Pearl Jewelry Throughout History

Pearl Jewelry

Throughout history, pearls have been a symbol of beauty and high status. The natural rarity of pearls contributes to their worth and unique appeal. Although naturally occurring pearls are quite rare to find in modern society, there are a number of methods used to create and enhance a pearl in order to make these precious objects available to the masses to wear as jewelry or to adorn clothing. Deeply rooted in the depths of the oceans, pearls have mystified and intrigued humans for thousands of years and they continue to garner mass appeal today.

The historical origin of pearl jewelry goes back to ancient times when pearls were rare symbols of natural perfection. The reason it was so difficult to find these pears was due to the fact that divers had to scour the ocean floor in order to search for the perfect pearl from the mouths of mussels and oysters. The acquisition of these pearls was a far cry from the process we use today. In the year 206 BC, the Chinese were among the first to search for pearls. Royal subjects were among the lucky few to attain this most rare gem at the time. As a natural circle, pearls symbolized mystical forces in the universe and their display was said to bestow a certain power over the owner.
Since the beginning of pearl cultivation these beautiful gems have been used for a variety of jewelry adornments. In addition to placing pearls on royal crows and the clothing fashion of royal subjects, pearls have always been a focal point in a beautiful piece of jewelry. The Incas and the Aztecs prized pearls for their magical powers, and displayed them prominently in beautiful necklaces. Pearls have also been made into rings, earrings, and brooches. In most cases, the larger the pearl- the more valuable it is. In addition to its size, the luster, the color and the shape of the pearl contribute to its worth.

During the middle ages pearls were prominently featured among the noble class as a symbol of a person”s high class and stature. It is fascinating to take note of pearl adornments in famous paintings; as they can illustrate the fashion and the status of the woman who is the subject of the painting. One of the most famous paintings with a subject wearing a pearl accessory is Johannes Vermeer”s Girl With a Pearl Earring. Painted in 1665, this portrait has captivated the attention of millions of artists and lovers of fine art alike. The teardrop earring gracing the jaw line of the subject is an alluring detail that critics have discussed for hundreds of years. There are also many other portraits from this time period that depict noblemen and women draped in pearls. With a single strand of pearls, a choker made of overlaying strings, a set of earrings, or even a pearl pendant, the English high society was quite fond of displaying their status with a pearlescent glow.

Another fascinating historical fact about pearls is their presence in biblical references. Due to the fact that pearls are naturally occurring, they have been around for thousands upon thousands of years and owning them is simply a matter of finding these hidden gems and knowing that they exist. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of heaven as “a pearl of great price.” The Qur”an also makes reference to a heavenly place adorned with pearls. The Hebrew bible takes a different approach to the pearl nod, with possible references to Onyx pearls. Although the translations for these references are disputed among Hebrew scholars it is most probable that the writings refer to pearls.

Due to the combination of beauty and scarce natural occurrence, the pearl has historically been cherished and prized. The reason it is so common to find pearls in modern society is due to new and improved methods of pearl production. Unlike the ancient Chinese methods, current pearl farming is done in a highly systematic and accurate fashion. Pearls still grow in the water- but customers now have the option of buying saltwater or freshwater pearls. Although saltwater pearls are incredibly rare, freshwater cultures offer a less expensive and more accessible range of styles and price.