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Home > Cultured Pearls Guide > History of Pearls

History of Pearls

Pearls as Symbols

Pearls have fascinated us for centuries! Pearls have been used as the symbols of the moon, magic, feminity, modesty and purity. Interestingly, the pearl is the only gem that is created by a living organism. The smooth lustrous round structure inside the shell of a clam or oyster is also the birthstone for June, as well as the anniversary gem for the Third and Thirtieth Wedding Anniversaries. The pearl symbolizes a happy marriage as many ceremonies and traditions give it special relevance. With so much revolving around the radiant pearl, it also has an interesting and fascinating history.

Ancient Pearls

These jewels are one of the oldest known to man, with the oldest surviving pearl necklace dating back to over 2000 years in 520 BC. Discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian Princess, it today lies in the Louvre in Paris.

In ancient times it was a declaration of wealth and power and often adorned to bring good fortune, ward away evil and to cure illnesses. In the civilized Middle East and Asian societies pearls were worn as early as 3500 BC., and continued to grow in popularity during Roman times. In classical Rome, only persons above a certain rank were allowed to wear pearl necklaces, pearl pendants, pearl earrings, pearl bracelets and other pieces of pearl jewelry. The Latin word for “pearl” literally means "unique", attesting to the fact that no two pearls are identical. These found a place in Julius Caesar's heart, and Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love to Marc Antonius. The popularity of this gem grew in the Christian era too. Even the bible refers to pearls and their value at several instances.

Pearls Becomes Popular

Soon in the early 1700s a decline was noted in the demand for pearls. This occurred due to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil. Also pearl supplies from traditional sources became unsteady, and cheap imitations appeared on the markets. In the early 1900s, trade was affected by a supply shortage and soon cultured pearls appeared on the market to bridge the demand-supply gap. These were not accepted immediately, and it took several years for consumers and the industry to accept this new kind of pearl.

Cultured Pearls

Cultured pearls are quite different than natural ones. In the history of cultured pearls, the name of Kokichi Mikimoto holds relevance, as in the late 1800s, this one man began to experiment with pearl cultivation. After 12 years of painstaking work and many failures, the first perfectly round pearl was prepared in 1905. While these began being cultured from saltwater pearls in Japan in 1910, they gained popularity in Japan only after they began to be cultured for export in the late 1920s. The world soon realized the origin and importance of cultured pearls and by the 1950s they gained popularity.

Such is the history of this magical pearl. Radiant, pure and glowing, it emanates much about the one who wears it. Read more on how to buy pearls or simply check out our pearl jewelry.

 

 
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