A Story of Love, Money and Beauty

The Strand of Pearls that Made History

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My original plan was to write about the difference between a natural pearl, freshwater pearls and cultured pearls. But while researching information on pearls, I came across a delicious story about a real estate deal, a Fifth Avenue Mansion and a double strand of pearls.

  Pierre Cartier bartered a natural pearl necklace for a mansion.

Pierre Cartier bartered a natural pearl necklace for a mansion.

The story goes that in 1917 Pierre Cartier wanted a more prestigious showroom for his New York City branch of the Cartier family jewelry business. He had been collecting rare round natural pearls for years, and had finally amassed enough for a graduated double strand pearl necklace. The necklace contained 127 flawless natural South Sea Pearls.The necklace was worth a million dollars.

Morton Plant, a 61 year old tycoon had married a much younger 31 year old Maisie. They lived in a mansion in the posh “Millionaire’s Row” on Fifth Avenue, near the Vanderbilts’ and Astors’.  Well, when Maisie saw that natural pearl necklace, she was charmed. Maisie always got what Maisie wanted, and this was no different.  Mr. Plant happily brokered a deal, his home for the necklace (plus $100).

As luck (or business sense) would have it, Pierre came out with the better deal. At Maisie’s death in 1957, the pearls sold at auction for $181,000, a fraction of their original million dollar price tag. This was due to development of mass produced cultured pearls just a few years after the original sale. The legendary pearl necklace has not been seen publicly since 1957. 

  The Mansion has housed Cartier Jewelry in New York City for over 100 years

The Mansion has housed Cartier Jewelry in New York City for over 100 years

The mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street in New York has housed the Cartier Jewelry American flagship store for over 100 years. It now has landmark status. The mansion, known today as the Cartier mansion, is priceless. Cartier jewelry is still recognized for its timeless elegance, amazing gemstones and excellent workmanship.

What a marvelous story! Next time I’ll teach you all about pearl value and the different kinds of pearls.