New World Pearls are created by of two indigenous (to the Pacific coasts of America: from Mexico to Peru) Pearl Oyster species: the "Panamic Black-Lipped Pearl Oyster" (Pinctada mazatlanica) and the "Rainbow-Lipped Pearl Oyster" (Pteria sterna). Both organisms are quite able of producing pearls in a wide array of colors: from an opalescent white, golden-bronze, grays, greens and blues, pinkish-violet, and all the way to jet black. Some Pearl Specialists (like C. Denis George -Australian- and Sohei Shirai -Japanese-) consider Mexican pearls to be Superior than other varieties of pearls, due in no small part to their beautiful luster and unique overtones/orient.
Pearls were the New World's biggest export until the full development of gold and silver mines in Mexico and Peru. As a matter of fact, the value of the pearls exported from Mexico to Spain exceeded that of all other exports combined. For this reason, in Europe, the Americas became known as "the lands where pearls come hither". One of the most famous pearls found in these lands was "La Peregrina" ("The Wanderer). Particularly noted for its beauty and dark-gray color, "La Peregrina" has the size and shape of a pigeon's egg. Former owners have been Queen Isabel de Valois (wife to King Phillip II of Spain, from 1527 to 1598); Mary Tudor (1516-1558) of England, Queen Mary I (1553-1558) and Napoleon III (1808-1873). American actress Elizabeth Taylor is the actual owner of "La Peregrina" since the Sixties (a gift from her husband, Richard Burton). A more detailed account of some of the most famous pearls in the world can be found here (you will notice that most have an American origin).
By the XVI Century, the "black pearls" of the Gulf of California had earned the title of "Queen of Gems, Gem of Queens", since so many of them adorned the crowns of European Kings and Queens, as well as their clothing, necks, hands and ears. At that time, the city of La Paz, in Lower California, became the black pearl center of the world...