Wear at Your Own Risk – Cursed Gemstones Throughout History Part 3

by Katherine Paulick

The Black Prince’s Ruby

Queen Victoria Wearing the Black Prince’s Ruby. Image source: Wikipedia

Prince Abu Sa’id of Granada could feel his power slipping away in fourteenth-century Spain.
Under attack by Don Pedro of Castile, who sought to reconquer Spain from the Moors, Sa’id’s
army was weakened. He knew he must negotiate his surrender. The two rulers planned to meet
in 1366 to discuss terms, but Don Pedro, nicknamed “Pedro the Cruel” for his penchant for
brutal murder, had no intention of peace.

Peter the Cruel

When Prince Sa’id arrived for negotiation, he and his party were ambushed by Don Pedro and
slaughtered in cold blood. Don Pedro was richly rewarded for his conquest (or so he thought)
with a massive red gemstone, he found while searching Sa’id’s slain body. He thought it to be a
ruby, though testing centuries later revealed it to be another red stone known as a spinel.

Don Pedro’s luck quickly took a turn for the worse as his brother, Henry of Trastámara, declared
war on Castile for the throne. Pedro enlisted help from the English King Edward III, who sent his
son Edward of Woodstock (known as “the Black Prince” for his brutality on the battlefield) to
help defeat Henry. Though they were victorious, Pedro had to relinquish the “ruby” as payment
to Edward, and just three years later, Henry murdered Pedro and assumed power anyway.

Edward the Black Prince

Though Edward the Black Prince was in line for the English throne, he would never rule, dying
from disease and leaving the gemstone to his son, Richard II. Richard also died prematurely, being murdered at age 21 by Lancastrian King Henry Bolingbroke IV.

Bolingbroke assumed the throne and the stone but died shortly after a slow illness. As death and disease
claimed king after king, people began to wonder if the stone was harboring a curse born from
the cruel murder of its original owner.

British Imperial State Crown. Image source: Wikipedia

Today the Black Prince’s Ruby is mounted in the Imperial State Crown and resides in the
Tower of London.

La Peregrina Pearl

In sixteenth-century Isla Margarita, legend has it an enslaved person stumbled upon something that would change his life: A giant natural pearl, pear-shaped, beautifully symmetrical, weighing 11.2 grams. In exchange for the pearl, the enslaved person was granted his freedom – potentially the best thing to happen to anyone as
a result of this storied gem.

Portrait of Queen Mary wearing La Peregrina by Antonis Mor, 1554

Though the history of the Peregrina Pearl is less bloody than our last stone, it, too, involves a trail
of heartbreak. La Peregrina first graced the neck of Queen Mary I of England as a wedding gift
from King Philip II of Spain. Mary was deeply in love with Philip, but the arrangement
was purely political for him. He never returned her affection, leaving her in England to pine for him as
he traveled abroad. Her sorrow imbued the pearl with a curse that would plague romantic lives
for centuries.

After her death, Philip presented the Pearl to Queen Elizabeth I, Mary’s half-sister. She
accepted it but rejected his proposal of marriage. Though she eventually returned the Pearl to
Spain, relations between the two countries deteriorated, coming to a head with the Spanish

The Pearl was worn by Spanish royalty for the next few centuries, potentially playing a part in
the murder of Spanish Queen Isabel’s lover, the poet Peralta. In 1813 it was stolen by Joseph
Bonaparte as he fled Spain following defeat in battle. His brother Napoleon owned it briefly
before selling it to an English duke, whose family eventually placed it for auction by Sotheby’s.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina

La Peregrina was purchased for $37,000 by Hollywood royalty Richard Burton, who bought it as
a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The couple had met on the movie set of
Cleopatra, while both married to other people, embarked on a highly public, scandalous, and
tumultuous relationship. A passionate yet destructive love marked by alcoholism and infidelity,
the pair couldn’t make the marriage work despite trying it twice – their second marriage ending in
another divorce just months later.

Elizabeth Taylor’s epic romantic life included seven husbands and eight divorces. Though the
Peregrina Pearl wasn’t the only cursed gem in her collection – the Krupp diamond is also
rumored to cause misfortune – Taylor dismissed any allegations that her jewels were the cause
of her sorrows.

Whether curse or coincidence, legends of unlucky gemstones have persisted throughout history.
Perhaps their power lies simply in the lengths humans will go to attain them – but perhaps,
under their hypnotizing beauty, they hold dark and mysterious forces beyond our

Don’t forget to read the other three parts of the Cursed Series for more intriguing stories about these enigmatic gemstones.

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