Known as the queens of gems and beauties of the oceans, pearls have been fascinating us with their iridescent glow for millennia. As the only gems that are made by living organisms, pearls are highly versatile and sophisticated (you can find a variety of pearls on https://www.pearlsonly.co.uk/ website). Each civilization attributed them various meanings. Greeks saw them as a symbol of love and marriage, while for English royalty they stood for power and wealth. Until a hundred years ago a necklace of natural pearls could cost an arm and a leg. Nowadays, we no longer see pearls as a luxury, but as an affordable piece of jewelry that can complement any outfit.
We’ve been wearing pearls for 6 millennia
Recent evidence has showed that six thousand years ago people who lived around the Persian Gulf used to be buried with a pearl in their right hand. We’ll never know for sure how the first pearls were discovered and most importantly how they made their way into our jewelry. The best guess is that an ancient Indian tribe who lived mostly off fish discovered pearls when opening oysters. The high lustered gems couldn’t have gone unnoticed, which might’ve prompted our ancient ancestors to start adorning their necks and wrists with the gems.
Roman Empresses loved pearls
It appears that one of the first cultures to appreciate pearls were the Ancient Middle Easterners. In 100 B.C., pearl jewelry had spread from Persia to the Roman Empire. Some historians even argue that one of the reasons that drove Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. to invade Britain was to get hold of their freshwater pearls. Back then, Roman women liked to wear pearls set in gold next to big emeralds.
Europe’s favorite jewel
Exploration of America brought a new wave of pearls into Europe at the beginning of the sixtieth century. Pearls became a symbol of power and opulence. The upper class draped itself in ropes of pearls which brought an instant boost of sophistication to their dresses. Baroque and other irregular pearl shapes were considered divine. Some countries passed a law that stated only nobility and royalty had the right to wear pearls.
Pearls remain a favorite in the 18th century
European royalty never grew tired of pearls,not even in the seventeenth century when the new techniques for handling gemstones made diamonds more popular. Pearls continued to adorn crowns, brooches, dresses and earrings. They still stood for wealth and elegance. When a new bed of pearl was discovered in the 1800s in the Pacific, pearls became even more popular and even more widespread.
The roaring twenties
Among fringes, flapper dresses, feather hairpieces and small clutches, pearls looked amazing during the American roaring twenties. Coco Chanel promoted them even more when she started wearing ropes of pearls around her neck. By this time, cultured pearls had revolutionized the market and the gems were no longer a luxury item, reserved only for the richest.
With a wide selection of colors, sizes and shapes, the sky’s the limit when we’re talking about pearl jewelry. Epitomized as symbols of utmost sophistication and timeless elegance by Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Princess Diana, pearls have stood the test of time and proved everyone that they will never go out of fashion. Contemporary designers adopted a bold approach, incorporating pearls in edgy jewelry and smashing down conventions. Pearls are no longer demure or only for special occasions. They can easily be dressed down or dressed up to suit any outfit.