Pearls have been beloved in both classic and modern times because of their deep and lustrous beauty. Unlike most gemstones dug from the earth, pearls come from the sea. Also, unlike their earthy gemstone counterparts, they also don’t need to be specially polished or cut.

But how long exactly has pearl jewelry been around, and what does the pearl symbolize today? We take a closer look into the fascinating world of the history and symbolism of pearl jewelry in today’s blog post. 

The History of Pearl Jewelry

Pearl jewelry dates back to at least ancient Greece, and pearls were prized as one of, if not the most, valuable gems in a variety of cultures. In the Byzantine empire, for example, only the emperor was permitted to wear pearls. Other cultures and societies also had specific rules about who could adorn themselves with pearl jewelry. In fact, sixteenth century England was known as the Pearl Age, to give further importance to these beloved little treasures. 

Pearls have also been given as gifts throughout history. In the thirteenth century, explorer Marco Polo presented Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with the Arco Valley Pearl, an incredibly stunning piece weighing in at 575 carats. Today, the whereabouts of this pearl are unknown, as it was last auctioned off in 2007 in Abu Dhabi. 

During the sixteenth century, a gorgeous pearl known as La Peregrina was given by Prince Phillip II of Spain to his bride Mary. This white, pear-shaped saltwater pearl has had numerous royal owners over the years. Fast-forward to modern times, where actor Richard Burton gave it to his well-known wife Elizabeth Taylor. She then had it designed to be a part of a necklace made with other pearls and rubies. 

Modern Day Pearls

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that pearls became more accessible to more people. Pearl cultivators in Asia discovered that by placing a small nucleus into a living oyster, a pearl will form around it, giving rise to pearl cultivation through oyster farms. 

Freshwater pearls in particular can be varied in shapes and colors, but the soft, white lustrous pearls we know and treasure are more common among saltwater pearls. Many cultures around the world have compared pearls to the moon. Others believe that pearls are tears shed from the gods. Astrologically, pearls are related to Venus, the planet of love because like the mythological goddess, they also come from the sea. 

Because pearls were so highly valued throughout history, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that parables of wisdom that have to do with them have made their way into our everyday speech. If you’ve ever heard of throwing “pearls before swine”, it means to not waste what is valuable on endeavors that don’t ultimately amount to anything. 

And one thing that certainly isn’t a waste is taking the time to select the perfect piece of pearl jewelry for yourself or a loved one. Visit our Houston jewelry store today to see our unique and stunning collection of natural pearl jewelry including pearl earrings, necklaces, rings and more. Have something special in mind? Let our master artisans design it for you step-by-step! Visit us today to learn more!