Long known as the "Queen of Gems", pearls have been revered for centuries, and have an allure far beyond what today's wearers recognize. Find out about the world's oldest and most precious gem.
Since the beginning of time, pearls have been revered as one of the world's most beautiful and magical gems. They were first discovered along the seashore by people searching for food. They have been worn as adornments for millennia and were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BC. Throughout history, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence, the pearl has been one of the most highly prized and sought-after gems. Countless references to the pearl can be found in the religions and mythology of cultures from the earliest times.
The ancient Egyptians treasured pearls so much they were buried with them. Pearl jewelry was the ultimate status symbol in ancient Rome. So precious that Julius Caesar, in the 1st century BC, passed a law forbidding anyone but royality to wear them. During the dark ages, gallant knights often wore pearls into battle. They believed the magic of these lustrous gems would keep them from harm.
In biblical times, the Parable of the Pearl (also called the Pearl of Great Price) is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in Matthew 13:45-46 and illustrates the great value of the Kingdom of Heaven. And the pearl was such a prized treasure that Matthew 7:6 says do not throw your pearls before pigs.
While pearls are now available to the masses, these gems were once the most expensive jewelry in the world. Pearls were such a desired trade commodity in Romans times, it led to a so-called Pearl Age. Ladies of nobility and royalty wore elaborate pearl necklaces, earrings, pearl bracelets and brooches; Elizabeth I, the queen of England was so obsessed with these jewels of the sea, she literally showered herself in pearls.
Women wore them in their hair, men and women's clothing even had pearl buttons - pearls were everywhere in unbelievable quantities. By the 19th century, demand for pearl jewelry was so high that oyster supplies began to diminish. In 1916, Jacques Cartier, a famed French jeweler bought his landmark store on Fifth Avenue in New York, by trading two pearl necklaces for the invaluable, prized property.
Today, with the arrival of pearl cultivation, pearls are available and affordable to all.
Pearl jewelry continues to be immensely popular as ever and available in a range of timeless, modern and vintage styles to suit every taste and budget. No longer is it confined to the wardrobes of royalty and Hollywood celebrities. A classic pearl necklace or a pair of earrings is something that almost every woman wears regularly.
How Is A Pearl Formed?
The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous occurrence. Unlike precious metals or gemstones that are formed by geological processes in the rocks of the earth's crust, pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea. Gemstones must be cut and polished to obtain their brilliance, but pearls have their own natural beauty, so they need no such treatment. They are born from oysters complete with a shimmering lumiinosity, and a soft inner glow unlike any other gem on earth.
A pearl is formed when an irritant, usually a parasite such as a piece of food, slips in-between one of the two shells of the oyster, causing it to secrete a crystalline substance called nacre. Nacre builds up around the irritant in layers until a pearl is formed. Cultured (freshwater) pearls are formed the same way. The only difference is, the pearl farmer embeds an irritant into the mollusk, instead of it slipping in by chance.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the only way divers could collect pearls was by risking their lives at depths of up to 100ft to retrieve the pearl oysters. The pursuit was dangerous and carried limited success as tons of oysters would throw up only three or four quality pearls. Freshwater pearl oysters living in shallow rivers and streams were easier to gather, but these pearl farms were primarily reserved for royalty harvesting.
The Birth Of Pearl Powder
Cleopatra VII Philopator, prized pearl jewelry above all others. In (69 B.C. - 30 B.C.) she made a bet with her lover, the Roman leader Marc Antony that she could spend 10 million sesterces (a fortune) on a single meal. She crushed one large pearl from a pair of earrings and dissolved it in a goblet of wine. Cleopatra won the wager after gulping down the cocktail made with a dissolved pearl. She also bathed in milk, honey and Pearl Powder.
Empress Dowage Cix controlled the Chinese government in the late Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) and, was an avid fan of Pearl Powder. She not only used Pearl powder on her face, but ingested it daily. Obsessed with looking beautiful, she set up a medical department to research skincare treatments. Out of her research she discovered that pearl powder stood out above the rest, as one of the most effective anti-aging treatments. Empress Cixi maintained a strict regimen by applying a face powder, made up of pearls and skin cream, to her face every morning. Pearl Powder is a key ingredient to her many reputed secret beauty recipes.
Visual artistes in the China Tang Dynasty when applying stage makeup used Pearl Powder to beautify and protect their skin. And Wu Ze Tian also used Pearl Powder internally and externally and her skin was said to be as beautiful and radiant as younger woman.
Royal inhabitants of the Chinese Imperial Palace swore by the miraculous regenerating effects of pearl powder, which they used for healing, wrinkles, and skin brightening.
Today they are brought to us in powder form, produced by precision grinding nanotechnology. Pearls have been known for their healing properties for centuries, particularly in traditional Asian medical systems. There have been many legends and folktales passed down through the centeries, about this precious gem of the sea, and some are really far fetched. But, they do symbolize just how important these gems were to ancient civilizations.
And they are just as important to us today. These precious gems of the sea ARE definitely ALL that they are cracked up to be, and today's research, science, studies, health and beauty enthusiasts has validated that all claims of pearl powder's healing and beauty accessments are true. These little finely milled jewels can literally heal the body and restore the skin to a youthful appearance.
From their iridescent shimmer to their adaptogenetic abilities, these miracles of the sea have become a must-have in cosmetics and for medicinal uses.