Iridescent pearls have a legendary history.

The old Pearl Trade was largely connected to the natural oyster beds found in the Persian Gulf and fragmented pearl jewelry belonging to a Persian princess can now be found in the Louvre. It is said that Cleopatra even crushed a pearl into a glass of wine to win a bet against Marc Antony that she could host the most expensive dinner party of all history. Given as gifts to the ancient Chinese royalty, these iridescent stones were also a status symbol in ancient Rome. Pearls were reserved for the ruling classes; in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar even declared it so! Even in the Dark Ages, pearls were a precious stone worn by knights into battles for safety and protection. Apart from protection, this dreamy gem is often also associated with purity, wisdom, and integrity.

These timeless stones have long been icons of sophistication including “pearl fan members” Coco Chanel and Jackie Kennedy. Nothing says class like the beautiful pearl.

Pearl Creation and History

A large part of the value of a pearl comes from its origins; natural pearls are very rare and hard to come by! A pearl is formed when a small irritant slips into a mollusk’s “mouth.” In an effort to get rid of or soften the sharpness of a grain of sand, for example, the oyster begins to cover the irritant in layer after layer of nacre. Over time, these layers form the lustrous gem we call the pearl. For a long time, divers had to risk their lives at depths up to 100 feet to find more oysters, only to discover that among a ton of oysters, there were only three or four pearls to be harvested. When more oyster beds were discovered in Central and South America, demand increased and the Pearl Age began around the 15th and 16th century. However, demand grew so high that by the 19th century, supplies of natural pearls were greatly depleted.  In 1893, Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Komichi devised a way to develop “cultured” pearls by slipping a small irritant into a mollusk’s mouth instead of waiting for it to perhaps happen by chance. With only a slight modification to the process, the properties of the precious pearl remain the exact same!

Natural pearls are still among the rarest of gems – they can be found almost exclusively among the practically depleted seas of Bahrain and Australia. Cultured pearls are a bit easier to come by, and still just as beautiful and mysterious. True natural pearls come from oysters, but there are many types of pearls today that come from different mollusks and can be found in many unique colors! Ranging from light pink to brilliant white to deep blues, pearls remain as timeless and legendary as ever.

Pearls are soft and very vulnerable gems; if you own any pearl jewelry, it is best to store it gently and separately to avoid any scratches from other gems, especially diamonds. Pearls are best kept dry as they are very sensitive to chemicals, hairspray, perfumes, and even makeup. Try wiping them off softly after wearing to remove any oil or dirt. Professionals advise taking your pearls in to a jeweler at least every five years for a “check up” and to restring them as necessary.

Looking for the dreamiest gift? You can’t go wrong with the classic pearl! Browse Joslin’s wide selection or submit a request for a custom design! Contact Joslin’s today for more information or to schedule a check-up.