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Antique Pearl Jewelry that YOU Could Own

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  • Antique Pearl Jewelry that YOU Could Own

    Antique Jewelry Collector Paul Royse will be contributing a series of articles on learning about and acquiring antique pearl jewelry. This introduction is the first installment.

    Antique Pearl Jewelry that YOU Could Own
    Paul Royse

    Introduction

    Pearls are unique among the precious gemstones. They arrive from nature already perfectly formed, and display their amazing beauty without the need for any further faceting, polishing, or preparation.

    The natural beauty and perfection of pearls led to their adoption as a metaphor for heaven. In the Bible the kingdom of heaven is compared to a "pearl of great price", and in Chinese mythology heavenly dragons pursue the celestial pearl, while in western popular culture Saint Peter still guards the pearly gates.

    Few items of pearl jewelry have survived from antiquity. However from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance we see fabulous pearl jewelry depicted in portraits of great rulers, who are often wearing garments covered in pearls.

    These pearls were not only displays of wealth and grandeur, they were also visible reminders of royalties' divine rights, confirmed by their heavenly coatings of pearls.

    Click image for larger version

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    Feodor III of Russia circa 1676 and Queen Elizabeth I of England circa 1588

    It wasn't until the 18th Century that pearls moved from the province of grand crown jewels and the property of nobility, and were used in commonplace items of personal jewelry that can still appear in estate sales and inheritances.

    Starting in the 18th Century, this series will briefly survey the more accessible pieces of antique pearl jewelry that YOU could own, without having to pay heavenly bills for the privilege.

    Photographs courtesy of Wikipedia.

    To see the next installment, click here.
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