On 13 December, a pear-shaped white pearl sold for a record $11.84 million at the “Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” auction at Christie’s in New York. Suspended from a Cartier necklace, the pearl had been estimated to sell for $2-3 million, but the figure shot up in fierce bidding, reaching the highest price for any pearl jewellery ever sold at auction.

The rare 50.6 carat pearl is known as La Peregrina, and it was discovered off the Gulf of Panama in the 1500s. It is believed to have once belonged to King Philip II of Spain and later to Spanish queens Margaret and Elizabeth. The latter wore it when Velasquez painted her 17th-century portrait. The treasure went into French hands in the 19th century when Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, briefly ruled Spain.

The Hollywood legend was renowned for her love of diamonds and emeralds and received many as gifts from her twice husband Richard Burton. It was Burton who bought her La Peregrina for $37,000 at auction, outbidding a member of the Spanish royal family. The star of Cleopatra died in Los Angeles in March at the age of 79, and part of the proceeds of the auction will go to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which she established in 1991.