Unconfigured Ad Widget



No announcement yet.

The History of Pearls


  • The History of Pearls

    The 4000 Year History of Pearls

    Pearls have been prized and collected for more than four thousand years, giving them the title of the world's oldest gem.

    The Early History of Pearls

    Pearls have long been treasured and highly valued in many cultures throughout history. As far back as 2,300 BC, Chinese records indicate that pearls were the prized possessions of (and gifts to) royalty. In India, ancient Hindu texts repeatedly refer to pearls, stating in one place that the god Krishna discovered the first pearl. In ancient Egypt, mother-of-pearl was used for decorative purposes as far back as 4,000 BC, although the use of actual pearls did not come until much later -perhaps the 5th century BCE.

    Pearls in Roman History

    In ancient Rome, pearls were a highly prized accessory, and worn as a symbol of wealth and prestige. They were such a status symbol, that an effort was actually made to prohibit the wearing of pearls by those not deserving of them. The most celebrated incident in Roman history involving pearls has to do with a banquet given by Cleopatra, the last Egyptian queen, for the Roman leader Marc Antony. The banquet was described by Roman historian Pliny the Elder in his book, Natural History. Although some current historians dispute the details and significance of the banquet, there is general agreement that the incident described did indeed take place.
    Marc Anthony and Cleopatra digesting the most expensive dinner ever

    The essence of the story is that Cleopatra wagered Antony that she could give the most expensive meal ever provided. When the only thing placed in front of her was a vessel of sour wine (i.e., vinegar), Antony wondered how she would be able to win the bet. Whereupon Cleopatra removed one of her pearl earrings -said by Pliny to have been worth 10 million sesterces, the equivalent of thousands of pounds of gold -and dropped it into the vinegar. The pearl dissolved in the mild acidic solution, and Cleopatra drank it down, winning her wager.

    Note: Some state that she had the pearl crushed with a mortar and then the powdered material was added to her cup of wine.

    Here is an interesting video about an experiment done to understand this very particular "feast":

    Pearls in Greek History

    The ancient Greeks also highly valued pearls, using them especially at weddings, where they were said to bring love. With many natural oyster beds lying along the Persian Gulf, the Arab cultures also placed a high value on pearls, which are described in the Koran as one of the greatest treasures provided in Paradise.

    Pearls in Modern History

    In the Western Hemisphere, Native Americans also valued the freshwater pearls they had discovered and harvested from lakes and rivers. The story is told of a Native American princess, who presented Hernando de Soto with gifts of animal skins, cloth, copper, and freshwater pearls. Colonizers from Spain, France and England all found native tribes using pearls as jewelry and for trade. Indeed, once the colonial powers discovered the sheer volume of pearls available in America's rivers, pearls became one of the chief products sent from the colonies back to Europe.

    Along with freshwater pearls from North American rivers, saltwater pearls were harvested from the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central and South America. All these pearl supplies began to dry up during the 19th century, however, because of overfishing and pollution caused by industrialization.

    The History of Pearls in North America

    In addition to the pearls themselves, American mother-of-pearl also became a major export, both from the North American colonies and, later, from the United States. A primary use of mother-of-pearl was to make shiny, iridescent clothing buttons, of which billions were exported all over the world (mainly from Iowa). This lasted all the way through the mid-20th century when the invention of plastic quickly replaced mother-of-pearl for this use. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the history of pearls reached a major turning point.

    At that time, several Japanese researchers had independently discovered the techniques that could be used to cause oysters to create pearls essentially "on demand." The man who finally combined the various technical processes with business acumen and worldwide marketing expertise, was Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a restaurateur. Today, Mikimoto is credited with single-handedly having created the worldwide cultured pearl industry.

    The Effect of Pearl Culturing on Modern Pearls

    The effect on the pearl industry of the discovery of pearl culturing, combined with Mikimoto's marketing enthusiasm, cannot be understated. During a span of less than 50 years at the beginning of the 20th century, thousands of years of pearl history were rewritten. Pearls -historically, the exclusive possessions of royalty and aristocracy -became available to anyone on the planet.

    Rather than pearl divers hunting, often in vain, for the elusive, naturally formed pearls, pearl farmers could now cultivate thousands upon thousands of pearls in the same way as a wheat or corn farmer grows his own crop. And pearl lovers throughout the world would reap the benefits.

    Related Articles and Forum Threads:
    Last edited by CortezPearls; 06-10-2021, 12:00 AM. Reason: added video, photo and edited text
      Posting comments is disabled.





    There are no tags yet.

    Latest Articles


    • DIY Project: Make your very own Pearls in Half!
      by CortezPearls
      You have probably seen those photos of beautiful pearls that have been "cut in half" so you can see their inner structure, and you probably wondered how those are worked: are they sawed off? maybe a machete?

      Well, wonder no more! This little video explains in detail how you can make your very own, very nice...pearls in half.

      You will need:
      1. Sandpaper sheets, one of each: 60 (very rough), 80 (medium grit) and 220 (fine grit, also called "water
      10-26-2021, 07:30 PM
    • Pearls in the Web of Life - Part 2
      by CortezPearls
      In a sense, pearl oysters might be a “small ecosystem” of their own, a self-contained biome where a tug of war ensues and leads to eventual stability. But why does this happen? And does it hurt the mollusk? One of my Marine Biology teachers -Dr Fernando Manrique, a friend of Jacques Cousteau- once told us that the Ocean was teeming with Life, and that the hardest thing for many lifeforms to find was an “available apartment”, a place to settle and that would help them avoid being tossed...
      10-11-2021, 05:12 PM
    • Mabe Pearl Grading - 7) Dome Height
      by CortezPearls
      Part of the beauty of a Mabe pearl comes from its “dome” (height). When a Mabe pearl displays a low dome it most closely resembles a piece of mother-of-pearl shell than an actual pearl. Unfortunately, many Mabe pearls today are grown too flat, due to the intrinsic characteristic of the host shell: Pinctada shells are usually flatter than Pteria shells (the shells being much more concave) which does not allow for the use of tall implants, since these will touch the opposite shell and will cause the...
      08-23-2021, 11:20 PM
    • Mabe Pearl Grading - 6) Nacre Quality
      by CortezPearls
      The most important factor here is nacre thickness. Many Mabe are cultured for short periods of time (4 months) to obtain the most perfect shape, but at the expense of their nacre thickness and durability. On the other hand, there are producers that grown them for too long (over 12 months) and end up having pearls that have thick nacre, but their shapes are not standardized, and they may display one or more of the surface imperfections we discussed in the previous paragraph. There is usually a middle...
      08-23-2021, 03:47 PM
    • Grading Mabe Pearls -5) Surface Quality
      by CortezPearls
      As with other pearls, surface quality is an important attribute: the cleaner the surface is, the more desirable the Mabe is and more valuable too. The usual surface imperfections found in these are:

      • Missing Nacre: whitish, bite shaped marks.
      • Spots, pinpricks: dark or light-colored pin-prick markings.
      • Rippled surface: these are markings caused by the growth of the abductor muscle on top of the blister pearl. This marking causes the appearance of wavy...
      08-23-2021, 03:30 PM
    • Grading Mabe Pearls - 4) Mabe Luster
      by CortezPearls
      Mabe pearls are not very known for their great luster, although many of these pearls may display amazing luster. Mabe usually display a more silky or subdued luster, especially in the Pinctada species and is most shiny in the Pteria species…but luster is usually enhanced by means of a final polishing, done with a high-speed cloth-wheel and a polishing compound, although much care must be taken to avoid excessive polishing that leads to heat and may ultimately damage the pearls by “burning”...
      08-23-2021, 03:26 PM