Pearls are one of nature’s greatest miracles that are discovered by humankind. They possess elegance and beauty. Officially known to everyone as the oldest gem in the world, they are here distinguished even before we can write down our history. Their discovery was believed to be by the people searching for food by opening up shells of mollusks.
They are created either by the damage made by outside influences to the shell or the intrusion of parasites. Thus, resulting in natural pearls of different colors, shapes, and sizes. That is why they became the most coveted gemstones throughout the years by royalty, merchants, traders, and explorers.
Being the most desired and costly gem, you may be intrigued by what they symbolized and the meaning of pearls. Let us discuss below and find out the intricacies of its history and timeless nature.
A Brief History of Pearls
Being the oldest gem to be discovered, let us take you to a quick discussion of a millennial's journey to understand the meaning of pearls better.
The firsts record of pearls being presented to Chinese royalty as gifts were in 2300 BC. As time passes by around 1000 BC, natural pearls are fished by the people in the Arabian Gulf, along the coastline of Qatar and Bahrain.
There are three basic pieces of equipment used by the diver in those times up until now. They are the leather sheaths for hand protection, a nose clip, and two ropes tied to the basket holding the oyster and a stone that can speed up descent under the ocean.
Then, when they are ready to be traded, prices are determined based on shape, size, luster, and color. The trade route was far-reaching, for they are objects of desire of the European Royalty and the ruling Monarchs of India and China.
Roman Era to the British and Spanish Empire
In ancient Rome, pearl jewelry was regarded as the ultimate status symbol of the time. During 1 BC, because they were very precious, Julius Caesar ruled out that only the ruling class, men and women of high birth, would be the ones who were able to wear them.
During the early British empire regime, pearls were only exclusive for the royalty and its nobility. However, unlike the Romans, this is not a ruling but only because most ordinary people cannot afford to have them.
On the side of the Spanish royalty, armadas were sent throughout the world from west to east to feed the royal passion for the pearl pieces of jewelry.
The 1900s to the present
In the 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that only the nobles and the rich could buy them. So, when their demand became so high that pearl jewelry makers needed them more to meet the rising numbers, the supply of oysters started dwindling. Thus, producing birthing the art of having cultured pearls.
Today, since both cultured pearls and natural pearls are available in the market, prices vary further. Shops and online provide accessories that can be simple and wearable, even on ordinary days. From cheapest for the cultured to still really expensive for the natural pearls, their popularity still did not fade. The meaning of pearls is still shrouded in cloudy mystery.
Pearl Jewelry Symbolism
Pearls are like anything else. From the start of time, these types of jewelry are too classic and mysterious for all. The gemstone is surrounded by myths and superstitious beliefs that can also surround the jewelry and the wearer. To have a more elaborate meaning of pearls, here are a few symbolisms that you would like to know:
Associated with Aphrodite
Some linked the creation of pearls to one of the famous births of the goddess of love and beauty. Since they are associated together, in extension, this gemstone became a symbol of femininity and seductiveness attached to its classic beauty.
Purity and Safety
In ancient China, pearls were worn to symbolize the purity of the wearer, while during the dark ages, knights often brought them to battle believing that it can provide protection and a symbol of a safe passage back home.
Power and Wealth
Having a collection of natural pearl jewelry from history, as we have discussed before, can indicate how rich a person is. It also tells you how great the wearer’s influence may be by simply just wearing it around—the ultimate status symbol.
In Victorian England, the small seed kinds of pearls were used to symbolize the tears of the wearer in mourning. In Greek mythology, they said that pearls are the tears of the gods. Just like the ancient Greeks, Japanese legends say that they are the tears of creatures such as mermaids, nymphs, and angels.
Pearls were hard to find and even more difficult back in the days and times in history. Just like a depiction of the uniqueness of the gems, the gift is not being granted easily. So that when wisdom is earned like a treasure, it is rare as a pearl.
Good luck and Fortune in Marriage
In bridal portraits before, the meaning of pearls is shown as a symbol of virtuous femininity, marital fidelity and fertility. They are to bring luck and good fortune in the union of the lady in painting and her intended.
Love and Grief
Pearl chokers were often worn to channel deep-rooted and intimate love and grief.
Wrapping Things Up
Pearls are timeless, luxurious, and classic without questionable value that only gets more and more valuable as time flies by. You can say that alone, these gems are expensive, but when made into jewelry like elaborate pearl necklaces, earrings, pearl bracelets, chokers and brooches, they can cost a fortune.
Here at ATOLEA, every Ocean-inspired jewelry has meaningful symbols. You can dive into our unique Ocean-inspired jewelry collections and be inspired to wear pieces that are created out of the love to the Ocean!