Catherine had the Fresh water pearl displayed in the


Catherine had the Fresh water pearl displayed in the He […]

Catherine had the Fresh water pearl displayed in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg until 1796. In the turbulent years that followed her death, the pearl vanished and ultimately surfaced again in Poland.

The world’s largest freshwater pearl, a champagne colored globule called the “Sleeping Lion” was just sold at an auction for $374,000. Look at her. There she is. The most beautiful pearl in the world.

Time reports that the pearl once belonged to Catherine the Great, and sold for under market value—perhaps because it looks not like a pearl from the strand of pearls best paired with an apricot sweater set and an icy G&T, but like something otherworldly, un-dainty, and not of this earth.

“After Sander passed away, the pearl was auctioned off in Amsterdam in 1778 and acquired by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia,” the auction house had said.

Measuring 2.75 inches in length and weighing over 5.4 ounces, this pearl is a thicc specimen of nature’s kidney stones, and it is compelling, beautiful, ugly, and unsettling all at once. It is thought to have been formed in China between 1700 and 1760, and it is called the “Sleeping Lion” because I guess that is what it looks like—a headless lion, with little teeth in various crevices of its body, sleeping on its side like a cat.

Some more fun facts about this item, which I am now maybe in love with:

Around 1765, the pearl was shipped to Batavia, now known as Jakarta, by a Dutch merchant of the United East Indies Company. It was there that it came into ownership of the company’s accountant.