Smithsonian Unveils Allure of Pearls Exhibit

It's called La Peregrina, The Wanderer, The Pilgrim. It is, by all accounts, the largest, finest example of a teardrop-shape natural pearl in the world. And it once was dog food. Now it's on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in an exhibit called The Allure of Pearls. Native Central Americans were harvesting pearls centuries before the Europeans arrived. And when they did arrive, Spanish conquistadors and explorers like Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (1475–1519) brought pearls back to Europe. One of those pearls, a treasure for Spain, was La Peregrina. Some trace its discovery by a slave in the Gulf of Panama to the early 1500s. It weighs 50.96 cts. and is described as a perfectly symmetrical drop-shape natural pearl. La Peregrina wandered among European royalty from Phillip II of Spain (1527–1598) through Emperor Napoleon III of France (1808–1873). It shows

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