's premier New York salon at that address.

Although sold separately from her collection decades later (1957) under their original price tags, these iconic pearls continued to make history. Their matchless beauty and enduring appeal had secured their place among important jewels of note.

Big Pink Pearl Valued at $4.7 Million

Expensive Pearls

The "Big Pink" is considered one of the world's most beautiful and valuable natural abalone pearls. Weighing an astonishing 470 carats, this exquisite gem boasts delicate pink tones that shimmer in a myriad of colors, including blue, green, lavender, silver, and orange.

The pearl comes from either the pink or red abalone found off the coasts of California, New Zealand, and Australia – making it a true testament to Mother Nature's artistry.

It was discovered in 1990 by diver-turned-pearl-hunter Wes Rankin and has since been mounted in a pendant surrounded by sparkling diamonds.

While no longer the largest abalone pearl on record – that accolade goes to a 710-carat specimen found in 2010 – the Big Pink remains at Pacific Coast Pearls in Petaluma near San Francisco.

The Royal Natural Pearl Necklace

Expensive Pearls

Presented for auction in 2013, this natural pearl necklace once belonged to a royal family and carries an air of majestic secrecy. The piece caused quite a stir among auction-goers, eventually selling for $9,081,000.

It features strands of pearls—each one unique—obtained from the Persian Gulf. Specifically, they come from a type of saltwater oyster called Pinctada radiata. These gems possess hints of rose amid their cream hue.

All up, there are 614 pearls here, ranging in size from 5.1mm wide at the smallest end of the necklace to 17. 05mm at its largest—a graduation that has been carefully arranged for maximum impact.

The finishing touch? A bar-shaped clasp made from white gold and platinum with old mine cut diamonds featuring dainty cushion shapes. Their charm is eternal.

While not the most expensive pearl necklace ever sold, this one exudes luxury and grace, making it easily one of the fanciest jewels around!

The Cowdray Black Pearl Necklace

Expensive Pearls

The Cowdray Pearls necklace, a Cartier creation formerly owned by Viscountess Cowdray, has once again become the world's most expensive pearl necklace.

Sold for an astonishing $5.3m at Sotheby's Hong Kong, these exceptional pearls have broken their own record and now rank in the top priciest pearl necklaces ever sold.

Made up of 42 magnificent Tahitian pearls, which are known for their beautiful tones ranging from grey and green to purple, the Cowdray pearls possess incomparable beauty and grace.

Each individual gem is something special too: with undertones of grey and brown that sometimes give way to pink, purple or green as they catch the light.

With their combination of rarity plus timeless appeal continuing to captivate collectors, it's little wonder that the Cowdray Pearls are considered covetable treasures beyond compare!

Baroda Pearls: Legendary Treasure

Expensive Pearls

The Baroda Pearls necklace is more than just a piece of jewelry—it's a symbol of both history and opulence. Originally part of the Baroda Treasury from Mughal India, this iconic necklace boasted seven strands of beautiful pearls.

Two strands, in particular, stood out: not only were they made up of 68 pearls that graduated flawlessly in size, but they also featured an astonishing diamond clasp crafted by Cartier.

The other strands didn't have quite as famous a pedigree, but their new owners would still be getting plenty of bragging rights along with their purchase.

In an amazing coup in 2007, Christie's sold one such strand for $1.45 million alone. It consisted of 41 magnificent pearls that once belonged to both Marie Antoinette and Barbara Hutton—two women who knew how to appreciate the finer things in life.

Chinese Imperial Court Pearl Necklace

Expensive Pearls

You won't believe the price tag on this 18th-century Chinese Imperial Court Pearl Necklace: $8.7 million! It was once owned by Emperor Yongzheng from the Manchu Qing dynasty – talk about luxe.

How do we know it's his? Oh, only because there's a portrait of him wearing the exact same necklace at court. That's what made buyers go wild for it.

But what really sets this piece apart (aside from its mega wattage) is its design. Look closely, and you'll see three extra-long turquoise bead strands hanging down at the front, with a big chartreuse quartz cabochon surrounded by smaller ones in spinel and sapphire at the back.

At its center are 108 huge freshwater Eastern pearls interspersed with round coral foto beads and lapis lazuli stones. It is seriously unique – just like its owner!

La Peraga: The Wanderer

Expensive Pearls

"The Wanderer" or "The Pilgrim," La Peregrina holds a special place in pearl history as it has fascinated people for centuries with both its incredible story and the famous people who have owned it.

It was found by an African slave in the Gulf of Panama and, at some point, later made its way into the Spanish Crown Jewels, where it stayed for 250 years!

It has also been owned by members of Napoleon Bonaparte's family, among other important figures. In more recent times, Elizabeth Taylor possessed La Peregrina and loved it so much that she wore it often.

In fact she liked it enough that she had Cartier create an elaborate necklace featuring pearls, rubies, diamonds and more to show off La Peregrina to best advantage.

When Christie's auction house sold Miss Taylor's things in 2011, the pearl went for $11.8m on its own (!!!). This made La Peregrina one of the most expensive pearls ever purchased.

Marie Antoinette's Priceless Pearl Pendant

Expensive Pearls

During her time as Queen of France, Marie Antoinette had a collection of jewelry worth millions of livres. Some pieces from this collection have survived until today—despite her attempt to take them with her when she fled the French Revolution.

Marie Antoinette arranged for much of her collection to be smuggled out through diplomatic channels and sent to Vienna—along with detailed instructions on how it should be looked after. Eventually, these incredible jewels were passed down to her daughter, Madame Royale.

One particularly notable item is the Marie Antoinette Pearl Pendant. It contains diamonds as well as a beautiful natural pearl.

When this stunning piece was sold at Sotheby's in 2018, it broke all previous records for pearls sold at auction. The buyer paid an astonishing $32 m for it—a price that confirms its status as the most expensive pearl ever sold.

The Fisherman's Priceless Pearl

Expensive Pearls

Valued at $100 million, the Fisherman's Pearl is the most luxurious pearl in existence. Originating from the Philippines, this impressive gem weighs an astonishing 75 pounds – a true wonder of nature.

It was discovered by a modest fisherman who became tangled up with its host shell while dropping anchor; unbeknown to him, the good luck charm beneath his bed was worth a fortune for years! It wasn't until he took it into his local tourism office that staff told him just how valuable this find was.

Coming from a giant clam (Tridacna gigas) – some individuals of which can grow over 440 pounds – The Fisherman's Pearl is both exceptionally rare and special. Today, it proudly goes on show as an enthralling tourist attraction in its country of origin.


Expensive Pearls

In the world of pearls, there is a rich tapestry of history, luxury, and worth beyond compare. Whether worn by queens and empresses or fetching record prices at today's auctions, these are gems that have always fascinated people — and expensive ones even more so.

Each pearl comes with a tale (or several) of its own: a story about power and money that spans centuries.

They're not just beautiful baubles. They are also proof of both nature's ability to make art from simple ingredients and humans' eternal love for anything rare that grew in an oyster.

Take a moment to enjoy some fabulous pearls — their pictures alone will brighten your day!