Officially the world’s oldest jewel, pearls are revered since long before written history. Because of this, their discovery cannot be credited to a single individual in particular, but it’s believed that they had been detected by people. We know that they’ve been employed for millennia thanks to a fragment of pearl jewellery found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess that dates back as a form of adornment.
Pearl Rings were presented as presents to Oriental infantry as early as 2300 BC, while at early Rome, pearl jewellery was regarded as that the ultimate status symbol. So prized were the spherical gems that in the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar passed the ruling classes a law.
The abundance of natural oyster beds from the Persian Gulf meant that pearls also carried great importance in Arab cultures, where legend said that pearls were formed from dewdrops that were swallowed by oysters when they dropped to the sea. Prior to the advent of cultured pearls, the Persian Gulf was at the centre of the pearl trade and it had been a source of prosperity in the region. Much of the pearls used in rings today are cultured.
With this kind of a long and ancient history, it’s no question that, as time passes, the pearl turned into shrouded in myth and legend. In early China, while, at the Dark Ages, knights frequently wore pearls on the battle, believing that the diamonds could keep them 39, pearl jewelry has been said to symbolise the innocence of the wearer. According to legend, Cleopatra crushed a pearl into a glass of wine to prove to Marc Antony that she would give the dinner in history.
Pearls are an important trade commodity since Roman times, along with the discovery of pearls at Central and South America in the 15th and 16th century resulted in the so called Pearl Age. In which ladies of royalty and nobility wore earrings, fancy pearl necklaces, pearl bracelets and brooches, by the 19th century, need for pearl jewelry became so large that oyster supplies started to dwindle.
Unlike diamonds which are mined in the earth, a living organism produces a pearl and, in fact, their very presence is a freak of nature. A bead is formed when an irritant, such as a parasite or piece of shell, which becomes inadvertently lodged in an oyster’s soft inner body, making it to secrete a crystalline substance called nacre, which builds up around the dermis in layers until a bead is formed. Cultured pearls are formed through precisely the process being that the irritant is implanted rather.
Until the start of the 20th century, the sole means of collecting pearls was through divers risking their own lives at depths of up to 100ft to recover the bead. It was a pursuit and one that carried likelihood of succeeding as only three or four standard pearls could toss up. Molluscs living in shallow rivers and ponds were more easy to collect, but these decoration beds were earmarked for harvesting by royalty.
Nowadays, natural pearls are among the rarest of gems and their nearly entirely depleted supply usually means they are located very rarely only from the seas off Bahrain and Australia. The lack of natural pearls is reflected at the prices they bring at auction, using pearls and classic pearl necklaces selling for amounts. A set of natural pearl earrings – abandoned – Which belonged to Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte – place a new world record if they sold for US$3.3 million at Doyle New York.
Intense bidding wars have also erupted over high-quality natural pearl bracelets with the winning bids running to a few million dollars. Unlike the shatterproof diamond, pure pearls’ creation depends upon steady temperatures, both of which have been thrown into disarray by pollution and global warming and seas. Just about all pearl jewellery on the market now is made with pearls that were cultivated and farmed.
The debut of pearls in the early 1900s turned into the entire pearl industry and caused the value of pearls to plummet. From 1935, there were 350 trophy farms in Japan, making 10 million cultured diamonds per calendar year, though Mikimoto needed to shield himself from accusations that his pearls weren’t “real”. The contrary was spoken to by the scientific evidence; the pearls had the same properties as those formed in heavy sea beds, so the sole real difference was they had in getting the natural process started a helping hand.
Mikimoto’s Akoya pearls are still used now by the jewelry house that bears his name and are renowned for their brilliant lustre and rich colours, which vary from white, pink and cream, to dyed pink.
Pearls are available, or cultivated, in freshwater or saltwater and there are several diverse kinds of pearls depending on what mollusc they originate from. Cultured freshwater pearls have been made in China and, due to their prosperity, they’re less expensive than their saltwater cousins. Saltwater pearls include Tahitian pearls, which arise in Tahiti and other islands in addition to the above Akoya. The latter is the biggest of all of the pearl kinds and include cream, white or golden hues with dimensions. A Tahitian pearl is also referred to as a dark pearl, but its colour spectrum also has gray, blue, green and purple.
Coloured pearls have been popular with both men and women as far back as the 17th century as well as in the last few years, these dim wonders of the sea have witnessed a resurrection, using a new generation of fashion-conscious consumers embracing jewellery featuring coloured pearls as a edgier alternative to the conventional white pearl necklace.
“Baroque” is a term employed to pearls that are non-symmetrical, and such irregular shapes are somewhat more common in freshwater pearls. While perfectly round pearls have traditionally been the most coveted South Sea or Tahitian pearls are utilized in distinctive, modern jewellery to excellent effect.
Only speaking, oysters merely produce pearls, but a few jewels that are created in different molluscs also qualify with this particular moniker. Included in these are incredibly infrequent, Melo Melo pearls and oval-shaped conch pearls. Means of a substance composed mainly of calcite forms all these pearls, and their beauty is no less spectacular, while they lack the iridescence of pearls.
Ranging in color from yellow to coral red, with gentle pink being the hottest color, conch pearls cannot be cultivated and are only located in one in every 10,000 Queen conch molluscs. As a result, conch pearls are beneficial and a pea-sized stone may bring up to US$120,000. Mikimoto recently launched a selection of conch pearl jewellery, and the pink pearls have also been integrated into stones by the likes of Boucheron jewelry and Tiffany & Co..
Also incredibly beautiful and sought after are abalone pearls, which are one of the rarest in the world since they’re not cultured and simply discovered by chance in rocky, coastal waters.
Pearl necklaces in the form of strands that were simple represented the fashion for streamlined designs. These bracelets that are long would often measure more than 30 inches and be decorated with a tassel as a pendant. “A lady needs ropes and ropes of pearls,” announced Coco Chanel, who was seldom seen without a heap of pearls casually worn around her throat. Society women were shocked by her by mixing the real thing and teaming her earrings. Largely because of her acceptance, costume jewellery became popular and many women wore imitation pearl jewellery made out of glass or Lucite.
Inspired by Mademoiselle’s passion for the stone, in 2014 Chanel established a top jewellery collection dedicated to the timeless pearl. The Perles Swing set, composed of earrings, necklace and a pearl necklace, is a straightforward but tasteful mixture of South Sea, Tahitian and freshwater cultured pearls.
Jackie Kennedy is another pearl-wearing celebrity whose signature triple strand pearl necklace actually consisted of fake gems made from glass rather than the real deal. Audrey Hepburn’s name is synonymous with pearls, be it a necklace or a set of pearl earrings accentuating her gamine features.
Somewhere around the 1980s pearls acquired a reputation as the help of older ladies in twinsets using blue-rinse hairdos. Now the tide is turning and pearls are once more back in favour with all the fashionable set. Quite a few top jewellery houses prominently feature pearls inside their jewelry collections that are high and advanced designers such as Kova are also incorporating into jewellery designs them.
Like diamonds, the quality of a pearl is set by many criteria for the size, shape, colour and lustre. As this determines not only the pearl’s lustre but also how long it will last an important element is that the thickness of the nacre. Unlike the more robust diamond, pearls expect a little bit of TLC to make certain they stay looking pristine. Pearl should be kept separately to ensure the harder rock doesn’t scratch their surface. We would recommend placing pearl stones into a fabric bag before placing them in the jewelry box. Acidic elements such as even sweat and perfume can dull the lustre of a pearl, so never spray scent right onto them and wipe the pearls. In the case of pearl necklaces, it’s a good idea every five years to take them to check whether they want re-stringing.
Traditionally, the pearls were celebrated for their uniformity in size and colour but now it seems the more avant-garde, the more better. Watches in vibrant colours and unusual shapes are being incorporated into unique jewels by jewellers famous for their creativity, like Boghossian and Hemmerle, although YOKO London offers an incredibly wide palette of colored pearls so vibrant it’s hard to think they were shaped naturally – far removed from the classic discreet white pearl studs gracing the ear lobes of women who lunch.