Many thousands of years ago, long before written history, early man probably discovered the first pearl while searching the seashore for food.
Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence, has been one of the most highly prized and sought after gems. Countless references to the pearl can be found in religions and mythology of many cultures from the earliest times.
The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them. Reportedly, Cleopatra dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win a wager with Marc Antony that she could consume the wealth of an entire country in just one meal.
In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. The Greeks held the pearl in high esteem for both its unrivaled beauty and its associating with love and marriage.
During the Dark Ages, while fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces, gallant knights often wore pearls onto the battlefield. They believed that the magic possessed by the lustrous gems would protect them from harm.
The Renaissance saw the royal courts of Europe awash in pearls. Since pearls were so highly regarded, a number of European countries passed laws forbidding the wearing of pearls by others outside of the nobility.
During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe. Unfortunately, greed and lust for the sea grown gems resulted in the depletion of virtually all the American pearl oyster populations of the 17th Century.
Until the early 1900’s, natural pearls were accessible to only the rich and famous. In 1916, famed French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on New York’s famous Fifth Avenue by trading two pearl necklaces for the valuable property.
Today, with the advent of pearl cultivation, pearls are affordable and available to all. Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls and are grown by live oysters. The only difference is a little bit of encouragement by man.
The above information was supplied courtesy of the Jewelry Information Center: www.jic.org.