THE LUNA PEARL
Heaven-born and cradled in the deep blue sea,
it is the purest of gems and the most precious.
Perfectly formed by nature and needing no further enhancement to its purity and beauty, the pearl is the earliest and most enduring gemstone known to man. Since antiquity, pearls represent one of the most treasured and desired materials, and the reverance for this jewel resonates throughout the world. India's epic tales describe the gifts made by the elements worthy of the deity: the air offered the rainbow, the fire a meteor, the earth a ruby, and the sea a pearl. And whilst the rainbow formed a halo about the god, the meteor served as a lamp, the ruby decorated the forehead and the pearl was worn upon the heart. Such is the purity of the pearl. Ancient Chinese literature recounts that the gemstone was used in the veneration of idols and gods, their esteem founded upon the belief that pearls originated in the brain of the fabled dragon. The ensuing fantastic power of pearls justified their use as amulets and charms, and as priceless tribute to the emperor.
Throughout history, the rarity and beauty of the softly shimmering pearl has ensured that the jewel remained much coveted by royalty. During the Qing dynasty, pearls were loved and used by the Imperial family to decorate costumes and furnishings. The Elizabethan Period, known as 'the Age of the Pearl', conferred an unrivalled status to the jewel as Queen Elizabeth I herself prized this gemstone above all others. In India, the royal treasuries of the Maharajas also overflowed with pearls, evoking a luxury and magnificence beyond compare. Indeed, the tantalising allure of pearls make it the most enduring of all royal jewels. And for thousands of years, the popular belief was that pearl-bearing molluscs rising to the surface of the sea would open their shells to receive a drop of water from the heavens that in time would transform into a beautiful pearl. If only this romantic notion was true! But the pearl is an extraordinary gemstone, much undervalued since the advent of Mikimoto's cultured pearl, which completely eclipsed their natural counterparts. Once the most valuable jewel known to man and highly valued for thousands of years, natural pearls today are extremely rare.
Lot 2323, the Luna Pearl represents a pure and natural specimen of the pearl gemstone. It weighs 202.26 grains (50.56 carats) and measures 21.5 x 21.2 x 14.5 mm., and is an extremely large button-shaped pearl and thus a very rare gemstone. In 1908, Frederick Kunz wrote, "Pearls of 100 grains are even more rare at the present than are diamonds of 100 carats. Until the middle of the 19th century the diamonds of the world weighing 100 carats or over could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but since the opening of the African mines in 1870 the number of large diamonds has increased at a much greater ratio than have the pearls of one quarter of their weight. It would thus seem that pearls of great size are worth four times as much as diamonds of equal weight." Accompanying this considerable size, the pearl has an exceptionally fine pinkish white colour and beautiful lustre, or orient, uncommonly seen in such large examples. A very similar pearl of 208 grains (52.10 carats) once formed part of the Russian Crown Jewels (cf. A.E. Ferman's Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, Part I, Number 12) ranks as third largest, whilst the second largest is a 216 grains (54.00 carats) button pearl from Panama, circa 1906 (cf. G.F. Kunz and C.H. Stevenson's The Book of the Pearl, p. 56) - so far known today. The largest button pearl currently on record is 221.9 grains (55.47 carats); however, it cannot compare in terms of shape and beauty with the pearl being offered now.
The Luna Pearl is the fourth largest button-shaped pearl recorded so far and Christie's is honoured to offer at auction such a remarkable historical specimen. The pearl's size, shape, colour and lustre, together with a royal house provenance represents the opportunity to acquire an exquisite gemstone. Not only is its size highly desirable, in lustre, it so closely resembles, according to legend, the limpid, sparkling dewdrop when the pearl first receives the sun's rays (cf. G.F. Kunz and C.H. Stevensons's The Book of The Pearl, p. 36). This glowing lustrious sheen ensures that the pearl radiates from every angle, giving off an attractive and glistening charm yet remaining delicately chaste and holding a subdued beauty characteristic of the finest and purest pearls. This incomparable beauty will continue to assure pearls a place among the world's most desirable jewels - it is no wonder that pearls are known as the 'Queen of Gems'.