The 10 Most Expensive Pearls in the World and Why


The-10-Most-Expensive-Pearls-in-the-World

Pearls are an elegant status symbol, and they’ve been prized by royalty, wealthy merchants, and politicians since ancient times. As such, pearls have never been an ordinary or cheap commodity. But what is the most expensive pearl in the world, and what makes it so pricey?

Let’s discover which pearls are the most expensive and discuss why they fetch thousands or millions of dollars!

Here Are the 10 Most Expensive Pearls in the World:

  1. Giga Pearl – $200 Million
  2. Beauty Of Ocean Pearl – $138.7 Million
  3. Pearl of Lao Tzu – $93 Million
  4. Marie Antoinette’s Pearl Pendant – $36 Million
  5. La Peregrina Pearl – $11.8 Million
  6. The Big Pink Pearl – $9.9 Million
  7. Pierre Cartier’s Pearl Necklace – $206,066
  8. The Duchess of Windsor’s Pearls – $179,000
  9. The Cowdray Pearls – $153,070
  10. The Baroda Pearls – $142,740

10. The Baroda Pearls – $142,740

The-Baroda-Pearls
photo source: Christie’s

This two-strand necklace of pearls was once an heirloom belonging to the royal rulers of Vadodara (formerly Baroda), India. It consists of 68 larger-than-average pearls, each one a brilliant white.

This necklace sold for more than $7 million at a Christie’s auction in 2007. Accounting for inflation, each of the pearls of this necklace has an estimated value of about $102,941, making them more valuable than the priciest cameo celebrity videos!

Why It’s Expensive

The Baroda Pearls are expensive due to their quality and historical significance. This necklace also features a diamond clasp and plenty of platnium⁠—one of the priciest precious metals. These factors combine to make the Baroda Pearls some of the costliest in the world.

9. The Cowdray Pearls – $153,070

The-Cowdray-Pearls
photo source: TheJewelleryEditor

These Tahitian pearls get their name from the Viscountess Cowdray, who once owned this single-strand Cartier necklace. Each pearl has a slightly different hue, giving the piece an iridescent, neochrome coloration.

Though this necklace isn’t as expensive as most white pearl necklaces, it sold for $5.3 million during a 2015 Sotheby’s auction. With 42 pearls, each of the Cowdray Pearls enjoys a current value of about $153,000.

Why It’s Expensive

The Cowdray Pearls are expensive because they were owned by a historical figure (Viscountess Cowdray) and consist of high-quality Tahitian black pearls. In addition, these pearls were strung into a necklace by famed luxury brand Cartier, making them more valuable than the standard strand of pearls.

8. The Duchess of Windsor’s Pearls – $179,000

The-Duchess-of-Windsor's-Pearls
photo source: Instagram

What happens when you combine diamonds, pearls, and one of the world’s top luxury brands? You get something worthy of the royals, of course!

That’s certainly the case with the Duchess of Windsor’s Pearls, a single-strand necklace comprised of 28 natural white round pearls and more than 20 diamonds. Created by Cartier, this gorgeous piece belonged to several notable public figures, including Queen Mary of England, the Duchess of Windsor, and Calvin Klein.

It was entered into a Sotheby’s auction in 2007 for $3,625,000. Each of the pearls included in this strand is worth approximately $179,000 (accounting for inflation).

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason this pearl necklace is so expensive is that it’s associated with royalty. But, of course, the Cartier brand name and pristine quality of the pearls also add to this initial value.

7. Pierre Cartier’s Pearl Necklace – $206,066

Pierre-Cartier's-Pearl-Necklace
photo source: The Practical Gemologist

Cartier is one of the most powerful and influential luxury brands, but it was once a fledgling business.

During the 1910s, Pierre Cartier didn’t have the capital to purchase a building on Fifth Avenue, one of the most prominent shopping destinations in New York City. However, he did have a pearl necklace worth more than $1 million.

To secure a storefront for the brand, he traded the necklace to Morton Plant, a wealthy railroad tycoon. The building he gained in return (the Cartier building) still functions as the brand’s primary U.S. storefront today.

The two-stringed necklace consisted of 128 pearls. Accounting for inflation, each one of the pearls would be worth at least $206,066 today. But while the pearls in this necklace cost thousands, they’re not nearly as costly as the world’s most expensive tea!

Why It’s Expensive

The pearls in this two-strand necklace are expensive due to their exceptional quality and historical significance. After all, owning the pearl necklace that helped secure the Cartier brand’s presence in the U.S. is equivalent to owning a piece of world history.

6. The Big Pink Pearl – $9.9 million

The-Big-Pink-Pearl
photo source: Alux

Nearly all natural pearls (pearls formed without any human intervention) are white, cream-colored, or gray. Finding one that’s any other hue is rare, but it’s not impossible.

After all, the baroque Big Pink Pearl (discovered in 1990) is a natural pearl with a pink tone. Technically considered an abalone pearl, this unique find is valuable due to its uncommon coloration.

But its comparatively large size also contributes to its high price tag. The average pearl weighs three carats, but the Big Pink Pearl weighs 470 carats!

Valued at $4.7 million in 1991, the Big Pink Pearl would be worth an astounding $9.9 million today. However, the diver who found this pearl (Wesley Rankin) has refused to sell it. So if you have your heart set on purchasing this pearl, you might need to do some persuading.

Why It’s Expensive

The Big Pink Pearl is a unique find, as few natural pearls exhibit abalone hues of pink, green, and blue. This jewel is also more than 150 times heavier than the average pearl, which naturally makes it pricier.

5. La Peregrina Pearl – $11.8 million

La-Peregrina-Pearl
photo source: Pearl-Guide

Many of the world’s most expensive pearls have extensive histories that go back hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of years. This is true of the La Peregrina Pearl, which was once an heirloom belonging to Spanish and English royalty.

Nowadays, this pearl is associated with Hollywood royalty, having belonged to Elizabeth Taylor for more than 40 years. However, upon her death in 2011, the pearl was auctioned off, fetching $11 million.

Accounting for inflation, that would be almost $12 million today!

Why It’s Expensive

This large white drop pearl is expensive due to its historical significance and contemporary celebrity associations. However, it’s also larger than the average pearl, making it intrinsically more valuable.

4. Marie Antoinette’s Pearl Pendant – $36 Million

Marie-Antoinette's-Pearl-Pendant
photo source: Sotheby’s

Marie Antoinette’s opulent lifestyle came to a violent end when she was publically executed by guillotine in 1793. However, many of her most decadent belongings survived, including her remarkable pearl pendant.

This drop pearl is accentuated by glittering diamonds, affixed to metal to form a shape of a delicate bow. Initially valued at $2 million, this pendant sold for $36 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018.

Why It’s Expensive

There are quite a few reasons why Marie Antoinette’s pearl pendant is so costly. Firstly, it’s a sizeable drop pearl that’s far larger than the standard round pearl.

Secondly, this pearl is attached to a pendant that’s studded with multiple sizes of diamonds. These precious stones add thousands of dollars to the value of this pearl piece.

Lastly, this pendant once belonged to Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the French Revolution of the late 1700s. As such, it’s a historically significant pearl that cannot be reproduced or replaced.

3. Pearl of Lao Tzu – $93 Million

Pearl-of-Lao-Tzu
photo source: The Pearl Source

The Pearl of Lao Tzu is thought to be one of the oldest still-remaining cultured pearls (a pearl made via human intervention), a significant contributing factor to its high-value appraisals. It’s also quite heavy, purportedly weighing about 75 pounds.

No pearl has experienced such a range of valuations as the Pearl of Lao Tzu (also called the Pearl of Allah). In the late 1930s, this pearl was valued at $3.5 million. In the late 1960s, it was appraised at a much higher value, approximately $41 million.

The most recent appraisal (completed in 2007) valued this unique pearl at $93 million. However, some appraisers disagree with this valuation, believing the pearl to be worth much less. All-in-all, the Pearl of Lao Tzu is one of the most controversial pearls in human history.

Why It’s Expensive

The Pearl of Lao Tzu has captivated people since at least the 1930s, earning an international reputation for being one of the world’s largest pearls. However, its actual value is often debated. Still, this controversy makes the pearl a unique item that continues to attract buyers.

2. Beauty of Ocean Pearl – $138.7 million

Beauty-Of-Ocean-Pearl
photo source: Daily Mail

The Beauty Of Ocean Pearl isn’t a natural pearl. Instead, it’s a vast piece of fluorite shaved into a perfect sphere, resembling a jade-green pearl. Still, it’s technically the largest artificial pearl in the world.

It’s also uniquely reactive to light. Because this jewel is made of solid fluorite, it glows a bright green when placed beneath a black light.

This human-made pearl comes from Inner Mongolia, but its last known location is Hainan, China. Valued at £88 million in 2010, the Beauty of Ocean Pearl would now be worth $138.7 million.

Why It’s Expensive

Without a doubt, size is the primary reason this artificial pearl is so expensive. This fluorite jewel weighs about six tonnes and measures five feet tall, more than 1.6 million times larger than the average natural pearl.

1. Giga Pearl – $200 Million

The-Giga-Pearl
photo source: The Giga Pearl

The most expensive pearl in the world is the Giga Pearl. This pearl is the largest natural pearl in the world, dwarfing the previous title holder (The Pearl of Lao Tzu) by 21.25 kilograms (almost 47 pounds).

However, the precise origin of this pearl is murky, as it’s a family heirloom that was passed down through the generations.

This magnificent pearl somewhat resembles a gigantic tooth, with an oblong shape associated with blister pearls. Due to its incredible size, it’s theorized that the Giga Pearl came from a giant clam.

Still, this theory does have a few drawbacks. Firstly, the Giga Pearl is so large that it likely took about a millennium to finish forming. But giant clams have an estimated lifespan of 100 years.

The mystery surrounding this pearl, as well as its size, makes it an extremely desirable jewel. But with a potential value of up to $200 million, you’ll need a serious chunk of change to make this pearl yours.

Why It’s Expensive

The Giga Pearl’s jaw-dropping value stems from the fact that this pearl is the largest natural pearl in the world. This title makes an attractive acquisition, especially among the planet’s wealthiest investors.

Why Are Some Pearls So Expensive?

A low-quality or average-quality pearl might only cost about $300, but some cost millions. So, why do the prices for these jewels vary so much?

Generally, the value of any given pearl is determined by the following factors:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Luster
  • Form
  • Historical significance

Let’s examine these qualities to understand how they impact a pearl’s price. You can use this information to choose top-notch pearls to add to your collection!

Size

Like the world’s most expensive birthstones, the largest pearls are often the priciest. That’s because above-average size pearls are relatively rare.

Remember, natural pearls are formed when a tiny particle of sand or food is trapped within a mollusk (clams, oysters). The mollusk responds to the particle by coating it with minerals. Over time, these minerals accumulate to form a pearl.

Most natural pearls have a size maximum that’s limited to the size of the mollusk it comes from. As such, abnormally large pearls are exceptionally rare, making them more valuable than small or average-sized pearls.

However, size alone isn’t the only factor influencing a pearl’s value. Color can be just as important.

Color

White pearls might be the most well-known type of natural pearls, but pearls can come in every imaginable color, from gold to black.

Cultured pearls (pearls produced with human intervention) can be any color, but natural pearls are always white, cream, or gray.

Still, the costliest pearls tend to be white. They also tend to be incredibly shiny.

Luster

A pearl’s luster also impacts its value. Luster refers to how reflective a pearl is. The more mirror-like the pearl, the higher the luster.

Typically, the most lustrous pearls are the priciest. So, if you can see your full reflection in a pearl, you’re looking at one of the highest-value jewels in the world!

Form

Not all pearls are perfectly round. In fact, natural pearls tend to exhibit a wide range of shapes, most of which aren’t entirely symmetrical. Round pearls are typically the result of careful sanding and shaping, though some round pearls are organically formed.

Still, natural pearls can be:

  • Round
  • Near-round
  • Round baroque
  • Baroque
  • Drop
  • Button
  • Ringed

The most valuable shape is round, followed by near-round. But, of course, there are some exceptions to this rule.

For example, the world’s most expensive pearl, the Giga Pearl, isn’t perfectly round. Instead, it’s an oblong shape that defies standard pearl shape classifications.

Historical Significance

People have been transforming pearls into expensive jewelry items for thousands of years. Pearls that have survived the passing centuries tend to enjoy a higher value than those recently plucked from the ocean.

This is especially true of pearls that once belonged to significant historical figures. For example, the large pearl pendant that once belonged to Marie Antoinette sold at auction for an incredible $36 million in 2018.

While the size of the pearl (and the diamonds attached to the pendant) is partially responsible for its multi-million-dollar value, the fact that it belonged to one of the most infamous French historical figures also boosted prices.

What Is the Most Expensive Pearl?

The most expensive pearl in the world is the Giga Pearl, valued at between $60 million and $200 million. The family heirloom came to light in the 2010s and was immediately heralded as the largest natural pearl in the world.

Because this massive pearl is a beloved family heirloom, it’s unlikely that its current owners (the Reyes family) will be willing to part with it any time soon.

Would you like to learn more about the world’s most expensive natural items? If so, check out these related articles now!

Eric Lyons

Eric is a subject-matter expert on the world's most expensive luxuries and collectibles. He has explored thousands of luxuries and collectibles over the past few years and now brings them to readers around the world.

Recent Posts