Pearls have been called the world’s oldest gem because they have been prized and collected for more than 4000 years. Unlike many other gemstones, these precious gems have lasted through centuries of fashion changes and are still one of the most popular forms of jewelry. The fact that pearls have been popular from ancient China to now is a fascinating testament to the timelessness of these lustrous spherical masses.
Chinese records from as far back as 2300 BC indicate that pearls were the prized possessions of royalty. The Society Islands Collection reflects the fact that pearls continue to be considered precious gifts. In fact, these beautiful fashion statements were highly valued in many different cultures all over the globe. In India, it has been said that the deity Krishna discovered the first pearl, making it a very special gem.
Ancient Egyptians incorporated mother-of-pearl in the decorating of their homes and then later Ancient Egyptian women began wearing pearls. Ancient Greeks and Romans also placed high value on these masterpieces. Ancient Greeks used these precious gems at weddings for their association with love. Ancient Romans so highly prized pearls as a symbol of wealth and prestige that they attempted to stop people from wearing them who didn’t deserve them. With many natural oyster beds lying along the Persian Gulf, the Arab cultures also placed a high value on these gems. In fact, the gems are described in the Koran as one of the greatest treasures provided in Paradise.
Modern Pearl History
In the Western Hemisphere, Native Americans discovered, harvested, and highly valued freshwater pearls from lakes and rivers. They used these beautiful ornaments as jewelry and for trade. Colonial powers discovered the amount of pearls available in America's rivers, which is why these treasures became one of the chief products sent from the colonies to Europe. Along with freshwater pearls from North American rivers, saltwater pearls were harvested from the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central and South America. In the 19th century, however, overfishing and pollution from industrialization finished off the supplies of these gems.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, a number of Japanese researchers, but mainly Kokichi Mikimoto, independently discovered the techniques to culture pearls. This led to the development of a booming industry. Whereas previously pearls had been the exclusive gemstone of royalty and those with status, they had now become available to many people. Famous people during the early 20th century began to wear this gemstone all the time, particularly during the 1920s Jazz Age. These famous people would become Hollywood stars. The Royal Falls Collection reflects their styles, as pearls become the number one thing to wear during this era. You can see the influence of these precious stones on an entire style of fashion, from the Roaring 20s even into now. Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O were particular fashion trendsetters who simply adored wearing these iconic jewels.
The wonderful thing about pearls in the 21st century is that they aren’t restricted to royalty or fame. Today, they are affordable for almost anyone, thanks in large part to companies like Avani Jewelry.