THE HOPE PEARL
One of the most stunning of gemstones is the extraordinary Hope Pearl.
Believed at the time to be the largest natural saltwater pearl ever discovered, the Hope Pearl was named after its owner Henry Philip Hope.
The Hope Pearl was one of Henry Philip Hope’s first acquisitions as he set about building his collection of gems and jewellery. The Hope Pearl was believed to have been sold to King Louis XIV in 1669, before being subsequently sold to Hope, around 1795. The pearl was included in a catalogue of his collection that was published by Bram Hertz in 1839, the year that Henry Philip Hope died.
Its exact origin is unknown, but it is likely, given the period when it was discovered, that the Hope Pearl was an ‘oriental’ pearl. It was perhaps found in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea or the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka, which were the traditional centres of the pearl fishing industry for over 4,000 years.
Weighing around 1,800 grains (or 450 carats), the Hope Pearl is a blister pearl. It is its size and cylindrical drop shape that makes this pearl so unusual. Measuring approximately two inches by four inches, and ranging in colour from greenish-gold on one end to white on the other, the Hope Pearl contributed significantly to an explosion of interest in baroque pearls and baroque pearl jewellery in the late 16th to 17th centuries.
Hope had the pearl mounted in a pendant setting in the shape of a crown, and featuring rubies and diamonds. Now in private ownership, the Hope Pearl has been exhibited internationally including the Natural History Museum in London and the Smithsonian in New York.
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