American Gem Trade Association Press Release
"The Allure of Pearls" Opened March 18 at the Smithsonian's
National Museum of Natural History
Hope Diamond Reunited with Hope Pearl
Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina is featured
Twelve of the rarest pearls in the world will be on public display together for the first time in "The Allure of Pearls" exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History, on view March 18th through September 5th.
The exhibit in the museum's Harry Winston Gallery will include the Hope Pearl, previously owned by Lord Henry Philip Hope, the same Englishman who gave his name to the Hope Diamond. This will be the first time the Hope Pearl has been reunited with the Hope Diamond since they were together in Hope's collection - more than 150 years ago. The Winston Gallery is the home of the Hope Diamond.
Featured in the exhibit is the extraordinary La Peregrina, one of the largest and most famous pearls in the world. It is currently owned by Elizabeth Taylor and was given to her by Richard Burton in 1969. It will be shown within its diamond, ruby and pearl necklace, designed by Cartier and Ms. Taylor. Previous owners have been Queen Mary Tudor and the Bonaparte family. La Peregrina was found in the 16th century off the coast of Panama.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer our visitors this rare opportunity to see some of the world's most extraordinary pearls," said Cristián Samper, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Other rare pearls in the exhibition include the Drexel Pearl, a large natural grey pearl from Polynesia in a Cartier setting from 1905; Black Beauty, a beautiful eggplant-colored natural black pearl from South America; the Pearl of Kuwait, a natural drop pearl from the Persian Gulf; the Queen Mary Brooch featuring two large natural pink conch pearls in a 100-year-old setting, owned by Queen Mary, wife of His Majesty King George V; South Sea Drops, two rare natural South Sea pearls; the Survival Pearl, reputed to be the world's largest pink snail pearl, a fresh water pearl found in the United States; the Pearl of Asia, reputed to be the largest natural pearl in the world and once owned by Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal); and the Paspaley Pearl, one of the largest and most beautiful cultured pearls in the world, on public display for the first time.
"'The Allure of Pearls' brings together a tremendous collection of some of the rarest, largest and most spectacular pearls in the world," said Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "Visitors will be amazed at the great variety of the pearls' colors and shapes. Each one is beautiful and each has a fascinating story."
The Allure of Pearls is made possible with the co-support of Paspaley Pearls Pty. Ltd. and Iridesse Pearls. The exhibit also received support from the Gemological Institute of America. A collection of South Sea pearls have been donated to the museum by Paspaley Pearls Pty. Ltd., several of which will be on display in an adjacent area in the National Gem Gallery.
A special selection of pearls will be available in the Museum Store, located on the first floor, to coincide with the exhibition.
The National Museum of Natural History is located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C. It is the most visited natural history museum in the world welcoming 4.3 million people in 2004. The museum is dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. Special spring hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning March 11th. Special summer hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day May 26th through September 4th. Admission is free. For more information, please contact The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History at (202) 633-1000.